Among the top three parenting annoyances: tattling. Wouldn’t you agree? Some days it’s the #1. And the subjects for tattling can sometimes boggle the mind. You know the type…
- “Mom, she looked at me with a funny eyes.”
- “Mom, he put my shoes under the bed when I didn’t want him to.”
- “Mom, we were singing a song together but I didn’t want to anymore so I asked him to stop but he wouldn’t.”
But this, the other day from my 8-year-old, really got me: “Mom, why did you tattle to Daddy about me today?”
There had been some issues that morning, and I’d discussed it with my husband in the evening. Not tattling; completely different. But he hadn’t seen it that way.
I can see his point… The line can look pretty grey from a kid’s standpoint.
Tattling is when someone does something wrong and a child reports it to a parent (or other authority figure) it in such a way to get him or her in trouble. Two parents discussing their child’s misbehavior isn’t the same thing. Though ‘trouble’ may result, the point is correction and the kid learning how to behave right. This is a job that God gave for moms and dads to work on together; it’s a team thing. By definition, kids’ behavior is always the business of both the mom and the dad.
This is what I tell him, and he gets it. But then he brings this:
“What about when moms talk to other moms about the things their kids are doing wrong?” (He has heard it, of course; they all have. Their ears are supersonic for honing in on words spoken about them.) “That’s kind of like tattling, isn’t it?”
Indeed it is, he’s got me there. To be more precise: it’s usually a combination of tattling and gossiping – sometimes with a little slander thrown in, even. And almost all of us moms are guilty of it at one point or another. I know I am.
I mean, of course there are times when such neither tattling nor gossip but actually constructive and helpful conversation about parenting. And this is what I tell him: “Sometimes moms talk to other moms about what’s happening with their kids because they are trying to figure out how to do a better job. Raising kids is really hard, and it’s not always easy to know what to do. It can help to talk to someone else to get different ideas and work things out together.”
He concedes that point. Then he makes a request – a completely reasonable one. “Mom, if you have to talk about me to moms or other grown-ups, can you do it without using my name or giving any details?”
And I’m amazed by the clarity and precision of the request, and the justice in it. He’s asking me to respect him as a person; he wants his privacy taken into account. He asks for dignity, and that I be its grantor. Nothing more, nothing less. I owe him that much, I know… That much, and a whole lot more.
“Let everything you say be good and helpful, so that your words will be an encouragement to those who hear them” (the people you intend to hear them, and the people – especially your own little people! – you don’t intend to hear them). Marching orders for me.
Originally published January, 2014