From Offense to Hatred — How to Stay Unoffended

Skyler

Offense can easily spiral out of control and turn into hatred, and hatred is murder’s twin (I’ll show you what I mean in a moment). In the last blog, Jody and I talked about the process of forgiveness. Left unchecked, unforgiveness can take us down a dark road. Take a look:

Stage 1 — “Unforgiveness”

This is the first stage in the downward spiral of offense. This stage is most clearly marked by keeping a record of wrongs. So whenever you catch yourself rehearsing a conflict and feeling the anger and offense rising up, it’s a red flag.

Once you recognize the red flag, you have a choice:

  • You can admit that you’re being tempted to slip back into “unforgiveness” and then make the choice once again to walk through the process of forgiving someone that we outlined in Wednesday’s Post.
  • Or you can give your thoughts over to the offense, rehearsing the situation in your mind over and over, thinking of what you could have and should have said and spiraling deeper and deeper into bitterness.

Jenni Stahlmann

Jenni Stahlmann is the mom of six kids (ages 4 to 18) with #7 due in August and one on the autism spectrum. She and her husband Matthew homeschool the whole brood. Jenni has been a journalist for more than 20 years, having covered government, business and family issues for a wide range of magazines and newspapers. Currently, she and Jody co-host a weekly syndicated radio show, write a weekly newspaper column and freelance articles and speak at churches, political groups and homeschool conventions about parenting on purpose.

More Posts

How Do I Forgive When I Don’t Feel Like It?

Skyler and Sydney Serious

A while back, we  posted The 6 A’s of Apology and The 4 Promises of Forgiveness, and someone posed a question on our Facebook page. She asked how you forgive someone who isn’t really sorry. It’s a great question, but it assumes that forgiveness is something that the other person somehow earns.

Forgiveness really has nothing to do with the other person. On the contrary, staying offended is like drinking poison and expecting the other person to die. If left unchecked, unforgiveness turns to bitterness, and there is a great body of scientific evidence showing that bitterness leads to illness — both physical and psychological. According to Dr. Charles Raison, “The data that negative mental states cause heart problems is just stupendous. The data is just as established as smoking, and the the size of the effect is the same.”

The word forgive is a verb. It’s something you do, not necessarily something you feel. It’s an act of will. You decide to forgive. You choose to forgive, regardless of what the other person says or does.

Forgiveness does NOT mean that what the other person did was okay. It does not mean they were somehow correct or justified in their actions. In fact, that’s why we tell parents not to let their kids say, “It’s okay” when someone apologizes to them. Instead, we encourage them to say, “I forgive you,” because it’s not okay, but we can still forgive them.

Jenni and Jody

Jenni and Jody are Christian, homeschooling moms with nine kids between them (ages 4 to 28) and #10 due in August. Together they host a weekly syndicated parenting radio show, write a weekly newspaper column, freelance for a variety of publications, teach parenting and homeschooling workshops and seminars, speak at conventions and conferences and coach individual families. They are passionate about encouraging and equipping families to parent on purpose.

More Posts

Conflict is a Stewardship

Conflict

If you have people in your life, we can PROMISE that at some point you WILL have conflict. And that goes for our kids too. How we handle it makes all the difference. Just as we can teach our kids to be good stewards over things like time, money, belongings and even schoolwork, we can give them tools to help them become good stewards of conflict.

A steward is a manager, someone appointed to oversee something or to look after it. Conflict is something that has to be managed carefully or else it can lead to all sorts of bad results, one of which is becoming (and staying) offended.

Offense is lethal. Being offended and staying offended is like drinking poison and expecting the other person to die. It causes a root of bitterness to anchor itself into the offended person’s life, destroying their peace, their health and their relationships.

But the truth is, staying unoffended is no small feat. It takes enormous work. Recently, we were teaching this topic to a group of adults, and one man asked why he should bother going to the trouble of working through this stuff. “Just walk away,” he said. But that’s not the answer.

Jenni Stahlmann

Jenni Stahlmann is the mom of six kids (ages 4 to 18) with #7 due in August and one on the autism spectrum. She and her husband Matthew homeschool the whole brood. Jenni has been a journalist for more than 20 years, having covered government, business and family issues for a wide range of magazines and newspapers. Currently, she and Jody co-host a weekly syndicated radio show, write a weekly newspaper column and freelance articles and speak at churches, political groups and homeschool conventions about parenting on purpose.

