A rule that we've always had at our house is no whining. We actually set up this rule even before we had kids. There's no whining. If you come over to our house and whine, well...we wouldn't make you leave, but you'd receive a stern warning.
When we actually had kids, we knew we were probably in for some serious anti-whining training. So we enrolled ourselves in a Bible-based parenting program and learned how to train kids not to whine.
An extremely valuable, and oftentimes very entertaining, method of anti-whining training is the "appeals process".
We believe that the Bible has specific instructions for us on how to ask God for something that we want. There are many verses that talk about what our hearts should desire and how much God wants to bless us.
"Delight yourself in the Lord and He will give you the desires of your heart."
"Be anxious for nothing, but in everything through prayer and petition with thanksgiving make your requests known to God." Phil. 4:6
These are just a couple. So training our children how to ask for something, instead of whining that they don't have it, not only inspired peace in our home but is teaching them a valuable lesson about their relationship with their Heavenly Father.
1. Toddler stage- We taught them how to say, "May I appeal, please?"
At this stage, we set up the basics of the appeal process. They didn't get the whole concept, they simply learned how to say the phrase and we demonstrated the consequences of invoking the privilege of asking. It usually went like this:
Rachel: Mommy, may I have a cookie.
Mom: No, you may not.
Rachel: Mommy, may I 'peal please?
Mom: Yes! You may! (Showing her how excited I was that she "got it")
Rachel: Mommy, may I have a cookie?
Like I said, they don't get the concept. They're simply learning how to say it and getting into the habit of appealing. If they did appeal, usually, if it wasn't impossible, I would give them what they wanted as a reward for not whining and followed up with a "I like it so much when you ask like that!"
2. Early elementary stage- At this stage, they understand reason more. So after they've asked if they can appeal, only to ask the question the same way again, we began to teach them more of the mechanics of the appeal. It went like this:
Graham: Mommy, can I go out and play with Braden?
Mom: No, you may not.
Graham: May I appeal, please?
Mom: Yes, you may.
Graham: Can I go out and play with Braden?
Mom: Give me three reasons why I should let you go out and play with Braden.
Graham: I've finished all my work, he's asked me to come play basketball, and I really think you're pretty.
Mom: Have fun and be back in an hour.
The object of the appeal is not to beg for what you want, but to seriously plead your case. At this stage, it's more thought out.
3. Later elementary stage (4th-6th grade): Now, this stage came as a surprise to us. A very pleasant surprise. Teaching your kids the appeals process is really hard work and takes some discipline on both parties. For us, this is what teaching our children the appeals process looked like at the later elementary stage:
Graham: Mom and Dad, I would like to invite you to the office for a short presentation.
What followed was nothing short of a business proposal including a well rehearsed speech and an impressive PowerPoint with graphics and charts and eight reasons why Graham should be allowed to have a certain video game.
We were floored. I still have the PowerPoint in fact. I can't remember if we allowed him to have the video game but I do know there was definitely something given that was equally as exciting to him. He'd put a LOT of work into what he made and had really thought out his proposal.
4. Early teen- Now we're rolling. Rachel is now in middle school and it's time to take our skills to the real world. She is learning that grades can be about 90% hard work and about 10% appeal, give or take some percentages.
Grades are very important to Rachel. She took an English test last year and made below an A. She was devastated and we talked it over after school and I told her she needed to talk to her teacher.
The next day, I received an email from her English teacher saying how impressed she was with Rachel. She said that Rachel approached her and said, "Do you have a few minutes? This question here, may I appeal, please?" The teacher wrote me, "After I picked my jaw off the floor, I said 'absolutely' and Rachel made her case." The teacher was so impressed with Rachel's well-thought out appeal that the teacher couldn't argue with her and gave her an A.
Sometimes I believe that God wants to give us stuff that we want, but is just waiting for us to ask the right way and for our hearts to be in the right place. I know that's how I am with my kids. I will say that it's a bit of an ego booster to have another adult be impressed that my kid knows about this "trick". But in the grand scheme of things, I just want them to be full of integrity and know how to communicate with others throughout their lives in such a way that their love for Christ and,in turn,their love for others is so evident.