Parenting brings up many situations where you find yourself saying, “oh we’re at the stage of dealing with that issue now, are we?” And once your kids enter grade school, it seems as though that thought can cross your mind about many different topics in the span of a week. Take gossip.
This school year, a subject has come up in our third graders’ conversations at home that I hadn’t anticipated: gossip. Idle talk that has effected us all in one way or another as the sender of information, the receiver, or the topic. You possibly have personal stories and lessons about all three. While gossip is something we each have passively or actively participated in, I think we can all agree it can become a habit. Unfortunately a habit that can lead to varying degrees of consequences.
Just ask Questions
One of the best pieces of parenting advice I’ve received is “If you want to be a good parent, learn to ask good questions.” So once we began navigating gossip with our kids, I have lived with that advice in the forefront of my mind and simply asked copious numbers of questions. Not every question will have an answer, but the point is to get our kids to think. To put themselves in someone else’s place just for a moment. To consider the cost of speaking or listening to a juicy piece of information. I have compiled a list of some of the questions we have discussed and hope they are helpful to you as you navigate this topic with your kids.
A few “disclaimers” before I share the questions. Our family personally does not use the word “secrets.” If something is shared and the word “secret” is used, we have instructed our kids to tell us what was shared no matter what. This protects our kids as well as their friends.
Secondly, we always want our kids to feel we are their advocates. If they are afraid to tell a teacher what is happening at school, we are willing to go with them and help work out the situation. However, this does not mean we walk into the situation thinking our kids are free of fault. Being their advocate does not mean we assume innocence. If they have provoked, lied, or been a part of the problem, we want them to own up to their part and move forward.
What’s Gossip and What’s Not
Third, I explained to my kids their telling me was not gossip. Gossip seeks to hurt others and not solve problems. When we are motivated by wanting good for others, what they are saying to me is not gossip. If we involve the teacher, it is because we are seeking a solution and want to help our friends learn that this kind of talk hurts.
And finally, teaching our kids that gossip is wrong and harmful means we have to practice what we preach. Modeling uplifting and honoring speech about others is such an important part of raising kids who aren’t gossips. Of course we are human. When we do malign someone while our kids are listening, we want to admit our wrong and apologize to them. This teaches our kids that when we mess up, we own up to our mistake. We want to empower our kids to feel freedom to admit their fault with forgiveness being the result.
Thanks for reading through those disclaimers! On to the list of questions!
Questions about Gossip:
- How does it make you feel to hear what was said about this person?
- How does this make you feel about the person who said this to you?
- Do you think it was true? If you think it’s true, what makes you think that and vice versa?
- After this was said to you, do you feel like the person who said it is a safe person to share information with? Why or why not?
- What if this person wrote these things down instead of speaking them, would that change anything?
- How would ______ feel if they heard or read what was said about them? How does that make you feel knowing they might feel that way?
- What if you are in a group and just listening to what is being said, but not actively participating or speaking? Does that change anything?
- Let’s imagine for a moment everyone in your class was gossiping about one another. What do you think might happen? Do you think your class would work together well, knowing others are saying unkind things about them when they aren’t around?
- What do think might happen if you stood up to your friend(s) and said “I’m uncomfortable talking about ____ this way.”?
- Who are the safe kids at school? Who are the kids that won’t gossip about others? Would you like that to be said of you? That you are a safe friend who wants to honor others even when they aren’t around?
- Let’s pretend for a moment you are the one gossiping about your classmates/friends. What do you think might happen after awhile? Will people trust you? Will you trust others? Do you think it’s easy or hard to look for the good in others when you’re frequently talking badly about them?
- How can I best help you through this right now? Is there anything else you’d like to tell me? I love you and want to help you and your friends learn from this.
Dispel Gossip by Listening
My hope is this post and these questions help empower you to ask good questions no matter what issue your kids face. Sometimes just caring enough to be the listening ear is what our kids need most of all.