My boys love to tattle. They tattle over small stuff. They tattle over big stuff. They tattle to one-up their brother. They tattle to get back at their brother. They tattle to show their parents how much better they are than their brother.
Tattling may seem annoying to us as parents, but I think it’s much worse than that. It can lead to much larger life problems down the line.
The Breaker of Bonds
First, let me clarify what I mean by tattling. I’m talking about what a kid does when he tells on another child who is doing something that’s against the rules, but in the whole scheme of things is not very important or dangerous.
When a child tattles on their sibling, they subtly erode the relationship with their brother or sister. They send a message to their sibling that it’s not you and me together – it’s me against you.
Tattling says I’m willing to sell you out. Tattling says I’m willing to tell your secrets so you really can’t trust me.
And this is why I really hate tattling. It erodes the bond between siblings.
The Sacred Relationship
This is the opposite of what I want to occur between my boys. They may or may not be best friends through their entire life, but I want them to always remember that they have a special relationship with each other – a relationship that no one in their entire life will have with them – not even their parents.
Most likely, the relationship between siblings will be the longest one of their lives.
They’ll be the ones left standing when Mom and Dad are gone. They’ll be the only ones remembering how they grew up and the lessons their parents taught them, and they’ll be the only ones to share their earliest memories.
They should know that friends come and go, and although they may move apart from one another, in the end, they’ll always be siblings and should always be able to rely on each other for a helping hand. Life can be brutal. It can be lonely. There may come a time when their sibling is the only person on earth capable of getting them out of a deep hole.
This is why I hate tattling.
Tattling is counter to this special relationship. It says “We don’t have a special bond – you’re just someone I’m either competing with or I want to use to get Mom or Dad to like me more.”
How I Handle Tattling
So how do I handle tattling in our family?
I confront it head-on. I tell my boys we have three general rules when it comes to tattling.
I don’t want to hear about it unless:
- Your brother hurt himself or is in danger of hurting himself
- Your brother hurt someone else or is in danger of hurting someone else
- Your brother did something “really bad”.
I leave #3 open to their judgment.
When they start tattling I pull them aside, tell them the above rules and drive home the point that they have a special relationship and to respect that. They are each other’s only brother and need to always love and respect him. They may not like him sometimes, but they should always love and respect him. As a brother, they have a duty to their brother.
Typically after giving them a small lecture along these lines, I have them shake, hug and apologize.
So the next time your kids start tattling – don’t just view it as annoying. See it for what it is – a breaking of your children’s bonds and let your kids know as much.