Thursday, April 26, 2012

I'm Telling On You

Standing at the kitchen sink I can hear my 5 and 3 year old playing. I hear the 3 year old start to whine and say, "I'm going to go tell mommy." She comes out to me in the kitchen and says that her big brother is being mean. She doesn't even wait for me to respond and walks back into the other room and says, "Braedon, I tell'd on you." With that, I am left to figure out how to deal with the 'telling on' issue at our house.  I am also reminded why the 'don't tell on people' rule does not do it for me.

You see I was told from a very young age not to tell on people. As I grew slightly older, I was teased by my brothers because they knew, as well as I did, that I wasn't going to tell because it wouldn't do any good. When I grew up even bigger I rode the school bus and was teased and bullied and told that if I told anyone I would get beat up. I was also teased a lot in high school and never told anyone. A post for a different day is how all of this played into my insecurity and low self-esteem that I am still dealing with today 20-25 years later. So the whole issue of 'don't tell' weighs heavily on my mind.

I imagine that my stance on this is probably going to change as my children grow and mature. But for right now, I want them to tell me everything. I want them to know without a doubt that they can tell me anything. I want to respond with patience and kindness when they do tell me things. I want to teach them appropriate responses and behaviors instead of leaving them to their own devices to work it out. I want to teach them to honor and respect each other. Yes, I know that 'telling on you' is not very honoring or respectful but it is a process.  The issue is pretty heavy right now and as I mull it over, I can't help but think of many different scenarios like this one... 

Imagine this: a tween girl has been told all her life not to tell on people. She visits the doctor for a routine check-up and reads the poster on the back of the door that encourages children to speak out if they have been touched inappropriately. In her mind, she begins to think back to that one time... Then, she remembers that everyone has always told her not to tell on people. Also, the person who she looked up to told her not to tell or she would get in trouble.

I don't think she is very likely to tell and get the help she needs to heal from 'that one time'... More than likely her future holds more trouble due to the hurt she has suffered and never properly healed from.  Could it be that mixed messages are keeping kids who are struggling with bullying or abuse from speaking out? I don't have the answer but I think I would rather err on the side of them feeling free to tell me whatever they frusterating as it can be sometimes.

I would love to hear your thoughts, stance and experiences from your home in dealing with this issue


Anonymous said...

We too have struggled with how to balance the "reporting" of valuable information that might prevent an injury or damage to personal property with overlooking an offense. I told my kids that if there is (or going to be) broken bones, blood, fire etc. I most certainly want to know. If a sibling is doing something against house rules or something you want them to stop doing then ask them nicely (not in anger or with an attitude) two times and then get a parent to help. I did this because I want my children to be willing to confront someone when they are doing something wrong. I also want them to try to work it out on their own without involving me if possible. If not, we work it out together.

Mommy of 4 said...

:) We encourage our kids to try and work the issue out themselves. Even when they are very little we try to institute the order of appeal. If they have first talked to the other person (offender) and they are not received well or a compromise can not be come to, then they are welcome to come to us or another adult in charge and appeal for help. This of coarse is for issues relating to sibling rivalry or verbal bullying. We always tell our kids if they are hurt in any way please please please let mommy and daddy know asap so we can help them. We want our kids to be comfortable coming to us but we also want them to be equipped to speak up for themselves when they do not like or appreciate what they are experiencing. If that makes sense..