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.

What are some ways you've helped your child demonstrate honor with brothers and sisters?

Milan Tomic

Hi. I’m Designer of Blog Magic. I’m CEO/Founder of ThemeXpose. I’m Creative Art Director, Web Designer, UI/UX Designer, Interaction Designer, Industrial Designer, Web Developer, Business Enthusiast, StartUp Enthusiast, Speaker, Writer and Photographer. Inspired to make things looks better.

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  1. I have 4 children (ages 4,7,7,10). Our house rule is similar to what was outlined in your post, with just a couple additions. When a child comes to me to inform of a problem, he has to come to me very softly and slowly. This manner helps him to calm down while making his way to me. Usually, he has forgotten the urgency of the situation by the time he gets to me. This also prevents me from getting so easily sucked in to the high intensity of emotions when a child comes running and yelling.

    Specifically, our rule is that the child has to tip-toe slowly to me. He must talk in a very soft, slow voice and cannot begin speaking to me until he is completely to me and has my attention.

    The child knows my standard first question: "What did you already do right to try to be a peacemaker?"
    This begins my training session with the child on how to go back and handle the situation in a correct and peaceful way. The child then goes back to give my suggestions a try.

    It is very rare that I have a child come back a second time on the same situation. The child was able to resolve the situation on his own, with only counsel from me, and was able to do it in a self-controlled manner.

    And, yes, there are times the child coming to me for help had been a very guilty offender in the situation, as well. He gets a rebuke and instruction on how it needs to be corrected with the others involved.

    They caught on to that very fast! It is very rare that they didn't at least make some effort to handle the situation correctly before coming to me for help.

    Jill Connelly, Rochester Hills, Michigan