More Posts

The Absorbent Mind

Brain Container

Do you have a little person in your house between the ages of birth and six years old? Do you know someone who does? Then, you need to know about the Absorbent Mind period because there are some very specific things parents can do to make the most of these very important years.

This week we’ve been talking about the Montessori education method and philosophy, and in our post on creating a Montessori Toddler Room, we touched on the Montessori concept of Sensitive Periods — the developmental stages in a child’s life.

From birth to about age six, Dr. Maria Montessori identified a crucial period in a child’s development that she called The Absorbent Mind, and she believed that what happens during this period lays the foundation for all future intellectual and psychological growth.

Jenni Stahlmann

Jenni Stahlmann is the mom of six kids (ages 4 to 18) with #7 due in August and one on the autism spectrum. She and her husband Matthew homeschool the whole brood. Jenni has been a journalist for more than 20 years, having covered government, business and family issues for a wide range of magazines and newspapers. Currently, she and Jody co-host a weekly syndicated radio show, write a weekly newspaper column and freelance articles and speak at churches, political groups and homeschool conventions about parenting on purpose.

More Posts

How are You Preparing Your Child For the Real World?

Out of the Box

Facebook users, we have an AWESOME new group that’s all about preparing our kids for the real world. We want your voice and opinions and ideas, and we’d love for you to ask questions of the community and brainstorm with them.

This community is growing so quickly! We’ve added almost 500 people in the first few hours of it’s existence. Log into Facebook, join the group and invite your friends!

Here’s some info about the group:

This is a community for people who want to share ideas, ask questions and offer information that will help build the kind of skills kids need to succeed in the real world.

The goal of this community is simply to work together in raising kids who have REAL WORLD life skills — the stuff they probably won’t get in school (how to balance a checkbook, buy a house, grow a garden, learn about alternative energy, patent a product and bring it to market, harness social media for a purpose, etc.).

We’re here to talk about HOW and WHY to raise:

  • entrepreneurs
  • good communicators
  • civic-minded people
  • effective activists
  • debt-free, financially wise stewards of our planet
  • world changers
  • people who can manage their own thoughts, emotions and choices well
  • emotionally healthy people

We’re here to brainstorm together, offer ideas, ask questions and share information about:

  • how to help our kids start a business
  • how to teach our kids about our free market system
  • how to raise kids who will know how to cast an informed vote
  • how to help find their passion
  • how to nurture their passion
  • how to teach our kids to advocate effectively for what they believe in
  • how help kids negotiate well
  • how to teach kids good conflict management
  • you get the idea!

Did you join yet? Do it now, and share this post. See you on Facebook!

Jenni and Jody

Jenni and Jody are Christian, homeschooling moms with nine kids between them (ages 4 to 28) and #10 due in August. Together they host a weekly syndicated parenting radio show, write a weekly newspaper column, freelance for a variety of publications, teach parenting and homeschooling workshops and seminars, speak at conventions and conferences and coach individual families. They are passionate about encouraging and equipping families to parent on purpose.

More Posts

Why Fairness is Wrong

Skyler and Sydney Serious

“THAT’S NOT FAIR!”

How many times have we heard that cry, parents? If you’ve got more than one kid in the house, you probably hear it (or another version of it) often.

Recently, I sat my kids down and told them that they’re wrong to expect things to be fair.

Before I dug deeper into the reasoning of it, I did little role playing. I asked one of my kids to imagine that he was being hired to work on a farm. He’d have to work all day in the hot sun, and the work would be hard. I asked him what he thought would be a fair price for the whole day’s work. He said $50 (that’s a lot to an 11 year old). Just to be sure, I asked again. “Are you absolutely sure that’s enough? It’s going to be a long day. It’ll be hot and dirty, and you’re going to have to work very hard.” He stuck to his price, and we shook on it.

Then I told the kids that in the late morning, I would be heading out to the marketplace, and while I’m there, I’m going to pick up another worker. I called one of my kids up to represent this person.

Another kid came up to represent the worker I found in the early afternoon, and a third kid represented a worker hired in the late afternoon. A fourth kid came up to illustrate the final worker of the day, who joined the team in the last hour.

