Telling Tales is such a tricky thing. There are two sides to it. The first one is the side of justice – when something goes wrong something needs to be done about it. The second side is that of human nature – delighting in the other person being in trouble, not me!
In order to deal with both sides, and train in character at the same time I have taught my children that they are not to take justice into their own hands. Especially when they are young this will lead them directly to doing something wrong themselves. They will hit back, they will say nasty words, or they will tell tales in order to get the other person in trouble! I give them a “way of escape” – a way to escape the sin that is lurking, ready to happen in their own life.
When they find themselves in a situation where they can’t do the right thing – they come to me. They come to me not to tell tales but to get help to do the right thing themselves. It goes like this….
“Mummy, I need help.”
“What do you need help in, Sweetie?”
“Daniel hit me!”
“No, I’m sorry. I can’t help you with that. I can help you to do the right thing. Would you like that?”
“Yes. Mummy, would you help me to do the right thing when someone hits me?”
“Sure…” and off I go helping them to do the right thing even when someone has hurt them.
Just between parent to parent, I do deal with the hitting child because “no hitting” is a major rule in our household but… my first concern is helping the “hurt” child to do the right thing herself. Generally the offender will see the offended coming to me and guilt will set in and they right themselves! And because they get their relationship “right” based on a fear of reproof from me, I generally find the offence will reoccur but I’ll be on the look out for it so I can deal with it good and proper from my own observations not the words of the offended.
The other issue I am dealing with now is how our children report a small injury. Their natural conversation would go like “Mum, Josh squashed my toe.” It is obvious to me that the child just wants a bit of sympathy, that they don’t want Josh in trouble and that it was an accident. I encourage them to say, “Mum, my toe got squashed.” This is a way of acknowledging that it was an accident and in not saying the name (which generally gets emphasised! – human nature again!), in not saying that name it assures the person that you know it was an accident and all is well in your relationship. It is a way to consider the person who has just accidentally hurt you – after all they have already said sorry, you are just wanting comfort from your mother! Use words that edify – even when you’ve been hurt!
Dealing with Telling Tales when we are out. One of our children is struggling with this to the point that Peter and I feel that he has lost the freedom to speak to our hostess – he needs to speak to me first about everything. He is so characterised by telling tales that we can be sure if he comes in from play, to talk to the hostess it will be a Tale! Last week I simply implored all the other mums if our child came up to talk to them could they please direct him to me first. I am fortunate to have around me a group of mums who will support me in these training efforts.
Our children need to have a heart for doing right regardless of what other are doing and Telling Tales is the way children habitually get out of doing this. We must see every situation as an opportunity to train our children towards God’s ways.