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Why I Want My Son to Tattle

The world tattling hasn’t been in my vocabulary since elementary school. As in, when I was in elementary school.

I'm okay with tattling and this explains why

I never gave tattling a thought until a few weekends ago. Wyatt and some friends were told not to do something and one of the children violated the order. Wyatt came to me and said, “Mommy, we aren’t allowed to ______ but Billy just did…….”

I thanked him for tell me and explained to Wyatt that he had to be sure he was following the directions and leave the other child to his mom’s guidance.

In my estimation, that was the end of the conversation. Wyatt scampered back off to play but another mom, not of the child who broke rank, said, “No one likes a tattletale Wyatt.”

I was caught off guard.

Again, this tattletale thing has not been in my conscience and I never considered that he was doing ill of another child by telling me.

I realized I was about to enter a new phase of parenting. Teaching my child how to navigate this thing called tattle telling.

A Heart Matter

We’ve all seem them. The children who come running at the slightest infraction crying foul and pointing a finger. What is their motive? To prove themselves better? To point out the wrongs in the other child?

As parents we to guide our children to examine their hearts.

The speck and the plank.

I can’t accurately articulate the mini conversation I referenced earlier. The look in Wyatt’s eyes, the inflection in his voice – they were not one of supremacy or judgement. They were one of question, concern and needing to understand.

He was not telling me to get the other child into trouble, he was telling me with concern.

I know someone is thinking, “Sure, but this is your kid, of course you think the best of him. Rose colored glasses and all.”

No so, Wyatt is not perfect. Daily we deal with heart matters and wrong motives and discuss these things but this was a time not of a impure heart but of needing clarification.It was almost as if he’d said, “You told us we can’t but he is. Tell me again why I can’t do it?”

Times of “tattling” are times of training. They are times we can teach our children how to examine their own hearts, look out for their brothers and sisters (literally and spiritually) and practice discernment. Tattling vs telling is a heart difference and perhaps a word choice but it required training and practice.

I won’t scold my son for tattling, instead I’ll guide him in God’s way of dealing with the infractions of others. If I sense that his heart is the issue and he’s speaking with wrong motive then we’ll deal with those those issues, privately not in a public setting.

What does the Bible say about tattling?

Of course the word “tattletale” isn’t in the Bible but this pretty much sums up tattling and show us how to guide our children.

“If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have gained your brother. But if he does not listen, take one or two others along with you, that every charge may be established by the evidence of two or three witnesses. If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church. And if he refuses to listen even to the church, let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector. ~ Matthew 18:15-17

Teaching this to a child with regard to “tattling” they could quietly say “Billy we aren’t allowed to do that.” And if that doesn’t stop them come to mom or dad.

You decide if you want them correcting another child, otherwise, have them come right to you and tell you in a quiet, respectful way.

Another verse that comes to mind is this one, “Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth.” ~ 2 Timothy 2:15

Here again, we see the matter of the heart. We must do the best we can to be upright. This is not easy for children, they are still learning self-discipline, restraint and control. They won’t follow every directive all the way, right away, with a happy heart. It’s a training process that doesn’t stop at a magic age.

tattling vs telling                                                                                                      Image by anitapeppers

Tattling – A Question of Confusion

As I contemplated this concept of tattling I couldn’t help but think how confusing this must be to a young child.

On one hand, we want them to mind their own business but yet in the next Pre-K lesson we’re teaching them about stranger danger and assuring them they will not get into trouble for telling on someone who is hurting them or a friend.

It might be easy for adults ( at least some of us) to discern when tattling isn’t really tattling but what about a child? At what age can they reason through this? Do we think that at three, four and five they have the mental capacity to evaluate what they should tell and what they shouldn’t?

They can’t.

How many times have you heard a young child say something that should have been said privately or kept quiet? Until just recently my son would tell me, loudly, that he had to take a bowel movement no matter who was around. He’s learning, through my coaching and training to come to me quietly and let me know rather than blurt it out. This only comes with training. No one scolded him for tell me he had to poop. Who would? Everyone knows this is natural and normal.

The same situation with tattling. No one needs to get up in arms when a child tattles, it’s the parent’s responsibility to coach and train a child how to tell, what to tell and when to tell. We have the Bible as our guide.

I would rather my child tell me too much now than be afraid to speak up if something serious, abusive or dangerous was happening.

Training A Child to Tattle

As parents, we teach our children what is appropriate not by scolding them. We teach them by modeling, training and teaching discipline. We must teach them tattling vs telling. There’s a difference, and again, it’s in the heart. 

Modeling tattling – This may sound a bit harsh but Mom, you may be teaching your child to tattle. Do your children hear you saying things like, “Did you see what Janie did at church today? She went over to Susan and told Susan she had a great time at the party when shew Susan wasn’t invited.”  That adult version of tattling.

We can model proper behavior by restraining from gossip and discussing things in an appropriate way and handling infractions in a biblical manner.

Training Not To Tattle – As mentioned earlier, I want Wyatt to tell me everything. Then, we can weed through was is appropriate and what isn’t. I can train him little by little, over time as to what things are appropriate and what isn’t but the door is open. That’s the key – an open door of communication between child and parent. I want to have conversations with my son where he can tell me things, not rat out the children in the neighborhood. I also want him to know that if little Billy is doing something wrong, inappropriate or dangerous, Wyatt needs to speak up.

Teaching Tattling Discipline – We can teach our children to be disciplined in their words and actions in the home and outside the home. What might be appropriate at home isn’t appropriate at a friend’s, the church or the grocery store.

Tattling vs telling is another journey of parenting I never realized before I had children. It’s a season of learning that stands to each us all, child and parents a thing or two.

How do you handle tattling in your home?

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