Mothering Monday: The Tattletale

“Mmmmooommmm!  My brother said I’m a tattletale!”  Whined imperfect son #3 as he came into my room.  My husband and I looked at each other while trying to hold back the laughter.  Apparently his brother was right.

When I “signed up” for the role of mother, I didn’t realize that a large part of the job description included being a referee.  Whether I’m refereeing whose turn it is to play with a toy, to go first at something, or who is right and who is wrong, it’s one of the things I like least about being a mom, but I know it is necessary – especially since I have 3 boys.  I try to teach them how to work things out on their own, but often the dispute warrants my intervention.

One of the things that I struggle with the most is how to handle when they tell on each other.  Right now I know their motivation for telling me is purely to get the sibling in trouble.  So I want to correct them for tattling.  But then, there’s a slight check in my spirit that wonders if I really want to do that.

Here’s my dilemma:  when they are older and the things that they might be doing wrong are more dangerous, I want them to tell me about it.  What if, despite all Jeff’s and my work as parents, and all of our prayers over them, one of them gets involved in drinking, drugs, stealing, skipping school, hurting others or something along those lines?  If their siblings know, I’d want them to tell me.  What if their friends started getting involved in these things?  I’d want them to tell me.  What if kids at school were hurting them, stealing from them, or teasing them?  I’d want them to tell me.  So do I really want to train them not to tell me when someone is doing something wrong or hurts them?

To me, the distinction of when it’s tattling and when it’s not is pretty straightforward – it’s based on motivation.  Like I said before, if the motivation is purely to get someone in trouble, than it’s tattling.  If you care about the person and your motivation is that something might get broken or someone might get hurt, than that is being responsible.   But since right now, my imperfect sons really only tell on each other to get the sibling in trouble, how do I train them to learn the difference.  I feel like I can explain it until I’m blue in the face, but they don’t understand.

So then should I just promote the tattling so that they’ll be used to it when a situation comes up that I, or the teacher, really needs to know about?  Any thoughts, suggestions, or advice is welcome… because I really don’t have the answers on this one!

♥Becki, imperfect referee




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