A Simple Way to Teach Family a Lesson About Complaining Less

I handed everyone at the table a rubber band and told them to put it around their wrists like a bracelet.

We slipped it on as we finished dinner and I read these instructions from our dinner time devotional:  Every time you grumble or complain, snap your rubber band. 


The day before we memorized John 6:43, “Stop grumbling among yourselves.”

Guess who got the first “pop?”

My kids laughed as the first complaint rolled off my tongue just minutes after reading our assignment. I wasn’t even trying to show them an example of what not to do. I didn’t even know I was going to grumble about cleaning up our dinner mess. Because sometimes complaining is just our second nature.


I rubbed my wrist and watched my words.

We all did. Our 24 hour experiment proved to leave our wrists a little tender and our tongues a little more controlled.

We were listening for the bemoaning and bellyaching. We pointed out when we heard each other complain.

The most important thing this experiment did? It made us think before we spoke. It made us more aware.

Grumbling comes too easy. And when we try not to do it, we see how often we whine or complain–about each other, about our situations, about what we have and what we don’t.

When we really get a good look at what’s underneath all those negative words, we find ingratitude.

Because let’s face it:  we probably all can find something to gripe about. But when we think before we speak, we can always find something to be thankful for.

the happiest people

Try this simple lesson today (and if rubber bands won’t work for you, keep tally marks on the kitchen calendar or cheerios around a yarn bracelet and break one off with every complaint).

 Here’s what a lesson in complaining less does for all of us:

1. It forces us to admit how often we grumble or whine or speak negatively about ourselves or others

2. It causes us to think before we speak

3. It gives us the opportunity to choose gratitude over grumbling.

And while this lesson won’t necessarily rid our homes of complaining (ask me how I know), it will certainly give us something to (think) and talk about.


  1. 2

    Heather In Michigan says

    How do you determine what is a ‘grumble’? My kids tell me they were “…just saying…” Ground rules and definitions would be needed if we were to do this on our family. And I’d be sure the be the first one to get snapped!

    • 2.1

      valerie says

      Heather – just what I was thinking. :) When is it truly just an observation, and when is it a complaint? Some things obviously are very clearly a complaint, but for those “gray” areas, I tell my kids, “You can “just tell” me once, but after that you’re complaining.” Sometimes it also just depends on tone of voice, body language, and attitude when they’re saying it. And yes, I definitely need this just as much as they do!

    • 2.2

      Dani says

      In our house “I was just…” is a banned phrase. Anything they were “just saying” they probably shouldn’t have been saying, likewise “just doing.” I’m all for a clear explanation for why my response might not be justified or why I might not have the whole picture of a situation, but too many times “I was just…” is a springboard to minimize their faults while calling attention to someone else’s. So they have to find different words to explain their point of view.

    • 2.3

      Me says

      My interpretation- complaining or gripe-ing is a snap of the band. If you complain with a solution- no snap! Ex: “I hate this commute to work.” Snap the band. “I hate this commute to work; I’m going to leave 15 minutes earlier and I’ll miss the traffic tomorrow.” No snap!

  2. 4


    I love it! My kids are a bit young for this (3 and 5) and would probably snap each other’s rubber bands. But I actually like the idea for myself! It’s terrible when my sin is so obvious to me, but after the fact! Maybe snapping myself enough times will force me to think before I speak (or commit my thoughts to Christ before I allow them to inhabit my mind). Thanks!

  3. 5

    Diane says

    Thank you for this idea! I’ve got twin 9 year old boys who do a lot of eye-rolling and (what I call) dead fish faces…looking up, mouth gaping open while rolling eyes as they go to do the task I’ve asked them to do :)…. In fairness to them, I’m sure God sees my inward eye rolls just as plainly as I see their outward ones! This exercise will help all of us.

  4. 6

    Renee says

    Oh, I’m gonna find some of those cool-shaped rubber bands the kids *had* to have a few years ago & use those! I’m saving the “diva” phrase one for Me to use!

    A snap on the wrist sure beats wandering for 40 years! Thanks for sharing :)

  5. 8

    Erin says

    Do you know who is credited with the quote about the happiest people not having the best of everything? I love that! So true. Great idea about the rubber bands as a reminder!

  6. 9


    Love this concept and going to try it with my snarky 8-yr-old son, teen daughter, and over-worked hubby…but mostly MYSELF. Can I also point out that I love the paper plate at the table. We, too, are THAT family. haha

  7. 10


    I love this! We talk a lot at home about speaking life, lifting up the virtue, having thankful hearts, etc. But this is a new approach to the same lesson! I will be trying this out with my family. Thanks for the inspiration!!!

  8. 11

    Marianne McPherson says

    This is sooooooo good. I have pre-ordered your devotional for families and look forward to using it. I think all of us as moms could use some fresh ideas and frankly for ourselves as well. I find the very thing I am trying to teach my kids to not do is the very thing I too need to work on the most and in fact am probably doing two seconds after we talk about it!

  9. 12

    Juli vrotney says

    What a great lesson for all of us to hear and do. Love it. We are dealing with ingratitude constantly at our home so this is great.

  10. 13

    alicia says

    I have a 6 year old who recently began throwing huge fits…& complaining…anytime things aren’t exactly his way. It’s frustrating because it’s a new phase & nothing seems to be effective. I have tried every form discipline I can think of. I literally prayed less than two hours ago, “God show me something new to use here. I don’t know where to go with this and I’m tired of being the nagging mama. I want it to be something he’ll find fun and encourage a good attitude. ..not just me coming down on him ALL THE TIME.”
    And then I got this post in my email. God is faithful, even with rubber bands! Love it. Can’t wait to use it! Thanks for this suggestion!

  11. 14

    Brandi says

    This has come at the most opportune time for my family. I will be employing this method to teach the whole family to be more grateful and not grumble (so much). Thank you for this great idea and figuring out a fun solution to our 7 year olds (and ours) problem of constant complaining.

  12. 17

    Peggy says

    I can think of a lot of other uses for these rubberbands…. swearing, nagging husband or kids, saying something negative to my kids (teenagers, this happens a lot.) Thank you for this wonderful inspiration!

  13. 19

    Shannon Grimes says

    Love this idea! Could you tell us what the book is that you’re using for dinner devotionals? I’ve been looking for one to use with my family. Thank you!

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