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May 15, 2015
Drawing the Line on Tattling
Tattling is one way that children point out problems rather than trying to make things better. It’s important to teach children what offenses they should report to a parent and what they should try to resolve on their own or just ignore. Parents need to know when property or people are in danger, but much of the daily infractions or mistakes made fall into a gray area requiring discernment on the part of a parent and child. You don’t want to remove all reporting of offenses because sometimes you’ll rely on one child to help you know when another is in danger or in trouble.
Sometimes a child should overlook an irritation and not be so easily provoked. If a child has tried to resolve the problem, and the offense isn’t one to drop, then the child should report it to an adult. This isn’t tattling. It’s following a biblical model of conflict management. The Scriptures teach that if a problem can’t be resolved between two people, then one should get another person involved in the process (Matthew 18).
The way the offense is reported and the motivation behind the report is important. If you sense that your child is just trying to get the other child in trouble, then that report is motivated by selfishness and is considered tattling.
As a parent, you have to be careful that children don’t use you to get the upper hand in their arguments with each other. Tattling is often an attempt to draw you in to rescue the victim, and the way the story is reported to you often makes the urge seem irresistible. Unfortunately victims aren’t always as innocent as they make it seem. You can use tattling to teach children how to report offenses in an honoring way, without exaggeration or coloring the truth, and admitting their own part of the problem.
Like many issues in family life, tattling can be a great teaching opportunity.
For more practical ideas on developing honor in your family consider the book, Say Goodbye to Whining, Complaining, and Bad Attitudes, In You and Your Kids by Dr Scott Turansky and Joanne Miller. We call it The Honor Book.