In my series about siblings, one thing we must discuss is tattling. I get a lot of questions asking about this and I have a great method. It’s so simple you won’t believe it.
I wrote about this years ago on my old blog that is now in blog heaven. So I am sharing it again with you here and I hope it blesses you! Be sure to read the follow-up posts answering a few readers’ questions.
This has worked beautifully in our home for many years, so I hope it inspires you to conquer the tattling issues you may have.
It’s a problem. I need to know if someone has done something they shouldn’t have. I don’t want my children running to tell me the juicy details of another child’s sin. So how do we solve this?
Here’s how…and it works!
Let’s talk about Susie and Johnny. One afternoon Johnny catches Susie sneaking a cookie from the cookie jar. Does Johnny run to tell Mom? No! Johnny tells Susie, “Go tell Mom you took a cookie.” Susie must go tell on herself….no matter what. Now stay with me….here’s where it gets good. If Susie refuses to tell (I know, your children wouldn’t do that, but let’s just pretend) then Johnny comes to Mom and tells Mom that Susie refuses to tell Mom something. Johnny does NOT tell Mom what Susie did. Susie is then called to Mom (or Mom goes to Susie) and gets automatically disciplined (whatever is your discipline of choice)….just for not telling Mom something when a sibling told her to. After that is dealt with, Susie must still tell Mom she ate a cookie and that is dealt with however it needs to be handled.
What if, you say, Johnny gets a thrill from telling people to go tell Mom things that are unimportant? If Johnny tells Susie to go tell Mom something unimportant then HE gets automatic discipline. So they will be very careful to only use this plan for important things.
There are times when Johnny may not know all of the circumstances. Let’s say Susie appealed to Mom’s soft side and Mom told her she could have a cookie and Johnny didn’t hear that. It doesn’t matter. Susie goes to Mom and says, “Johnny told me to tell you that I ate a cookie.” Mom says, “OK Honey. He didn’t know you were allowed to have one. Thank you for telling me.” Nothing happens to Susie, but she did what she was supposed to do so all is well in the home (well, except for the matter of Johnny now thinking he should have another cookie if Susie got one, but that’s another problem we will solve another time).
Let me lay it out in quick, easy steps:
1. If a child sees a sibling doing something they shouldn’t, they tell them, “Go tell Mom (or Dad) that you ______”
2. There is no discussion between them about it.
3. The child goes to Mom and says “Johnny told me to tell you that I _______”
4. Mom disciplines as necessary (it doesn’t always require discipline).
5. If they refuse to go tell on themselves, the first child goes to Mom and tells her, “Johnny won’ tell you something.” (without telling the actual offense)
6. Mom disciplines for not coming to tell because it’s a matter of family trust….someone tells you to “Go tell Mom” then you have to do it no matter what.
7. Then Mom disciplines separately for the actual offense (making the child go ahead and tell what they did).
8. IF a child sends someone to tell something unimportant then THEY get disciplined. (the root of this may be trying to get other people in trouble, pride, rejoicing in another’s sin, etc.)
The beauty of this system is that it promotes the Biblical principle of confession. It builds the relationship I have with my children and it doesn’t disintegrate the relationship they have with each other. In our experience it builds trust between them when they are faithful to follow through no matter what. If you are consistent and patient….this plan is foolproof.
Hebrews 13:17 “Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they are keeping watch over your souls, as those who will have to give an account. Let them do this with joy and not with groaning, for that would be of no advantage to you. “