Ironically, I was logging on to Focus on the Family's website and happened to click on the Parenting link. Lo and behold, there were a couple of articles on tattling! So here's what I have learned today:
I learned that I usually don't deal correctly with tattling because either I am not sure WHAT to do or I end up rewarding the tattler by getting the "offender" in trouble. I vaguely realize that I may not be dealing with the situation correctly, but I have had trouble knowing how to approach the situation.
Tattling is usually motivated by one sibling taking pleasure in getting the other in trouble, which can cause problems for that relationship as well as disrupt the entire household (in our house, this has certainly been the case!).
Parents can address the tattling situation and encourage peace by taking the following steps:
1. Help the tattler understand his/her motivation
2. Help the tattler understand the damaging effects of the tattling
3. Help the tattler replace tale-bearing with encouragement
4. Teach the tattler to practice what he/she has learned
Helping the tattler to understand the motives behind the tale-bearing by asking thought-provoking questions will take the focus off of the wrong that someone else has done and place it on their own motives. And by helping our kids think through their motives, we will be helping them learn how to make good decisions.
"Could it be that you are taking pleasure in getting your brother in trouble?"
"What are you hoping will happen to your brother by getting him in trouble?"
"How do you think your brother/sister feels when you tattle on them?"
"Will tattling bring you closer to your brother/sister or tear you apart?"
Sometimes there ARE good reasons for tattling, such as if a sibling is not listening to another child's encouragement to do the right thing, if a child is endangering themselves or someone else, or if a child is causing damage to toys or other property.
Then, it's good to replace wrong behavior for right...
"Rather than tattling, what could you have said to encourage your brother/sister?"
"How do you think it makes your brother/sister feel when you encourage them instead of trying to get them in trouble?"
A good way to teach children is by role-play...I know this, but I don't always remember to actually put it in action! It's good to immediately take the children back to the original situation and then walk them through how they COULD have acted in a loving way and avoided the tattling. It's good to make the original "offender" pay attention to the encouragement and thank their brother/sister for caring enough about them to talk to them.
Okay, GREAT ADVICE but here's the problem...this takes a LOT OF WORK! To do this means that I continually have to stop what I'm doing, get down on their level, and work it through with them. I know that it's what I need to do, but I find that I get really tired of the daily struggle for consistency in teaching and discipline. It's easier to just let something slide than to deal with it right away. It's hard to keep the long-range parenting goals in mind and remember the steps I need to take daily to get there. So I thought it was really neat that at the end of the article on tattling, the author included this verse:
Let us not become weary in doing good,
for at the proper time we will
reap a harvest if we do not give up.
I am so thankful that God led me to this article today! I needed some words of encouragement and I'm happy to say that my kids are now playing together rather nicely! I know that won't always be the case, but it's nice for now! :) And I pray that God will give me the wisdom and patience that I need to consistently teach my kids.
BTW: I found this article on the Focus on the Family website and it was written by Ginger Plowman, author and found of Preparing the Way Ministries which focuses on biblical parenting. Her website is www.gingerplowman.com.