How To Cut Down on Tattling
When I was a kid, I remember my mom constantly encouraging us kids to work out disagreements between ourselves. Of course there were plenty of times when we just couldn’t see eye-to-eye with a sibling, or we were so emotional that a friend couldn’t reason with us and we needed an adult to help, but many other times, the little petty disagreements or someone picking on us could be resolved without involving an adult.
My mom had 2 rules.
Rule number 1: “Talk sweet.”
Rule number 2: “Go and tell”…an adult (and to be used only if rule number one didn’t work).
If we came running to her with our little problem without having applied these two rules in the correct order, then we would be reminded of them and might be asked if we would like to “try again.”
She made it clear that if we had taken the right steps and tried to work it out first, she would be all ears to help and only the guilty party would be in trouble. But if we came running to her before trying to work it out, or bullied another person (or as she called it “taking matters into your own hands”), then both of us might be in trouble. This dramatically cut down on tattling and highly encouraged us to work things out on our own, or at least attempt to first.
There were of course exceptions to this rule, like if there was an emergency and someone was going to get hurt, or if a mess was being made, then we didn’t have to follow these steps and could step in and help or run for an adult immediately.
As a parent myself now, we’ve used these two rules with our kids. I believe that not only do our kids benefit from them right now as they learn to work through problems with others while still young, but I believe these rules will likely help them later in life too when problems arise. And this doesn’t mean we expect our kids to always agree with each other or never express when they’re upset. Anger and disagreements can be healthy and need to be expressed, but we do want them to be thoughtful, responsible, self-aware and self-controlled when problems arise.
We had a laugh the other day when our boys had a little squabble. They weren’t handling the situation well by themselves, so I stepped in and asked Israel what rule number one was and if he’d used it. Sam piped up before Israel could answer, “talk sweet!”
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