When the working day was done, I lined them all up in the order that they had been hired, and I paid the last kid first – the one who had only worked for an hour. I gave him $50. As expected, I heard the outcries from my son who was hired as the first worker. “What? He gets $50? That’s not fair!” I continued to pay each person $50, including the offended son. (FYI – this was all imaginary. They hadn’t really worked, and I wasn’t doling out real money.)

When I paid him, I asked why he thought $50 wasn’t fair. It was the price he had agreed to.

He said it wasn’t fair that he was getting paid the same amount of money as the guy who’d only worked an hour. In fact, he said, he should be paid the most because he worked the longest. I reminded him again that I paid him exactly what he had asked to be paid – the price that he thought was fair for the work.

Then I told him that I wanted to be generous and give more than expected to the other workers. I asked him if he thought I had a right to do what I wanted with my own money. He stuck to the unfair argument.

“You’re right son,” I said, “it is not fair,” but you are wrong to expect fairness.

I took the object lesson from a page in the Bible. Matthew 20 tells the parable of the laborers in the vineyard, and in it, Jesus tells the grumbling workers that their eye is evil for coveting what was given to the other workers.

You Can’t Expect Fairness, But You Can Expect Justice

Fairness is not a basic human right.

There are many families who are desperate for just one child but can not conceive. I have six children. That’s not fair.

My neighbors have three vehicles, and we have only two. That’s not fair.

Warren Buffet and Bill Gates take turns being the wealthiest man in the world while a middle-aged man lives under the bridge in my town. That’s not fair.

A demand for fairness is a socialist demand — one that seeks a redistribution of wealth. We believe in the virtues of a free market system, but fairness is not a rule of that system.

Although fairness is not a basic right, justice is. Justice says that all humans have unalienable rights endowed by their creator. The Declaration of Independence said that among those rights are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

In our house, the kids are not allowed to demand fairness, but they are allowed to demand justice. If one kid hurts another, the offended child can expect my husband and I to correct the offender. They can expect the offender to humbly apologize and take action steps toward restitution.

Things won’t always be equal or fair. Sometimes one kid will get more attention or more privileges or more favor. Sometimes one kid will be asked to work harder than the others. Sometimes one kid will have to make more sacrifices than the others, and there’s no guarantee that it will ever completely even out.

But they can always count on our love and devotion to them. They can always count on our willingness to hear them and respect their individuality. They can always count on us to mediate their conflicts to the best of our ability and to make choices for them out of an earnest desire for their greater good.

Our form of justice will never be perfect because we are not perfect, but it will always be our best attempt.

So the next time your kids cry out, “That’s not fair!” You can say, “You’re right. It’s not fair, but in this life we have no right to demand fairness, only justice. And although this is not fair, it’s still just.”

Your thoughts?

Jenni Stahlmann

Jenni Stahlmann is the mom of six kids (ages 4 to 18) with #7 due in August and one on the autism spectrum. She and her husband Matthew homeschool the whole brood. Jenni has been a journalist for more than 20 years, having covered government, business and family issues for a wide range of magazines and newspapers. Currently, she and Jody co-host a weekly syndicated radio show, write a weekly newspaper column and freelance articles and speak at churches, political groups and homeschool conventions about parenting on purpose.

More Posts

What About Socialization?

Best Friends

Any homeschooler out there has heard this question more times than they can count. It’s the big elephant in the room with non-homeschoolers. But it’s kind of funny because we distinctly remember our school teachers saying over and over, “You are not here to socialize!” So why on earth does everyone seem to think that if kids don’t go to a traditional school, they won’t ever have healthy relationships?

What’s the real concern here? That kids will be weird and irrelevant? That they won’t blend in with the crowd? Is that really what we want — homogenized kids?

We think what people are mostly worried about is that kids won’t be emotionally healthy if they don’t follow the traditional school plan. But let us ask you: how well has the standard American education system done in producing high volumes of emotionally healthy adults?

Are most of the adults you know good communicators? Or are they emotionally constipated? Are they deep divers (meaning, can they hold deep conversations about multiple topics)? Or are they mostly surface dwellers? Are most of the adults you know confident? Do they have a healthy self-esteem? Or are they insecure and self-conscious?

We’re not sure what it’s like where you are, but in all the places we’ve lived, it doesn’t seem like the the school system has pumped out a society of well-socialized humans.

