Through mindful parenting and asking this one simple question, you will change how your child views tattle-telling on other children.
Cut Tattle-Telling in Half With This One Simple Question
Are you telling me to be helpful or hurtful? That’s a tattle-telling phrase my children’s teacher used at the Montessori school they attended in Oaxaca, Mexico last year, and one I’ve stashed in my Mindful Parenting Toolbox.
My children are close in age which means they can be adversaries just as often as they are co-conspirators. So when one of them comes and tells me the other is sneaking cookies, or didn’t wash their plate, or hang up their backpack or whatever the tattle-telling offense, I gently ask, “Are you telling me to be helpful or hurtful?”
The look on their faces and their demeanor says everything.
I can literally see the wheels of self-reflection spinning as they honestly examine their motives and know that I’m there as their witness. This one little trick has cut our rate of tattling-telling down at least 50%. Meaning they still come to me for 6 out of 10 tattle-telling transgressions, but this simple question always gives them pause enough to go back to their business without much further ado.
A moment to pause and reflect on our motivation for telling.
Use This Tattle-Telling Approach To Check Your Own Motives Too
While I knew this question was a great tool to use with my children, I was surprised the value it would bring to me in my adult interactions. Specifically the awareness of my behavior.
For what are we as adults, we are sometimes still wounded school children disguised as big people.
Now, when I feel inclined to point out to my husband something he’s done, I stop and ask myself the same question. Am I pointing it out to him to be helpful or hurtful? Am I being smug? Hmmmm, I regret to admit that, sometimes, the answer is yes.
This little tattle-telling phrase that’s so easy to remember has helped me hold my tongue on more than one occasion; and in my book, that’s a win.
I’ve had a few interactions recently where I think other people out there in the world could also benefit from this golden piece of childhood tattle telling wisdom.
On our way back from our 9-month Mexican adventure—we picked up a sweet (and starving!) street dog. I’m still getting used to having a dog, and have to confess I’m not always the best canine mother.
Unfortunately, things didn’t fall into place as quickly as we had hoped and we spent a painful four weeks bouncing around on our friends’ generosity before we found a suitable home. The other day she followed me from our temporary home to the office space I had rented downtown. I couldn’t put her on a leash and leave her outside because she’d already chewed through four.
Anyway, a kind person texted a mutual friend, who then messaged me and let me know she was loose on Main Street in the little mountain town we call home. (Welcome to the small town network, it can be both a blessing and a curse. In this case a blessing!)
I thanked the two women profusely who kept her safe from Highway 70, also known as Main Street, and thanked them profusely before I headed to take her back to our friend’s house where she was to stay for the day.
As I walked away, one of the ladies shouted after me, “You need to get a tag on her,” in an all telling voice.
Very true. And believe it or not, it’s on my list of 101 things to do this week.
But I had to bite my tongue, after my genuine thanks for her help, and my visible frustration and overwhelm, was she telling me to be helpful or hurtful? I know what it felt like. And helpful didn’t come to mind.
In recent months we have seen a small boy fall into a gorilla cage and another toddler be snatched away as his parents helplessly watched in horror, and the internet has been lit up in controversy with blame and shame at the center of all their accusations. I pause to ask the question— Are we pointing fingers to be helpful or hurtful?
Self-reflection is easy in a tranquil scene; this simple question helps create that same mental environment.
In my family, we try to keep our focus on problem-solving. Most times we can’t go back and undo what we just did. But what we can do is move forward with compassion, and the intent to support one another through this constant learning and growing experience we call life. There’s not one person out there that has it all together, all the time.
So the next time I start to judge another parent or offer advice to another living being, I’ll remember that simple tattle-telling question, “Am I being helpful or hurtful?”
And if the answer is ‘hurtful’, I bet it’s best saved for a private laugh with a girlfriend over a glass of wine.
Meet Tiffiney Lozano
Tiffiney Lozano is a wild-hearted California mom based in the Sierra Nevada mountains, where she’s committed to finding adventures in the everyday. She writes about seeing the world with child-like wonder and curiosity and learning to say yes to the things that make her happy- creating, exploring and dancing. She also writes satire about parenting, because raising humans is ridiculous, and she has to be funny, or she wants to give up.
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A gorgeous and heartfelt tribute to the joys and frustrations of motherhood, Mama Said is a collection of personal narratives and artwork created by mothers, for mothers.
It’s the book we wished we had when we first welcomed our babies into the world.
This beautifully illustrated text takes readers through the range of human emotions that come along with nurturing a tiny human. The stories invite mothers to join their hearts in the sacred sisterhood of creation and go beyond the personal choices of how one mother, and instead unearth the universal themes of love, fear, humanity, and humor all mothers experience.
These brave women share their hopes, dreams, and doubts, as well as their laughter and tears on this journey through what it means to love another soul like you never thought possible.
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