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The Power of Gratitude

Do your children complain? Learn how to eliminate their complaining with the power of gratitude.


00:00 Kids complain all day.

01:14 How to really listen to them.

03:09 How to teach them they can choose not to complain.

12:04 Truth telling to your child.

14:18 Teaching children about gratitude.

15:07 Awareness

16:46 Complaining about what they don't have.

18:43 Why teach gratitude.

19:49 Using home costs to teach gratitude.

23:39 More examples


Why Children Complain and What to Do

A man writes to me and says, “I need help. My kids complain all day long. They complain that they can’t stay on their phones all day. They complain about how they have SO MUCH homework, that the Wi-Fi is too slow, that they have to do their chores, that there’s nothing to do, and on and on and on. I tell them I’m tired of their complaining, but that doesn’t make any difference.”  

RARELY—almost never—does it do any good to tell a child not to complain. Uniformly they’re complaining about being in some kind of emotional pain, and telling them to stop is like telling them not to be in pain or react to it. It’s like telling a drowning man not to move his arms or legs. 

So what CAN you do? Loveandteach, as usual.  

First, how can you love them? Start off by listening, the single most effective and immediate way to communicate love to another person.  

For example, the child says, “I hate doing chores.”  

You’re going to try something different. Instead of arguing or persuading, LISTEN.  

You: “Of course you do. (Listening, disarming, instead of your usual intimidation or arguing.) Understandable that you hate them. They’re inconvenient, not especially fun, and they interfere with other things you want to do. And sometimes I don’t want to do MY chores either.” (You just really LISTENED, which qualifies you to teach)  

You continue: “So doing chores is annoying and makes you complain, right?” 

They’re going to look at you quizzically, like you’re trapping them in some way with such an obvious question. And you are.  

They’ll respond with something like, “Uh, yeah.”  

Teaching Event - Judgment - Feeling - Reaction (EJFR)

Then you teach them the principle of Event - Judgment - Feeling - Reaction (EJFR), like you find at end of Chapter One of REPT.  

I’m going to suggest what you MIGHT say here to teach this principle. Feel free to modify.   

You hold up an object (rock?) and ask, “If I let this go, what will happen?” 

Them: Fall.  

You: Why? Did the rock CHOOSE to fall? Or did something MAKE it fall?  

Them: No choice. You—or gravity—made it fall.  

Event > Reaction

You: Yes. Let’s draw it out on paper: Event (let go of rock) > Reaction (fall)  

Them: Nodding.  

You: That’s how it goes for objects. Rocks, billiard balls—just event > reaction 

But YOU are NOT an object without choice. Not a rock. You get to choose how you respond to everything, so that changes the picture dramatically. So, right now, choose. Do you want to be a rock—without choice—or a human being, capable of choosing?  

Child: human 

You: So now let’s make this more personal than the rock. Let’s make it about you and chores.  

You: FIRST, are you a rock or human?  

Them: Human 

You: SO you have a choice about whether you’re irritated or whether you complain.  

AND we can prove it, that there is a choice involved. Because if I can find a single person who is NOT irritated by chores and never complains about them, then chores don’t MAKE you feel irritated or make you complain. Impossible.

If CHORES MADE you complain, then—like gravity with a rock—they would work the same every time and with everybody. Still with me?  

Them: Expressions of discomfort—this is new—but also they’re interested if you’re not being irritated or condescending.  

You: Turns out that I know LOTS of people—not just one—who really enjoy working hard. So for them chores DO NOT MAKE them irritated. In fact, they enjoy the sense of responsibility they get from working (from doing chores), and the challenge, and the personal growth, even the learning.  

So chores don’t MAKE you complain, because lots of people DON’T complain when they do them. Chores are not like gravity, and people (including you) are not just rocks. Yes?  

Them: Grudgingly, “I guess so.” 

Event > Judgment > Feeling > Reaction 

You: So with people it is NOT Event > Reaction, because your reaction is different from many other people. There is something between those two things (Event and Reaction). Here’s what they are (write it out): Event > Judgment > Feeling > reaction.  

Right now you believe that you go straight from Event (chores) to Reaction (irritation, complaining), but you don’t.  

