Friday, June 6, 2008

TATTLING {is it a problem?}

I was talking with a young mom a couple of weeks ago regarding chore time and tattling.  See if this sounds familiar...

In a nutshell, this mom would tell her young children to "clean up the playroom" and within minutes a child, who was supposed to be cleaning, would come to her telling on their sibling. "He's not cleaning..." instead of working herself. Then, after being returned to the playroom, after a few minutes the other child would come out with the same complaint, "She's not helping..." This scene would repeat again and again- daily- until she was feeling quite frazzled.


I understand that kind of pressure. This is the type of pressure that made moms all over the land ban together generations ago and say "tattling" is bad so they could stop hearing complaints and finish a conversation. : )

But tattling isn't bad. Tattling is good! I cannot be in all places at once and I need to know what is going on if something is turning sour. I don't want things to slide by and go uncorrected. That doesn't help anyone's character.

Tattling is really a symptom, revealing a problem, it's not the problem itself. In some cases the problem is even in the heart of the tattler. But if they aren't allowed to express themselves it will be difficult to steer them in the right direction.


I'll share with you what I shared with her.

I realized when my children were very young that they would get overwhelmed by certain things. If I loaded their plate too full at meal time or if I gave them open-ended commands like "clean the room" they would become paralyzed. Where does a little person start? This overwhelm causes little people- and sometimes adults- to just stop and stare.

This could be the problem in this case. For starters, I'd try this:

1.) For really small ones (I'm talking about ages 2 - 6 or 7 years of age) I assign specific tasks.

For example, I might have one child assigned to picking up all Legos, another assigned to picking up all the Lincoln Logs and another assigned to picking up all the books and organizing them on the shelf. In this way I can be sure each child knows what to do and each specific child has contributed to the work. I ask the children to come to me when they've finished so that I can INspect their work.

2.) If the kids are really little or prone to distraction I might let them know I'll be back to check on them in 10 minutes. Then I set the timer and return in that time to check in. I don't want a half an hour to go by before I realize the work hasn't begun.

3.) I would start to instruct them in the "off time" with God's Word so I have something to draw from when difficulties occur. I say in the off times because when a child is upset it will be difficult for them to hear a sermon. And when I am upset it is not the time to deliver a sermon either. : ) We don't want to respond in anger- like Moses did. We want to woo them like the Holy Spirit does, simply bringing to their remembrance the Word that is already hidden in their hearts.

"The four little penguins" this is what I mean when I say we are working on the "heart of the issue." This is when I plan a teaching from Scripture related to the problem we are struggling with. I will compile verses that I want to cover and pray before I begin. If only one child is having a problem in the area I might not teach the verses during school Bible time because it would be painfully awkward for the one child to be instructed as such in front of their siblings. But if everyone is dealing with a problem I would. I would try to express myself in the gentlest of terms so they could receive my instruction, being transparent and sharing with them that I struggle in this area (because often I do) or another area. I have learned from my husband that when we confess our sins to one another it removes walls. We all become humbled and bear with one another in love. I would encourage you to be real with your kids. Pray for each other and encourage each other until Christ returns.

If I could choose, I would much rather teach through a resource like Doorpost's "For Instruction in Righteousness" systematically so I can cover situations before a problem occurs. In this way, hearts are easily receptive and not tempted to be defensive. Of course, that is not always possible.

4.) If you have older children (about age 10 and trustworthy) I would encourage you to begin to train them in management. Have the little ones report to them for duty. If I put an older girl in charge of a room the little ones are to ask her, "What do you need me to do?" The older child will assign a task (ie. straighten the book shelf). When the task is completed, the little one must return to the older child and report for duty again. All the while all the children are pitching in. Then Mama can inspect the work when her manager comes to say things are complete.

If the manager has a problem, then Mama must intervene and resolve the issue. Mama must require the little one to submit themselves to the authority of the older sibling in the same way they would submit to Mama. In this way the younger ones are continually trained to submit to the authority of the trustworthy older child. If you are not willing to do that for the older child then I would not put them in charge at all. There is nothing more frustrating than having responsibility with no authority.

Of course, you will need to prepare the older one ahead of time with your guidelines and rules. Their job will be to assign age appropriate tasks and serve in the role of police officer. They will report violations of the existing rules, but they are not to make up new laws themselves. They are not judge and jury. That's Mama's job.

5.) Expect difficulties to occur from time to time. Don't squash tattling, but instruct the heart in those opportunities. Your home is a little church. Now is the time to form those future adults that will need to know how to interact with others in the church body. They will need to know how to submit to their authorities, to work diligently and even to hold others accountable to the standards that God has ordained in a loving way.

All that we do today builds the church of tomorrow. Be passionate, be diligent and let the love and grace that you have received from Christ overflow to your children!

May God bless you as you lead little hearts home.




  1. "All that we do today builds the church of tomorrow."

    Fantastic! Gotta remember that...

  2. Gorgeous, beautiful words of encouragement. So well said, and I agree. I don't mind tattleing. This allows me to teach how to handle conflict and catch wether the person offended is in the wrong.
    There are times I laugh when the oldest is trying to negotiate with the now 5 year old. I tell him is going to lose and its time to pull rank. Our code word to manage the situation with wisdom. :)

  3. Thanks Kendra. Expect to hear from me soon. I am trying to catch up on e-mail. I like your plan. : )

    Hi Dana, Thank you so much. I had to laugh when you shared that example between the oldest and the 5 year old. I can hear you saying, "You're going to lose, it's time to pull rank."

    You hit the nail on the head- sometimes the tattler is the one that is in the wrong.

    Love the code word.

    Have a great weekend!

  4. Thank you so much for this! I have been reading since Kendra sent us to pray for the birth of your baby girl and have been so encouraged by your wisdom and ability to express it!
    In this post, I really appreciate you being clear with the ages and what expectations you would have for them. My oldest three are boys and the oldest of them is 7. Reading your encouragement about not asking too much of the little ones and being clear that that may include 7 has me wondering if I expect too much sometimes.
    Yes, we are a little church here in our homes. A covenant group of sinful people called glorify God in all things!

  5. Rebecca~I'm fairly new reading your blog..but I have enjoyed your wise words much. This is an especially timely post. We deal with tattling alot..but I'd never thought of it the way you presented it. I also love your ideas. I think I need to start trying some of these:-)


  6. Amen Amy and welcome! You know, I think it is quite natural for us to expect a lot of our firstborns. Sometimes too much. We all see that happen at times. : ) They become so dependable and reliable that we can sometimes forget they are little too.

    So glad you are enjoying the blog. I certainly don't have the corner of the market on wisdom, but it is fun to pass on the things that have been shared with me and that God is teaching me.

    Blessings to you! ~Rebecca

  7. Welcome Sommer! So glad to have you here. I think we all deal with tattling- at times lots of tattling. It's so tempting to shoot the messenger, isn't it? : )
    Grace and Peace to you sister as you lead little hearts home! ~Rebecca

  8. Have you been peeking into my house? :o)

    Wonderful thoughts!

  9. Thanks Lauren. : ) Some things are just universal, aren't they? Blessings to you! ~Rebecca

  10. This is a view of tattling that I have never really thought about before. I have have always looked at tattling as "bad", probably because that's how I was raised. My husband and I have been discussing the viewpoint on it and it has been good for us to reassess how we handle it in our home.
    I also have to say, that I just love the picture in this post. Something about it just makes me smile when I look at it.

  11. Thanks Serena. Getting to talk things out- we love that. : )

    The picture is some of the artwork in the girl's room. The theme of the room is "rain or shine, GOD is good all the time." The girls did a great job with it- and it was free art!