Soothing a Child’s Sour Attitude

by Sally Matheny

Soothe a Child's Sour Attitude (Pixabay photo)
Grumbles. Moans. A sour attitude seeps from my young son. My smile stays fixed while maintaining a cheery tone. Sometimes those work in soothing a child's attitude. Perhaps there is still hope for a peaceful morning.

I watch the possibility of quietude dissolve in my son’s furrowed brows.

Complaints about math begin to spew. Today, he chooses to tackle the subject—not by making an effort, but with harsh words.  

Usually, my encouraging spirit holds firm during these occasional tirades.

Not today. This cheerleader tosses her pom-poms aside and grabs the ref’s whistle. Mentally, I call a time-out to address the heart issue.

“Why are you complaining about math before you even open your book?”

“I hate it.”


“Because it stinks.”

I know he’s playing the blame game. In truth, he’s angry about the time it takes to correct yesterday’s mistakes before studying a new math concept. He’d rather move on in the book so he can finish the day’s assignment, and get to the hobbies he enjoys. So I press further
“Why does it stink?”

“Because I’m not good at it.”


“I don’t know.”

“Not everyone likes math. I don’t like math, either. Which should let you know how much I love you to sit here and help you with math every day! But think about people who do love math. Why would they like doing math?”

“Because they’re good at it.”

“How did they get good at it? When they first read about a new math concept, do you think they were great at it?”


“Yeah, maybe things clicked right away. Perhaps they understood the new concept because they had already mastered the steps leading up to it. Right?”


“Why do you think they were successful at solving those problems?”

Hesitant now, because he knows where this is going, he mumbles, “I guess they practiced.”

“Kind of like when you master a level on your video game. At first, you get frustrated. But you keep at it until you figure out the solution, how to advance to the next level, and then how to win. Right?”

“I guess.”

“Look. I don’t like math. You don’t like math. We’d both rather do something else. But, it’s something we need to practice and master so we can move to the next level. Some of the skills we learn, we may use every day. Other concepts we may never use.

The thing is, we don’t know which skills we will need in the future and which ones we won’t need. We do know we have to take tests on these things in order to advance to the next level, the next grade, and on to graduation.

We may make plans for our futures but we don’t know with absolute certainty what God has in mind for us five, ten, or twenty years from now. We need to learn what is required of us at this moment and give our best. Besides these math problems teach us life skills.”

Lying his head on the arm stretched across the table, he asks, “What do you mean?”

“Every person will face difficulties in life. We can grumble and thrash around in bitterness. Or, when a problem arises, we can take a deep breath and ask God to help us remain calm so we can think clearly.

What Causes a Sour Attitudes?
Maybe we need to step back and reassess the issue. Is it due to our own mistake? Is there something we could do differently to solve the problem? 

If we know we’ve done everything in our power to correct the problem, and we’ve still not found a solution, then maybe it's time to ask for help.

We don’t just ignore the problem and keep going because it may incorrectly affect our future decisions. We may continue to make the same mistake over and over. Eventually, it may affect other areas of our lives. 

Sometimes there’s a quick fix. Other times, making things right is a long and exhausting process. But in the long run, correcting our mistakes, and learning from them so we won’t repeat them, leads to a more joyful and productive life.”

Impressed that I’d shared this truth in such a way with him, I smiled and asked cheerily, “So, what do you think?”

Without missing a beat, he answered in monotone,

“I hate math.”
Resisting the temptation to preach about the grumbling Israelites, because I have done that numerous times before, I tell him to go have his daily quiet time with the Lord.

He is supposed to read a chapter or two in the Bible and spend time in prayer. But I can’t make him do that. It’s my request but his choice. Only he and God know what he does during his quiet time. 

If I did have the power, the loving mama in me would like to make him do it, because I know the benefits of a growing relationship with the Lord. But God is wiser and his love is greater. He gives us free will to choose whether to seek Him or not.  

My son disappears into his room. I head to the laundry room. While folding clothes, I pray for him, for me, and for God to help us both.

I turn the radio on to my favorite Christian music station. The music fills the air reminding me of my joy. Peace—the kind only Jesus can give, begins to saturate my soul. I sing with praise and my spirit is refreshed.

Carrying a stack of folded laundry to my bedroom, I notice my son is back at the table. He’s hunkered over his math book, pencil in hand.

When I return to the laundry room for another load, I hear his gentle voice.

“Hey, Mom, could you turn up that music?”

Thank you, Lord. Thank you.

Your turn! Have you found ways to soothe sour attitudes in your home? 


  1. He is blessed to have a mama who listens to God!

    1. Well, sometimes God has to help me with my own sour attitudes. I sure am thankful for His love and grace! :)


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