Let’s think about this for a minute. Are we really saying that a classroom full of 20-30 kids the same age as our kids is the best model for developing excellent social skills? Who are these kids, anyway? According to a recent Nielsen survey, the average household watches more than 5 hours of TV a day. About half of all homes are split by divorce. If they’ve got teens in the home, we should note that recent statistics show that 72% of high schoolers are drinking alcohol, and 70% of kids have had sex by the age of nineteen.

If these are the stats, is this the kind of socialization we want for our kids? Proverbs 22:15 says that foolishness is bound in the heart of child. And Proverbs 13:20 warns that a companion of fools will suffer harm. You do the math!

Besides, how is a large building, full of age segregated classrooms, the best setting for preparing our kids for the adult social scene? Let’s think about this. For the most part, kids go to school with other kids from their neighborhood. Once there, they’re segregated into subsets by age, and then broken down even further into smaller factions by ability (the gifted group, the learning disabled, etc.).

How is this in any way preparing our kids to socialize in the real world? If anything, it’s creating a class system where older kids refuse to fraternize with younger kids and those who learn differently are treated like misfits.

Let’s Flip the Script

From now on, maybe homeschoolers should turn the tables on the public. When we hear that a kid goes to public or private school, perhaps we should wince a little and then gather our eyebrows together and wrinkle our nose like we just smelled poop and say, “What about socialization?”

We’re sure there are the few obscure cases of socially isolated homeschoolers who are only allowed to befriend their siblings and rarely leave their unibomber-style cabins. But in our 23 combined years of homeschooling, we haven’t met any.

Like any people group, homeschoolers have their creative people, their awkward people, their comedians, their brainiacs, their extroverts and their introverts. Sure there are weird homeschool families. There are weird public school families too and weird private school families. Bottom line — weird people exist in all cross sections of society.

But unlike their public and private school counterparts, most of the homeschoolers we know interact with kids and adults of all ages every day. And they spend a lot of time under their parent’s guidance, which means they’re usually coached through  difficult social situations.

Homeschool groups have Queen Bees and Wannabees just like regular school groups. The difference is, it’s harder for these kids to fly under the adult radar in homeschool groups.

When there’s a conflict (and there always is), parents can coach kids through healthy resolution techniques. Parents can see how their kids behave in groups and react to other kids, and they can mentor them through the rough spots. When they see their kids having a bad attitude (jealousy, self-pity, pride, arrogance), they can help their kids identify it and give them tools to work through it.

Parents of public and private schooled kids can do the same things, of course, they just can’t do it for about 6-8 hours of the waking day, Monday through Friday.

Homeschool parents also spend a lot of time around their kids’ peers and can help their kids choose the right friends, based on common interests and not just proximity.

So what about socialization? You decide.

 

 

Jenni and Jody

Jenni and Jody are Christian, homeschooling moms with nine kids between them (ages 4 to 28) and #10 due in August. Together they host a weekly syndicated parenting radio show, write a weekly newspaper column, freelance for a variety of publications, teach parenting and homeschooling workshops and seminars, speak at conventions and conferences and coach individual families. They are passionate about encouraging and equipping families to parent on purpose.

More Posts

Be Careful Who You Call Friend

Strange-Friends

How do we teach our kids to wise about friendships without being skeptical? How do we teach them to be generous without being a sucker? I recently tackled these questions with my oldest daughter.

Lexi attends a visual and performing arts high school part time. Just before lunch each day, she drives herself in to school.

There are a couple girls she hangs out with when she first arrives because the rest of the students are still eating lunch. One day, one of the girls called Lexi and said she was “starving”.  She asked if Lexi would stop by McDonald’s on her way in to grab her a bite to eat. Lexi, being sympathetic to her plight, could not refuse the starving, sad voice on the other end of the phone. But then, as soon as Lexi agreed to get her food, the “starving” girl cranked up the manipulation.

“Great! Get me a 10 piece McNugget, a large fry and a Cafe Mocha. I’ll pay you back.”

Lexi went through the drive-thru and used her debit card. Unbeknownst to her it caused her account to become overdrawn. Immediately, I received a notification (her account is connected to mine), and needless to say, this mom was not a happy camper.

