Monday, April 18, 2011

Tattling and Matt. 18:15

"I'm telling!!! .... Daddy ...!" If you have kids old enough to know right and wrong and talk, then you've probably heard those words.

If you're like me, you get tired of hearing about every real or perceived misdemeanor. Really tired!

However, there is no verse that says, "Thou shalt not tattle." In fact, just the opposite is true. Scripture commends, even commands, reporting wrong doing to proper authorities (Lev. 5:1; Matt. 18:15-17; 1 Tim. 5:19-20).

But, there is a biblical process. The biblical process is not See a sin > report to authorities. The biblical process is see a sin > rebuke your brother (Matt. 18:15; Luke 17:3) > assist in appropriate restitution (Gal. 6:1). If the brother will not repent, then report it to 1 or 2 who are qualified to serve as arbitrators (that's us parents).

So, I implemented this process several weeks ago. I sat the boys down and had a conversation something like this:

Daddy: Boys, the Bible says, if your brother sins against you, you are to explain to him that he did wrong and ask him to repent. If he repents, you must forgive him.

Boy: So if Brother A hits me, I'm supposed to tell him he needs to repent?

Daddy: Yes, that's right. He needs to say, I'm sorry for hitting you, please forgive me. If he repents, you must forgive him.

Boy: But what if he doesn't repent?

Daddy: Then you come tell Daddy and I will deal with it. If he does repent, then you don't need to come tell me.

It seemed simple enough, but it quickly became more complex. There are certain rules that I want to know about any infraction regardless of whether there was repentance or not.

I can immediately think of ways to abuse this biblical principle: big brother hits little brother, then repents, and insists that little brother can't tell parents, OR little brother commits serious infraction, is confronted, repents, and then insists that mom and dad don't need to know about it.

I'm still working on how to explain when I need a report about wrong-doing and when I don't need a report.

Anybody figure out a clear grid that is easy for 4-7 year olds to apply? All suggestions welcome.


  1. Great post. Perhaps you could tell the children that if they perceive that the other has malicious intent, then they could still come and tell you. Then obviously the "tattler" could be malicious as well, so it is hard to tell. Discernment is key, and that is where prayer comes in handy! :-)

  2. Much of the tattling that occurs in my family is simply personal selfishness masquerading as justice. One child sees another child doing something that he would like to be doing even though neither has permission, and then complains to us--"Dad! Spencer is using the computer!" What underlies the tattling is this: "We are not supposed to be doing what you are doing. I want to do what you are doing. Since I cannot do what you are doing,I do not want you to do what you are doing. Therefore I will tell dad on you." Tattling is frequently a manifestation of selfishness. "If I cannot do it, then neither can you." Sometimes, I wonder if other applications of justice in this world among adults is likewise a facade for selfishness.

    BTW Phil, this is Dennis B.

  3. I would love to hear some more creative ideas besides "don't tattle unless someone is bleeding," which might not be horrible advice. :>)

    I've tried to make tattling a losing proposition. For instance, having both parties stand in the corner after a little investigation - normally even the tattling person has done something he knows he shouldn't have.

    My goal, though not always possible, is to keep them within earshot so I can head off things with a word before they get crazy. However, I understand that is not always workable - my kids' ages make that more possible for me right now.