I try to post a little safety nugget on my Savvy Parents Safe Kids Facebook Page every day. Today’s tip was this:
Let your children know that sometimes, they may have to ask several adults for help before they actually get the help they need. Teach your child that it is OK to move on to another adult if the first (or second or third) adult cannot (or does not) help them when they are asking for help. You would be very surprised at how many parents “blow off”, “dismiss” or don’t even give a child the chance to express their concerns. Adults will often dismiss a child for “tattling” or “making things up” or “being mistaken”.
After I posted the tip, it got me to thinking about how as a society we are continually surprised when adults often ignore red flags, dismiss their gut feelings when something is clearly wrong and are terrified to speak up and SAY SOMETHING. ANYTHING. That is, until something REALLY BAD happens. Then it’s too late.
We should not be surprised, as we have conditioned entire generations with the notion that “tattling” is very bad. So don’t do it. Ever. This kind of thinking is exactly what criminals thrive on to keep committing their crimes. Criminals count on you to not report suspicious activity, to be afraid to follow your gut and to be embarrassed to speak up. Even worse? They count on you to dismiss a child’s concern or fear. We have conditioned people to be afraid to speak up.
What we need to do is help kids (and adults) understand the difference between tattling just to get someone in trouble versus reporting potentially unsafe behavior. We need to teach children and adults to become listeners and not dis-missers. That being empowered is more important than being embarrassed.
I have told both my children that they can go to as many adults as needed to get help. If that fails, they should call me immediately. Once, during a play date, one of my kids was being de-panted by another kid. Repeatedly. My child went to several moms to complain. Every single mom told my child “Now, don’t be a tattler” or to “just go back and tell them to stop”, “go work it out on your own, I don’t want to hear tattling” or the worst…. “Well what do you expect if you get them all riled up by playing rough?”. Seriously.
I got a phone call immediately.
You would think that by all the opinions and sharing that people do on social media that we would not be afraid to speak up but sadly, when it comes to really standing up and speaking up in person, many people just can’t do it.
I know that when we are raising kids it can get old hearing a child continually telling/tattling on other kids. I get it. However, we need to guide and teach kids the difference between tattling on someone to just for the sake of getting that person in trouble versus teaching a child to be a responsible mandatory reporter for safety. Kids who learn to be responsible reporters become adults who will listen to concerns and understand the importance of being a mandatory reporter.