You: Here’s what YOU do 

Event: Chore 

Judgment: You judge that it’s inconvenient, unfair, obstacle, stupid (think you’re prisoner) 

Feeling (immediate after that judgment: Fear that you won’t get to have fun, fear that your time is wasted, fear that you’re being controlled. (Unconscious of all that)  

Reaction (immediate after feeling): Anger, complaining 

You: Your judgment is so automatic that it DOES seem like you go straight from event to reaction. When you’re in pain, you become brainless and just react. Your go straight from Event to Reaction. You react so regularly that it becomes a habit to complain. Whose fault is that?  

Them: I don’t know, or (out of obligation) “Mine?”  

How We Teach Reactions to Our Children

You: My fault. I have not loved you unconditionally enough (you have to have talked about that before, using perhaps Chapter 6 in the REPT). I haven’t loved and taught you.

In fact, I’ve been irritated with you enough times that I taught you how to be irritated in response to inconveniences. I was irritated by YOU as an inconvenience, so now you regard work and responsibilities as an inconvenience, and then you go to fear, angry, and complaining.  

How Choices Fill Us with the Power of Gratitude

Now, back to the person who actually enjoys doing chores (no kidding, lots of them)? What’s different for them about their judgment and feelings?  

Here’s what THEY do:  

Same Event: Chore 

Judgment: Here’s where it all changes. We CHOOSE our judgment. They choose, consciously. They choose to do a good job. They choose to express who they really are as they work. They see every task as an opportunity to learn, grow, and be fulfilled.  

You judge that you are unfairly inconvenienced, even a prisoner (mostly UNconscious).  

Happy people CHOOSE to judge that they have rich and fulfilling lives, and their tasks (chores) help them express their gifts and talents.  

Feeling: Then they feel GRATEFUL for all they have, happy, whole, and then their chores become an expression of who we are. They WANT to be responsible.  

Reaction: If you feel grateful, you reaction is enthusiasm, happy, pour your heart and creativity into the task.  

Back to judgment: What changes their judgment?  

1. AWARENESS of the joy in their lives, which can only happen if they CHOOSE to see it.  

2. GRATITUDE for all they have.  

You: Introduce them to how they can CHOOSE their behavior, instead of just REACTING to pain, like grateful people.  

You can teach them another way. How do I know? Because kids do NOT complain when they’re sufficiently loved AND taught an alternative way of seeing themselves and the world around them.  

Changing the Judgment with Gratitude

Now, how can they change judgment, which changes everything else (EFJR)? Lots of ways, but let’s start with the big one I’ve mentioned: Gratitude 

Kids easily complain about what they don’t have. Why? Because the sensations of pain or something being taken away are FAR more emotionally powerful than the brief exhilaration of getting something you want. Proven.   

You give example: You GET a pair of shoes that you love. BUT then somebody else gets a pair that’s newer or more expensive. You LIKED the first shoes, but now you ruin them by being ungrateful and wanting your friend’s pair? There is a word for that: Stupid, because it eliminates all possibility of happiness.  

When people are ungrateful, they hate everything, because they can always think of something they don’t have.  

Teaching the Power of Gratitude

So how do we teach gratitude 

First it enables our life’s mission here in mortality: loved, loving responsible = happy.  

Can’t be grateful and unhappy. Teach.  

How do we teach? Not obligation or guilt. No SHOULD be grateful—internally contradictory.  

TEACH. Here’s an example 

You show the child (children) how much it costs for them to have a place to live:  

Mortgage, house insurance, car, car insurance, life insurance, medical insurance, and then all the time and education and effort it took for you to get where you are now in your career. Turn that into a number per week. Say, $1000.  

Then you compute the total hours required for them to do their chores in a week, and explain that you could easily hire someone for minimum wage to do their jobs. Turn that into their weekly contribution to the house: On average? 1-2 hours. (Many none) That would be $5-10/hr. Let’s say 10 x 2 hours = $20. So at MOST child contributes 20 dollars for every 1000 you contribute. Show them comparison on a chart.  

You: Now, here’s the question. One day somebody off the street walks up to them and offers them 1000 dollars if they will give him $20. Would they do it? Would they feel like “Holy cow, what a steal” or would they complain that they had to give so much. Holy Cow.  

