Thursday, February 24, 2011

A Tale About Tattling

Who is worse the kid who tattles or the kid who is being tattled on?

I agree, tattling is irritating and in a lot of ways it is a bad behavior all its own. But this thing that we tell kids not to do, seems to have lasting negative effects later in life too.

Example: If a Johnny knows his best friend Sammy is cheating on his Girlfriend Suzie - it's not unfathomable that he will keep quiet - bros before hoes. But in the case Suzie isn't a ho, she's really good friends with Johnny and has a right to know Sammy is sleeping around. But Johnny was taught not to ever tattle.

I don't know if that was the best example but hopefully you see where I am going with this yeah?

I guess as a parent this is just an issue I know I will eventually be confronted with. Sure Aiden doesn't have siblings but I know for a fact he's going to be playing with a particularly menacing little boy at the lake all summer every summer and the situation is bound to come up.

Typically parenting police will tell you to follow the 3 D's - deadly, dangerous, destructive. If something is happening that falls into these categories - tell your kids to tell you immediately. If it doesn't they need to learn to keep quiet. I've also heard of telling your kids to know the difference between a tattle (i.e. Sammy called Suzie a stupid head) and reporting (i.e. Sammy is planning to kill Johnny with a gun).

My mom's strategy was "If you aren't bleeding or dead, I don't want to know about it."

I was definitely not a tattle tale - I never ratted my sister or other playmates out for anything. Mom was very clear about this rule and the punishment for tattling was always severe. So I don't tattle.

But then I got to an age where you could say that some seriously destructive things were being done to me. And I was participating and/or a witness in dangerous behavoir. But I never spoke up. I either dealt with things myself or in the event I didn't know how to deal, I would carry it with me (might I say the scars and the secrets run deep inside this tattooed body and I will need a large coffin because I'm taking some major things to my grave).

Obviously, for better or worse I have survived and am here to tell the tale but it makes me think, "fuck the 3 D's." I would rather have a child who is a tattle tale and to know that he knows without a doubt what is wrong vs right; furthermore that he never feels he has to shoulder any issue big or small alone - than to have him ever feel a minute like he is totally alone.

And furthermore, if/when tattling becomes and issue I feel that instead of telling a kid not to do it because it is annoying or incovienent to a parent, it can be a learning opportunity. Just because a child tattles doesn't mean a parent has to rush in to police a situation. The parent, who engages in parenting effectively, would take the chance to say, "I know that you came to me because something is wrong and you don't know how to deal with it. So, together, lets brainstorm some things that you can do to fix it, end it, or ignore it. Then you can go back to where you came from and carry out the best option."

This way, I know my kid knows right from wrong. He is unafraid to ask for help. And in the grand scheme of things we have an open relationship where he can tell me anything.

I guess when the problem comes up I will tell you how it all plays out (could be awhile) but I think I'm going against the book on this one.

1 comment:

Constant Writer said...

This makes a good point. I've always been the person who doesn't tattle as well, and there are probably more than a few times when I should have said something. I know I have kept my mouth shut on one occasion in particular where I really should have said something. Sometimes it's really hard to know when you should keep someone's secret or when to tell it, but I hope I've learned the difference by now. For the most part.