When Lexi got home from school that day, we had a nice chat.

She’s at an age where she should be wise and know when to trust and when to be leery. But it’s a delicate balancing act, because she also needs to be generous. I want all of my kids to have giving hearts, but I don’t want them to get ripped off.

When she got home, I sat her down for the McDonald’s talk. I didn’t want her to feel stupid or shameful, so I started with some questions.

“Lexi, did it occur to you that this girl was already at school with a bunch of other kids who had food? There was plenty of food available to her, but she hadn’t asked anyone there for something to help solve her hunger crisis?”

I could see from the expression on her face that this thought had not occurred to her.

“Did you have the slightest ‘check’ when her food order was almost $12? She certainly wasn’t ordering off the dollar menu. I’m thinking if she was THAT hungry a dollar menu item would have been just fine.”

This also had not occurred to her.

Then, of course, we had to have the conversation about always checking your bank balance and not overdrawing the account. We have since put a system in place to prevent that from ever happening again.

Her responses were all very innocent. It had never occurred to her that this girl’s goal was to take advantage of her. To this day, the girl has never paid her back and now avoids Lexi like the plague.

Lexi just hadn’t thought to question her “friend’s” motives. She didn’t for one second entertain the possibility that this girl wouldn’t pay her back.

This was a tough one. First I had to check my own emotions about the situation. I was angry that this girl had taken advantage of my daughter, but I was even more concerned that Lexi had no clue she had been taken advantage of.

I sent Lexi back to school armed with ammo to confront the situation.

I role played with her different ways to approach this girl and ask for repayment, which was extremely difficult for Lexi, who typically runs screaming from confrontation. That in itself was a growth opportunity for her.

The obvious take away for Lexi from this situation was to be careful who she calls a friend (and trusts), but it also opened an important conversation about friendship in general. Check back tomorrow. We’re going to talk about what it takes to be a friend.

Jody Hagaman

Jody Hagaman and her husband Tony have three kids, ages 16 to 27. Jody’s story of how her son asked to be homeschooled has inspired tens of thousands of families around the nation. A true homeschooling success story, that son is now an attorney in New Hampshire and is the New England Regional Director of The Concord Coalition, a bipartisan organization dedicated to advocating responsible fiscal policy. As a community leader, Jody has served on the board of directors of many local non-profit organizations. Her work experience as a corrections officer on a crisis intervention team inspired her to make a difference in the lives of the next generation. She and Jenni co-host a weekly radio show, write a syndicated weekly column and freelance articles and speak at churches, political groups and homeschool conventions about living on purpose with excellence and raising kids with the end result in mind.

More Posts

The Difference Between Honor and Respect

Honor_Respect

Hang with us long enough, and you’ll find out that we put a lot of emphasis on definitions. Healthy communication is the bedrock of healthy relationships, and healthy relationships are the foundation of a truly successful life. Clear definitions are powerful communication tools.

Today, we’re going to talk about teaching our kids the difference between honor and respect.

Honor

Our definition: “Positioning others above yourself; showing awe and awareness of the sacredness of God’s creation.”

Philippians 2:3,4 says, “Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit, but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than himself. Let each of you look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others.”

Honor is about placing other people’s needs before our own. It’s about letting people go before us. It’s about assuming that other people know more than we do. It’s about choosing to lower ourselves to elevate others.

Make not mistake here — we’re not suggesting you become a doormat and let people abuse you and wipe their mud on you. Think of it as being a step ladder, bowing down willingly to help others reach their next level.

If honor means lifting someone up, then dishonor is putting a person beneath you:

  • Cutting in front of someone in line

  • Interrupting someone who is talking

  • Being a “know it all”

  • Road rage

  • One-upping each other

  • Always trying to beat someone in a game

  • Being a sore loser or an arrogant winner

Dishonor could look like one child pushing another out of the way saying, “Just let me do it,” when she’s frustrated with teaching her sibling a new computer skill.

Honoring siblings and friends prepares a child for adult life and gives them an opportunity to practice stewarding people.

Honoring the people we know, and the ones we don’t, needs to be high on our list of family values. Some ways to instill it in our kids is to teach them to hold doors for other people (including and especially their siblings) and to let people go before them in a food line. But remember, we have to set the example and enforce the behavior in all situations. It’s repetition that turns a behavior into a habit.

