Tattling vs. Communicating Useful Information: 4 Moms

“Mo-om, Savannah is making noises.” “Mo-om, Carter looked at me funny.” We all know what it’s like to have our children come to us tattling on another child and rejoicing in them getting in trouble. moms of many manage This week the 4 Moms are discussing how to teach children the difference between tattling and conveying information something that we need to know.

In our house, we have a clear standard for when a child should come to mom and dad and what steps they should take before it comes to that (See Solving Sibling Squabbles and Bossy Older Siblings). We’ve tried to base our standards on how Jesus tells us to handle disputes in Matthew 18.

I think the key to communicating useful information vs. tattling is the heart attitude of the child coming to the parent. The steps outlined in the linked posts help give children concrete ways to help with heart attitude.

Here are two more basic guidelines:

  1. Love should cover a multitude of sins.
  2. Children should come to mom and dad with a heart of doing GOOD for their sibling. (for their siblings physical or spiritual well-being.)

I’d like to expand a bit on #1.

One of the most common things that happens when our children come to us with a dispute is that we explain to BOTH children how they could have settled it by showing extra love to their sibling.

“If child A had done________, there would have been no need to come to mom and dad.” AND/OR “If child B had done ____________, there would have been no  need to come to mom and dad.”

For little ones we role play, explaining possible solutions, for bigger ones we remind them to think of the other as more important than themselves and let them work it out alone (or with mom or dad observing).

When we choose to allow love to cover the sin of another, it will require a true sacrifice of self. Here is a recent example.

Matthew  (13) and Kaitlin (14) came to me. There was no anger or malice (as a matter of fact they were both smiling), but they had come to an impasse and were seeking me out to help settle their dispute.

These two children work together on science. This particular day, Kaitlin had finished all of her other school work early and wished to complete their science experiment. Matthew pointed out that, although there was a way to do the experiment right away, the book explained that perhaps they would get better results later in the afternoon and he wished to wait.

In my opinion, both children had a good point. Kait wanted to be finished with all of her assignments for the day and Matthew wanted the optimum results from the experiment.

However, BOTH children could have solved the dispute by sacrificing what they wished for the benefit of the other.  In this situation, that is exactly what I told them and they went off and figured it out on their own. (I’m not sure what they settled on.)

Giving up our preference, comfort or right for the good of another goes against our culture and our sin nature.

There are some times and situations that Mark and I wish to be told what is going on without going through our normal steps:

  • Dangerous or destructive behavior OR someone headed toward dangerous or destructive behavior.
  • Specific behavior that we are working on with a specific child. (i.e. Someone is consistently playing during chore time. We ask the other children to please come tell us immediately if they see child C playing during chore time.)
  • If one of our children is unkind or disrespectful to someone outside of our family.

Be sure to visit the other 4 Moms to read what they have to say about this topic:

KimC at Life in a Shoe
Connie at Smockity Frocks
Headmistress at The Common Room

For more Moms of Many posts visit the 4 Moms page.

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10 Responses to Tattling vs. Communicating Useful Information: 4 Moms
  1. Elizabeth
    August 16, 2012 | 9:08 am

    Very wise words! Thank you for so plainly explaining this. I know tattling is wrong but implementing / explaining it is difficult for me. You did a great job maybe I’ll just read your post to my children!
    Also, Congrats on number 11’s pregnancy drawing to a close. I’ll be praying for you Tuesday!


    Kimberly @ Raising Olives Reply:

    Thank you for your prayers. They are so appreciated!


  2. Christine
    August 16, 2012 | 11:19 am

    My children are all still young – very close to 9,7,and 5. I notice that when we ask them so show selflessness (mostly with the 9 and 7 year old), the older one seems to give in 2/3 as often as the younger one. At what point does this become a selfishness problem with the 7 year old?


    Rachel Reply:

    I am wondering this too. My 2 oldest kids are 7 and 4, and we have the same issue. I think the 7 year old gives in most of the time (maybe to avoid conflict) and I think the 4 year old knows that his sister will give in so that he doesn’t have to. I know they’re still young, but we’re trying to set a good precedent.


    Kimberly @ Raising Olives Reply:

    This is a great question.

    I don’t think that I can define a ‘point’ where it becomes an issue or selfishness. That’s going to be something that you, as the parent, will have to determine.

    I do know that we’ve had to instruct our children on both sides of this issue.

    For example, in the child that always gives to the other, watch out for pride and/or a martyr complex.

    In the child that is given into watch for selfishness, but also watch for them taking advantage of other situations because they know that giving-in child will often continue to do so. (i.e. they continue to take things away or ask for things from giving-in child because they know they will get their way.)

    It’s just something that parents have to keep in mind and deal with as they see these sin issues come up.


  3. Suzanne
    August 16, 2012 | 11:44 am

    I really liked this.
    Also, we heard somewhere years ago that you could curtail tattling (and one child gloating while the other got in trouble) if both children were made to stay while the complaint was settled, as opposed to tattling then running off to play while the other got in trouble. We do this even if someone else’s child is the complainer/tattler (like at a church event). It’s amazing to see how seldom they come back.


  4. Ellie
    August 16, 2012 | 11:16 pm

    Wonderfully explained! thank you! we do this same thing and I would just add that in the last noted situations we take it a step further in that there is a specific way to “tattle.” Naturally, if it’s a dangerous situation (child playing with matches) the “tattler” runs directly to mom and blurts the situation. Most frequently, however, when mom must become involved, it is a matter of a child exhibiting hurtful behavior we are working with her on. My example: girl started biting boy when she got angry. We need to know girl bit him so we can deal with her but we still don’t want him tattling. So this is how they are to handle it: girl bites boy, boy says to girl, “I think you need to go tell mom about that.” This gives girl the opportunity to come confess her sin and keeps boy from “getting” to tattle. If girl does not come confess to mom then boy comes to mom and, still not getting to tattle, says, “mom, girl has something to tell you.” Girl is then called in and she is confronted, must confess and will be punished for her original infraction as well as for hiding her sin and putting brother in a difficult situation. We follow through with the apologies, forgive-yous and hugs as you’ve described before. I hope that’s clear and helpful, we found it to immediately and greatly reduce “tattling” in our house (4 young kids here so far). Sorry for such a long comment.


    Kimberly @ Raising Olives Reply:

    Excellent points and wonderful way to handle it!

    Thank you.


  5. Ellie
    August 16, 2012 | 11:34 pm

    I should add that with the above explained set-up some of the more ridiculous tattling has been weeded out just because it can be quite a hassle for the tattler. But we still deal with the occasional petty tattle. Example: Girl tells Boy to come tell Mom that he pretended it hailed on Girl’s play house when she was pretending it only rained…. In that case Boy is reminded not to be a nuisance but Girl receives a punishment for being petty and apologies, forgive-yous and hugs finish out that deal too. Again, I hope this is helpful. Sorry to comment so much.


  6. Carrie
    August 17, 2012 | 1:44 am

    Great words of advice! I get so tired of acting as the referee. It’s easy to slip back into survival mode and just say, “Go figure it out!” instead of training and equipping them for success. Thanks for the reminders!


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