Now compare it to their reaction to chores. Turns out that their having to do chores IS as unfair as they say—VERY unfair—but it’s unfair to YOU, not them. Hmmm.  

If they got 1000 for 20, what would the appropriate JUDGMENT be—the appraisal of the deal.  

WOW, what a great deal.  

That’s the judgment in EFJR.  

What’s the feeling that follows 1000 for 20? Happy. GRATEFUL. Not irritated.  

Response? THANK you, is there anything else I could possibly do that would be more help?  

Changing the Judgment Changes the Feeling and Reaction

So changing the judgment changes the feeling and reaction a LOT.  

You will remind them of this lesson.  

You: If grateful for it, then you’d WANT to make whatever contribution YOU can make, even though it’s very, very small compared to mine.  

I don’t complain about the mortgage and everything. Happy to give to you.  

Partly because I’m grateful for what I got at your age  

NOT, “look how much I do for you.” (Guilt, obligation)  

And No, not grateful TO you, but grateful FOR what they have and want to make it possible for everyone by doing their part.  

You’ll have to go over this more than once. They STOP complaining.  

Keep going. Gratitude for LOTS of things. You’re driving somewhere, and comment on what a miracle it is that we get to ride on roads.  

Assign a kid to Google and come up with a 500 word report on the miracle of roads.  

Roads. Book on roads 

1794 first macadam road in U.S. 

As recently as 1830-50, roads pretty much didn’t exist (add my parents’ ages) 

1901 no concrete 

Cost as much to move goods 100 miles inland as to ship from England to New York/Boston 

Started with woods, then mark trees to define road, then cut down trees with an ax, then cut out roots. Then muddy half the year. Then corduroy roads. Tolls.  

Many years before we had concrete and asphalt road.  

Knowing this—judgment that roads miracle—reaction is gratitude. Now less likely to complain about a pothole or how long it takes to get from A to B. 

What to Do If They Are Still Don't Feel the Power of Gratitude

This works with most kids. What if after all that, they’re still ungrateful.  

Then you say, “I’ve tried to teach you gratitude—just PART of which is no complaining—but it’s not working, so we’ll try consequences. If you complain, we’ll start REMOVING some of the things you’re not grateful for until you see what privileges you enjoyed. And we’ll remove those things until you’re genuinly grateful. 

Complain about cleaning room? Easy. Remove everything from room, everything, until they can tell you how grateful they are for room, house, heat, mattress, everything. It’s a memorable experience.  

Complain about washing dishes? Turn off the water at street. Now, clean with no water.  

Cloths, sand, Google cleaning before soap. For how long?  

Until you can tell me how water gets from sky to your house.  

Hate homework  


What kind of house do you want to live in?  

Compute how much per month they’ll have to earn.  

Go on Internet and tell me the jobs you can get with that income, but without finishing high school, or without college, because if you want NOT to do your homework, that’s where you’ll be. Your goals are incompatible with the homework you GET to do.  

Don’t ALLOW them to enjoy privileges of your house until they can express GRATITUDE that they GET to do homework.  

Gratitude is a Choice 

We can choose to be grateful, no matter our circumstances. When we are grateful, we are happy, we can embrace any difficulty. We sometimes think that being grateful is what we do after our problems are solved, when things are smooth, but no, in real gratitude we just truthfully appreciate what we have, and we choose to learn from the difficulties.  

Teach kids the BENEFITS of GRATITUDE 

Gratitude is recognizing that we have a great number of unearned gifts, and it’s the feeling that comes after that recognition. If we are grateful, we will be happy. We could not be entitled or demanding. We will see the good in almost everything. 

In this house, we’re just not going to be ungrateful anymore, which includes complaining. Eventually skip the EFJR and go straight to, “So, right now, are you being grateful and happy, or are you just reacting to inconvenience and being unhappy?” 

Shorter: “Grateful or just reacting?” 

This is a critical lesson to learn. Your children need it, and you can teach it. It will enrich the rest of their lives, and in the process make yours easier too.  

  • Thank you! What a freeing and empowering way to look at chores. I am going to let you teach them, by playing this back at the next family meeting. My own attitude is being adjusted, and I’m learning how to help my kids adjust theirs. This is a huge gift.

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