Respect

If honor is all about position, then respect is all about attention.

There are two kinds of respect — respect for people and respect for things.

Our definition: “(with regard to people) Giving a person the attention he or she deserves. (with regard to things) Carefully and thoughtfully showing proper courtesy for other people’s belongings.”

We show respect to people when we give the person the attention he or she deserves.

We respect those in authority by saluting them, which is a special kind of attention, and by being attentive to and adhering to the rules and requirements of the authority figure. Our kids respect our authority when they pay attention to the family rules, listen to our wisdom and carefully weigh our advice.

We respect teachers and mentors buy listening to them (which is giving them our attention) and being engaged in what they are saying. We respect experts by carefully considering their advice or insight.

This is how the concept plays out with siblings: if one sibling is teaching another how to knit, the teacher in that situation should command respect, and the child being taught should give her sibling her full attention without interrupting or arguing.

If your family is on vacation and is taking a museum tour, you show respect to the tour guide (in that case an expert) by being quiet and giving him your complete attention.

We can reinforce this concept by having our kids always approach people in higher positions, look them in the eye, shake their hand and thank them. For example, at the end of the museum tour, have each child approach the guide, shake his hand and thank him for his time.

Live By Example

Parents dishonor their kids by positioning things and processes above them.

By processes we mean your agenda. For example, you’re trying to get out the door, and your daughter is asking twenty questions; that’s an interruption of process. In that case, the focus might have to be on the process, but you can still honor her by letting her know that her questions are very important, and you will gladly answer them once you are in the car.

But when mom is hyper focused on reorganizing her closet and little Jessie comes in to show her the drawing she made, it would be dishonoring to ignore Jessie and place the importance of the process above the importance of Jessie.

Parents disrespect kids when they fail to give them the attention they deserve. When our kids are speaking, we should look them in the eye and focus on what they’re saying. If one of our kids is a mini-expert in a particular subject, we should acknowledge it and give weight to their advice and opinion when it comes to that subject. That’s modeling respect.

When it comes to respecting things, we absolutely should teach our kids to be good stewards of their belongs and the household belongings, and we definitely want to teach them to be good stewards of other people’s things, but when we put so much attention on taking care of our home or our yard that we don’t pay attention to the kids, we are disrespecting them. And we appear to value our things more than we value their feelings, we are dishonoring our kids.

So the question is, how can we honor and respect our kids AND teach them to be honoring and respectful at the same time?

Let’s say, your teen boy comes in the house with his backpack slung over his shoulder. As he walks through the kitchen, there’s a bowl on the counter. He spins around to talk to his brother and knocks the bowl on the floor, shattering it. It’s part of a set that you love, and you are upset.

  1. Stop and ask yourself what you are feeling. You might detect anger.

  2. Next, ask yourself why are feeling that way. In this case, it’s because you feel there’s an injustice. You work hard for your family. Your husband works hard to provide, and your son’s carelessness has caused a loss.

  3. Remind yourself that your child is more important than the bowl.

  4. Call your child over for discussion. REMEMBER — because your child is important, you MUST use this as a teaching and correcting opportunity. This is a teachable moment, and when we care about our kids, we don’t let these pass us by.

Questions for your child:

  1. What just happened?

  2. How did it happen?

  3. How do you think I feel about the bowl breaking?

  4. What could you have done differently to avoid that?

 You can do the same thing when a sibling disrespects another sibling’s belongings or process. But again, we have to teach our kids that the person is more important than the thing or process.

These kind of conversations let our kids know that we do value them, and they are more important than our things or what we’re doing, but it also teaches them to be honoring and respectful of people and things.

Jenni and Jody

Jenni and Jody are Christian, homeschooling moms with nine kids between them (ages 4 to 28) and #10 due in August. Together they host a weekly syndicated parenting radio show, write a weekly newspaper column, freelance for a variety of publications, teach parenting and homeschooling workshops and seminars, speak at conventions and conferences and coach individual families. They are passionate about encouraging and equipping families to parent on purpose.

More Posts

Is Tattling Bad?

Tattling

I think every parent has asked this question at one time or another. We want our kids to feel comfortable telling us when they have a problem, and we want them to come to us for help, but somehow we also feel like there’s something inherently wrong with tattling. So the question is, “Is tattling bad?”

