Confession from a former tattle tale
For my entire life, I have been labeled as the “tattle tale”. When I was a kid I was always in trouble for it. As an adolescent I lost friends because of it. And now as a parent, I have struggled with how to handle my own tattle tale child.
On this lifelong tattle tale journey, I have made an important discovery. Tattling is not an obedience problem, it’s a heart condition. One that is actually really simple to address. But before we get to that, let’s explore what’s going on in the minds of those “tattle tale” kids.
Kids think tattling is helping to right a wrong
When children tattle, they aren’t always trying to be vicious and hurt others; sometimes, they genuinely think they are being helpful. When kids see something wrong, they have a desire to make it right. They want to bring that which is hidden in the dark into the light.
Be encouraged parents! That desire to reveal the wrongs in the world is a good thing! It just needs to be channeled in a way that benefits instead of harms.
Kids tattle when they feel they are being treated unfairly
Is there one person in particular that seems to be your child’s target for tattling? Maybe your child is feeling jealous or sees this person as a threat. When kids don’t get the attention they crave, in the way they crave it, they lash out with inappropriate behaviors, like tattling.
You may need to re-evaluate or take an honest look and see if this child really is being treated unfairly. Do they have too much responsibility? Maybe your other children don’t have enough responsibility? Is your child getting enough quality time with mom and dad? Do they need a little more praise for their job well done?
Check out The 5 Love Languages of Children for a great resource on giving the kids the attention they crave, in the way the crave it. You won’t be disappointed!
Kids tattle to get back at someone who hurt them
I know, I said kids don’t always tattle to be vicious. But many times, they do. Sometimes, they get their little feelings hurt by someone else for one reason or another. And the best way they know to handle that kind of situation is to “get them back” by getting them in trouble.
It’s a kid size version of “an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth”… You hurt me, and I’ll hurt you back.
Kids have a hard time understanding justice, so sometimes they take it upon themselves to exact punishment when they feel they have been wronged.
The root of the tattling problem
Contrary to popular belief that tattling is a natural right of passage for kids to learn about justice, I truly believe that it stems from a dangerous cultural attitude that vengeance is something that belongs to us.
We see it every single day in this world. Adults “getting back” at those who “did them wrong”.
People lashing out at others over social media…
TV shows about payback and revenge (aren’t those the names of real shows??)…
Lawsuits of every shape and kind…
Just last week I was in the grocery store and the line I was in was moving ever so slowly. The family in front of me had a lot of stuff, and a lot of coupons. And it was obvious that the cashier was very new, and very confused.
There was also a lady in line behind me who made no secret that she was tired of waiting. After several rude (and very loud) huffs and puffs, she finally grumbled “isn’t there another checker here today?”
Another employee overheard her and went to open up another lane. Then, the lady told me to come on with her and go first, while making a huge scene about the cashier who was taking too long to check people out. She was SO BLATANTLY RUDE about being made to wait.
I calmly and quietly said, “no thank you, I’m okay.” To which she again, huffed and puffed and acted seriously annoyed. Anyway, the lady checked out in the other lane and I waited for a while longer until it was finally my turn.
When I got up to the counter and asked the cashier how her day was going, she looked up at me with tears in her eyes and said it was not one of her best.
My heart ached for her, it physically hurt as I tried to choke back my own tears. How could someone be so self-righteous not to even notice they were hurting another human being? (Or worse, notice and not care!) After talking for a bit, I learned that it was in fact only her 4th day on the job and her first time working as a cashier. (I tried to encourage her with a friendly smile and a few reassuring words that we all have bad days and she was doing great. I can only hope it brightened her day a little.)
I left that store with an aching in my chest at how someone could be so blatantly rude to another, simply because they were a little inconvenienced.
This is what I’m talking about though, it’s our own twisted form of justice that has infiltrated our way of life.
I’m sure that the lady in line behind me was tired of waiting. I was tired of waiting too. Maybe she had plans, maybe she was in a hurry? I understand, I had a husband and four kids waiting in the car on a hot Oklahoma day; they were tired and hungry (can you say grouchy?), oh yeah, and it was Father’s Day. Standing in line at the grocery store for just a handful of things wasn’t really top on my list of things to do that day either.
BUT that didn’t give me the right to “get back” at the slow cashier by being rude, and it didn’t give any one else that right either.
The only difference between me and the lady behind me that day, was that I acted a little “weird” by patiently waiting, and she acted perfectly “normal” by expressing her disapproval.
It’s a Heart Condition People!
One that is taking over our culture! What makes us think its okay to treat people like this? This is certainly not what the Bible teaches us! Actually, the Bible says just the opposite…
“Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others.”
A quick word of caution… even though my example was about strangers treating each other badly, there may be a bigger problem lurking in our own homes! I will be the first to admit that I often treat strangers better than those in my own family.
The ones closest to us also tend to be the ones who can hurt us the most (intentionally or not), so we should be using EXTRA caution in the way we respond in sticky situations. Maybe next time you feel the urge to “get even” with your spouse for hurting your feelings, pray for them instead; because when we as adults are acting in such a vengeful way, how can we possibly expect our kids not too?
Kids are little copy-cats! They watch everything we do, and then they mimic it!
If we act entitled, they will too. If we act self-righteous, they will too. If we act vengeful, they will too!
And this my friends, is the root of the tattle tale problem. Kids are learning from us that they have the right to take it upon themselves to fix whatever perceived injustice they find.
The true root of this problem is a selfish heart, one that wants to seek out its own vengeance.
The simple fix
To heal a heart condition, the answer needs to come from the Bible.
“Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everybody. If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. Do not take revenge, my friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,” says the Lord. On the contrary:
“If your enemy is hungry, feed him;
if he is thirsty, give him something to drink.
In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head.”
Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil by doing good.”
Vengeance is NOT something that belongs to us. It belongs to God alone.
Can you imagine what the world would be like it we really lived according to this verse? Do not repay evil with evil… live at peace with everyone… do not take revenge…
Here are my 4 simple steps to fixing the tattle tale problem:
- First, understand that vengeance doesn’t belong to us. We have to fix our own heart conditions before we can help our kids fix theirs.
- Teach them to walk in love and teach them to share the Truth in love.
- Teach them the difference between “tattling” and alerting an adult to danger.
- Do not teach them to accept everything they hear; instead, teach them to weigh everything against God’s truth, and then correct from a loving heart, not a vengeful one.
It’s really that simple
When my daughter starts to tattle now, first, I ask her if someone is in danger? If not, then I ask her if she is showing love? Finally, I ask her if she can think of a way to gently correct the situation in love?
It takes a lot of guidance and constant reminding, but anything worth doing takes work, right?
Kids are smart, and naturally like to solve problems. Teach them how to lead in love and they will be a blessing to all those around them.Shape your child's heart to #ReflectJesus Teach them to lead in love! Click To Tweet
“So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets.”
Blessings and love,
I’m an Army wife, homeschooling mom of 6, and a beautifully flawed human being. I live a very messy but very authentic life, perfected daily by the Grace and Love of Jesus. I hope you’ll join my tribe as we grow together, encouraging one another to live authentically as empowered women, empowering other women.