The other day my husband, son and I were playing. I had left the room for a minute and my 4 year-old came running after me a few minutes later to tell me that daddy was in my chair. Keoni and I had a giggle and then it hit me like a brick to the forehead.
Kids naturally go to a trusted adult when they are concerned, need help, or want to share something.
And then what happens? Adults dismiss them by telling them “don’t tattle” or “nobody likes a tattle tale.” Or whatever comment that shuts the kid down and invites shame into their life.
Now, I know parents aren’t meaning harm. Most likely they are responding how they were responded to when they were kids.
So after we spend years telling our kids not to tattle, we wonder why they won’t come to us when they are teens. When someone is bullying them or they need help with something small or huge in their life.
Why they go behind our backs. Adults just don’t get it. They talk as if it came out of no where. Instead of realizing they have been taught to not tell from the time they were little. No one wants to be a tattle tale.
So What To Do Instead?
Listen to them. This doesn’t mean you have to do anything besides listen to what they are sharing with you. But then again, you may think about responding to them they way you would want someone to respond to you if you were sharing something that was effecting your world.
Talk to them about what they can do to get through the situation. Help them problem solve. What would make the situation better? Empower them to find a solution, even if it is to walk away and do something else.
Discuss the emotions they are feeling due to whatever it is that they are telling you. Let them know you feel that emotions sometimes as well. If they are older, ask if you can share what you do when you are feeling hurt, frustrated, or any other emotion.
And sometimes you just sit with the emotion for a moment. No need to distract the emotion. Experience it, move through it, and then go on with your day.
If they are little, give them examples of what they could do. Or read them an age appropriate book that discusses emotions. There is an entire series for kids, The Way I Feel written by Cornelia Maude Spelman.When I Feel Angry (The Way I Feel Books), When I Feel Sad (The Way I Feel Books),When I Feel Scared (The Way I Feel Books), When I Care about Others (The Way I Feel Books) and on the list of awesome books go.
As I raise my son, many new ideas come to my mind.
This was something that really made me think. I want my son to share with me no matter what age he is. Regardless of how silly or insignificant I think something is. To him, it is his world and everything he shares with me matters. My response will either encourage continued sharing as he ages or it will shut it down.