When we talk about tattling, most people think of it as telling on someone. “He hit me!” But we want to be able to help when there’s a problem, so how can our kids tell us what’s happening without being a tattletale?

It’s really an issue of motive. If the child’s goal is to get the other person in trouble, it’s tattling. If the child’s motive is to get help, it’s telling.

The child’s first step should be to talk directly to the other child. Love covers a multitude of sins, and out of a love for one another, our kids should want to help each other stay out of trouble. If one kid sees another one breaking a rule, instead of running to an adult to get the kid in trouble, the first child should warn the other kid to prevent them from making a mistake. If the offending child corrects his behavior, there’s no need to tell an adult.

The exception to this is if there’s danger involved. If one child is doing something potentially dangerous, the other kid should get help right away.

If one child does something that upsets or even hurts another kid, the offended person should first vocalize her feelings. “Ouch! You hurt me.” The offender should immediately apologize and take any necessary corrective steps. If that doesn’t happen, the child who has been hurt should find an adult and get help.

Tattling vs. Telling

Just as the motive of tattling is to get someone in trouble, the motive of telling is to get help, and that’s exactly how it should be phrased.

There’s a big difference between, “He hurt me!” and “Mom, Johnny hurt me. I tried to talk to him, but he wouldn’t listen. I need your help.”

“I need your help!” are Power Words

“I need your help” are the power words here. If your daughter is at a playdate and her friend refuses to share, she should first try to talk directly to her friend. But if her friend still won’t share, she should be empowered to go to the child’s mom and say, “Mrs. Smith, Jane won’t share with me. I need your help.”

Again, the difference between tattling and asking for help is in the goal. If the goal is to get the other person in trouble, you’re tattling. Don’t allow tattling. Instead, let your kids know that you are there if they need your help. That goes back to teaching them to advocate for themselves. “Mommy, I need your help.”

How to Teach Tattling vs. Telling

Role Playing

Role playing is key to teaching this concept, especially with younger kids. On the way to a playdate, spend the entire car trip talking about potential situations and role playing different ways your kids can handle them. Kids  need us to give them the words and the tone to use in sticky situations.

Say, “So, Sally, what would you do if Jane refuses to share with you today?”

Remind her that the first step is to confront her friend directly. Help her practice using the right words and the right tone. “Jane, I’m so glad that you invited me here today. I’d like to play with the baby doll too. Would you please share with me?”

Then ask her what she’ll do if Jane refuses. Remind her NOT to say, “I’m telling your mom!” Instead, coach Sally to quietly get up and walk out of the room and go find Jane’s mom.

When she finds her say, ““Mrs. Smith, Jane won’t share with me. I need your help.”

 Conversation

On a regular basis, have conversations about what the word “motive” means. Talk about the motive behind tattling and the motive behind telling.

Play “games” in the car or when you’re making dinner or folding laundry where you give them a scenario and have them decided whether it’s an example of tattling or telling.

If you’ve got readers in your house, spend a craft day making a cute sign that says “Tattling = Getting Someone In Trouble. Telling = Getting Help.” Put the sign up in a common area to remind kids about the difference.

Then, when you catch your kids tattling, ask them, “What’s your motive? Did you remind your brother that he’s not supposed to go outside without shoes on before coming to tell me? Are you trying to get him in trouble?”

On the flip side, when you catch your kids telling, praise them. “Good job! You came to me to get help and not to get your brother in trouble. You were telling and not tattling.”

Talk about what constitutes a dangerous situation and remind kids that they have to get help whenever there’s danger involved. Give them examples of things that would require immediate help (playing with fire, jumping off high places, etc.) and things that don’t require immediate help (leaving soap on the dishes, making a mess, etc.).

If we take a proactive approach, our kids will become great at checking their motives, and they’ll probably begin to teach their friends the difference tattling and telling. Remember, the choices we make as parents can affect a whole community!

Jenni and Jody

Jenni and Jody are Christian, homeschooling moms with nine kids between them (ages 4 to 28) and #10 due in August. Together they host a weekly syndicated parenting radio show, write a weekly newspaper column, freelance for a variety of publications, teach parenting and homeschooling workshops and seminars, speak at conventions and conferences and coach individual families. They are passionate about encouraging and equipping families to parent on purpose.

More Posts