Sunday, May 16, 2010

I don't tattle

Just for the record, I don't tattle. If you have a kid that's part of my life there's a good chance I know something they've done that you don't know. You'll never hear it from me, because I don't tattle. (For the record, if your kid is doing something life threatening or is really being hurt or hurting someone else, I will let you know.)

Perhaps you are thinking, "But the adults need to stick together and be able to trust each other." And that's my point exactly. You'll have to trust my judgment, just like you've trusted that I will meet your kids' needs when they are with my family and as I've trusted you to keep my kids safe when they are with your family. It's all about trust. I want kids to trust me, to feel comfortable coming to me, willing to talk and share, knowing I'll listen, discuss, and comfort. It's important to me that my girls feel comfortable coming to me when their friends are doing something that makes them uncomfortable. If I my child tells me something and I call the other parent and the friend gets in trouble, the relationships break down quickly. The friend doesn't trust my child, my child doesn't trust me, and communication deteriorates.

These amazing kids, yours and mine, are so capable and thoughtful and creative. Their worlds are getting bigger and we aren't always right beside them anymore. We don't always know exactly where they are or what they are doing or with whom. That's exciting and cool and amazing. It's fun to hear about their adventures. It's also really important that they return home knowing they can share the really great experiences and the not so great experiences. I want them to know that no matter where they are, or what has happened, if they need me I'll come pick them up. No lectures, no punishment, no guilt. If you need me, call me, I'll come get you. If there are friends involved I will not call their parents and tattle.

This is when parenting by rewards or punishments or guilt, or control of any kind, breaks down. Parents who have told their children what they can or can't do all their lives will realize that their children are off making decisions on their own, without much practice. Parents who have created obedient children through the withdrawal of love when the child did something wrong will find that their children learned that lesson well and are now equally capable of withdrawing love from their parents. Suddenly the threat of taking away your child's cell phone or Wii or Xbox means that your child is going to be very very careful they don't get caught, not that they will be following your rules. Perhaps the saddest part is that your child will no longer be sharing their life and adventures with you, they will be figuring out how to have those adventures without you ever knowing.

And for anyone who's thinking "Oh right! I'm sure there are things your kids have done that you don't know about!" You're right. My children have the freedom to do things I don't know about: they may need to work through something without me, they may choose to keep parts of their lives private. We all have things we like to keep to ourselves. If you know about something that I don't know about, I don't expect you to tattle. Actually, I don't want you to tattle. Hopefully your relationship with my child is as important to you as my relationship with your child is to me.


  1. Thank you for writing this! It's exactly how I feel (and what I do!) and you've said it better than I could have :-)