“Project Grump,” Ensign, Mar. 1994, 71
Years ago I read an article that said that if children were allowed to work out their own problems without much interference, they would grow to be capable young adults. But one day as I watched my children work out their problems, I decided the article was wrong. The children were learning to resolve their problems by fighting, and fighting and anger were not helping them become capable or happy young adults. I pondered how we could foster Christlike conduct in our home.
At our next family home evening, we launched what is now known in our family as Project Grump.
I introduced the project by reading scriptures such as “Love one another” (John 13:34) and “A soft answer turneth away wrath: but grievous words stir up anger” (Prov. 15:1). We talked about how good it felt when everyone in our family was nice to each other. Then I dumped a bag of assorted candy bars onto the floor. These candy bars were to be the reward if we succeeded in the project. Because we seldom bought candy, this was a big incentive for the children.
That night we each set a goal of how few “grumps” we would commit during the week. A grump constituted raising the voice, arguing, or being impolite. On a piece of paper, we wrote our names and our individual “grump numbers” for the week. Those who grumped received marks by their names. At the next family home evening, family members who had fewer marks on their paper than their specified grump number would get the candy bar they had chosen.
As we worked at being kinder to one another that week, we felt the Spirit in our home. Everyone was so enthusiastic about how well the week had gone that we decided to continue Project Grump. We all set goals for an even lower grump number.
Soon I could get through an entire week with less than five grumps. And I noticed an interesting thing: as my grumps decreased, so did my children’s!
Over the years, one child or another sometimes had a hard time getting his or her grumps down to an acceptable number. In this case we would change the rules so we would get a prize only if, as a family, we stayed under a certain number of grumps. The entire family concentrated on helping each other succeed.
Though the project was fun and often a real challenge, the most important benefit of Project Grump was the spirit of love that came into our home as we all learned to deal more positively with each other.—JoAnn Hibbert Hamilton, Bountiful, Utah