Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Or is it tattle-tail?

I have a real problem with the general parenting philosophy that discourages tattle-tales. I've heard it since I was old enough to have ears, you've heard it just as long, tattle-taling is wrong. A sin, right?

Well, I would love to be enlightened with the scripture on that one.

Now that I have kids who are well acquainted with the blessed skill of tattle-taling, I've been questioning this more than ever. Let me tell you why I have a problem with the anti-tattle-taling movement.
  • We tell kids that if they are being bullied, they need to come and tell a parent. Of course, we don't call that tattle-taling. But how's a kid to know the difference? Take this even further, we tell kids that if they are being abused or molested by an adult, they need to tell someone. But just don't tattle.
  • When Cain asked God "Am I my brothers keeper?", he was not setting an admirable precedent. He was being sarcastic, because, yes, we're supposed to be concerned with the safety and well-being of our brothers, friends, neighbours, etc. We want to teach our children to be sensitive and compassionate, ready to reach out and help someone in need. And yet when we tell them not to tattle-tale, we're instilling a sense of apathy, of self-centredness.
I started to realize this when I would go to have a shower, or otherwise leave the kids playing somewhere where my eyes were not watching every second (down in the basement or backyard, let's say) and have to admonish Honour to keep an eye on her siblings. I would often add, 'But don't come running to me every 5 minutes tattle-taling'. But then I'd rethink that and say--unless they are doing something dangerous. I used to often say that 'it's not tattle-taling if it's happening to you', to encourage my kids to stand up for themselves and get help from an adult if they were being hurt by someone else. So now we have two exceptions to the tattle-tale rule. That's alot of distinctions to expect from 5 and 7 year olds.

So then I analyzed, why do we discourage tattle-taling?

Well, it's cotton-pickin' annoying for one. We can all remember a whining, constantly complaining kid in our past who came running to you or his parents or whomever with a teeth-grindingly exasperating litany of "she did this to me, he did that to me".

So is annoyance a good enough reason to lay down a wide-spread moral law to keep your hurts to yourself?

We can see this played out to the final result on your average cop show. Bad guy or witness gets caught, is being interrogated and encouraged to tell the police what he knows. But he won't budge--why? He ain't a snitch.

If there's something that really gets my goat, it's when I see people or kids getting angry at someone who 'told' on them when they've done something wrong. This is just so wrong in itself! My kids do it all the time--they get told on, or tattle-taled on and found out for the wrong they've committed, but they aren't remorseful or repentant...instead, they are angry at the person who told on them! I'm usually quick to nip that in the bud. If you do the crime, you do the time--no one else can be blamed for your bad decision and all that.

There is the heart condition of the tattler to consider however, and perhaps therein lies the key to this. We don't like tattlers because they are smug. They are usually self-righteous. They are often quite pleased to have caught someone else--often a sibling, in a wrong. This is so far from a godly attitude that it's not funny. We are told in scripture to graciously uphold and correct one another. We need to remember when we're 'tattling' that there but for the grace of God, go I. Even a child can recognize that they themselves have likely done the very wrong they are tattling about, or could easily do it.

I don't know where this leads. I'm not writing a nice, neat, loose ends tight, Focus on the Family type article (No offence to FOTF meant WHATsoever; I'm highly supportive of them, but you know what I mean, right?)
I think it will mean for me that I will not be so quick to lay down or enforce the "don't tattle-tale" law. Because if in the future one of my girls is making some really bad decisions and putting herself in mortal (or moral) jeopardy, I want her sisters to feel they can come and tell me. I just can't be present and involved for every minute of my children's lives and sometimes, I'm going to have to rely on others to be eyes and ears for me--until they reach the time that they are fully accountable for their own actions.


secondofwett said...

It's tale...cause a tale is another word for story. When my 'middle' family was young I overheard a mother telling her child, over the phone, that when it came to telling, that there were two lines of thinking...would the telling get the person into trouble...or out of trouble...obviously the first one is if the kid is doing something wrong and the teller just wants them to get caught and get into trouble.,.the latter is also obviously if the child was doing something dangerous or that would harm himself or others than she was willing to listen because that would be keeping the child from getting themselves or others in trouble and harmed in some way. I thot it was a good line of thinking myself....

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