Monday, March 28, 2011

Tattling and the Virtues

While playing several rounds of Tattling Tennis with my older kids this afternoon, I realized that I use tattling as an opportunity to show them something about some virtues.

The cleaning up process happening in the playroom was interrupted with "Mom, she's not . . . !" and "But Mooommmm! He's not . . . !" Many, many, many times. Many.

Everyone had to tell me all about what the other was not doing. Because that's more fun than picking up, right? (Actually, I have a certain amount of sympathy there.)

Now this kind of tattling is not a request to have me solve their problems for them or render judgment or exact vengeance justice, but rather it's an attempt to be all up in each others' business and try to get the other into trouble. It's passive-aggressive bossing mixed up with a tinge of "criminal informant."

So what I tend to say in these cases is something like:

"Don't worry about what s/he is or isn't doing. What you need to be thinking about is what YOU'RE doing. YOU do what YOU know to be the Right Thing, and that's the only thing you need to worry about."

or

"You know what to do, and so you should do it, even if you're the only one doing it."

or

"You can only control what YOU are doing. Focus on your own work; focus on what you can truly control."

What I'm attempting here is to get them to focus on their own selfish interests (and I think having the playroom cleaned up some time this century is in their self-interest, even if they'd disagree), and practice the virtues of integrity and independence.

They have free will, and they can choose to focus their attention (and playroom-cleaning energy) on someone else, or they can act independently and with integrity to do the right thing even if they are the only one choosing that particular path.

Hopefully this will be effective. I just overheard one of them tell the other: "Stop telling Mom what I'm not doing. Focus on your own work!" So they've recalled what I said (always a plus). At the very least they've got something different to argue about. :)

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