“Mommy, sister’s getting candy!”
“Mommy, brother’s not staying in his room!”
“Mommy, somebody spilled water in the kitchen, but it wasn’t me!”
All day long, the tattling doesn’t stop. My three-year-old is often the one with the loudest voice, but the nine-year-old and six-year-old aren’t innocent from tattling themselves. It is something that I am sure just about every mother has to deal with. Of course, the child doing the tattling is never guilty of wrong-doing. Until you find out that they did, indeed, participate in some way–whether accepting the stolen candy, sneaking brother out of his room, or actually being the one who spilled the water!
Our pastor is going through a series about “One Another.” We as a church are striving to learn how to follow God’s command to “love one another (Jn. 13:34).” But tattling is definitely not a way that we obey Him.
It is our job as parents to “train up [our children] in the way [they] should go” (Prov. 22:6). If we are going to teach them how to love others well, then we need to start in the home. And the first lesson they need to learn is how to not tattle.
Here are some simple tips to stop the tattler from wagging their tongue:
1. Refuse to listen. Most children tattle because they want your attention. We moms often fall into the trap of listening when they complain or tattle because we want them to feel like we are always there for them. But all we are doing is fueling the fire for gossip. They know something about someone else, and they want to share it with you. We need to teach them about what is good to share with us (praises, real emergencies, etc.) and what they need to keep to themselves.
Whoever keeps his mouth and his tongue keeps himself out of trouble – Prov. 21:23.
2. Give them something to say. When you catch your child in the middle of tattling, encourage them to find something nice to say about their sibling. I am a firm believer that we don’t put something off without putting something on in its place. If we don’t want them to say unkind words, then we need to guide them in finding kind words! Perhaps (for just a little while), you could set up a reward system for saying something kind so many times each week. Even if you don’t reward them with a tangible prize, at least give them your praise and let them know how wonderful it is to hear them use kind words for their siblings!
Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear – Eph. 4:29.
3. Be an example. I struggle with this. I love a good story. And I hate to be the only one who doesn’t know something! But tattling is just a childish way of gossiping. Our kids are watching–and listening–to us. When they hear us “sharing” with someone else, they are learning that it’s okay to tell on one another!
Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things – Phil. 4:8.
4. Love them well. Our children learn how to criticize each other when we are quick to criticize them. But when we love well, as Christ loves us, we are able to look past their sins and see the beauty that God sees. That isn’t to say that we allow them to get away with sin. It just means that we don’t dwell on it, remember it, or not forgive them when they confess. We don’t easily jump to the conclusion that the tattler is always right. We give our children the benefit of the doubt and believe the best of them. When we start looking for the good in them (and in others), our children will start looking at each other that way as well.
Above all, keep loving one another earnestly, since love covers a multitude of sins – I Pt. 4:8.
We need to remember that what we teach our children now is what they will remember as adults. We can teach them now how to love well and how to look for the best in others. But when we feed the gossip monster, we are telling them that it is okay to treat others badly. Gossiping isn’t showing love. Tattling isn’t showing love. It’s not cute, and it’s not “just a phase.” We need to stop it in its tracks and teach our children to be gracious to one another. The learning starts at home.
Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer each person – Col. 4:6.