Teaching Your Child about Gossip

It is never too early to begin teaching your child good values. At some point, most school-age children will fall into or become a victim of gossip. Parents need to be proactive and address the consequences of gossip and how it can be avoided.Explain to your children what gossip is and what it isn't. Help them to understand that when a simple story gets passed around and changes, it can hurt a person's feelings or reputation. Remind them that gossip can travel quickly once it leaves their lips, and each time the story is told, some incorrect information may be added. Give them real life examples and then help them understand gossip in a concrete way with the activities below.

Have everyone sit in a circle. Ask the first person to whisper a short story to the person next to him. The second person whispers it to the person next to him, and this continues around the circle. When the last person in the circle has heard the story, have him repeat aloud what he heard. Your family may get a good laugh at the final version of the story, but it clearly demonstrates how a message can get lost in translation when it's repeated from person to person. Remind your children that though it may be unintentional, details become distorted.

Here's another activity that will help your child understand the results of gossip. Give your child a tube of toothpaste and a paper plate. Have him squeeze some of the toothpaste onto the plate. Now, tell your child to put the toothpaste back into the tube. After they try to accomplish this nearly impossible task, explain that once our words leave our mouths, we can never take them back.

Read Luke 6:45- "The good man brings good things out of the good stored up in his heart, and the evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in his heart. For out of the overflow of his heart his mouth speaks."
Make the point that just as the toothpaste came from inside the tube through the "mouth" of the tube, the thoughts that come from our hearts go through our mouths. What we say is a reflection of what is in our hearts.

We can teach our children about the perils of gossip by modeling the correct behavior ourselves. Whether you realize it or not, you set an example for your child. You are your child's hero. He is watching you, and he will learn how to handle certain situations by following your actions. Does your child hear you gossiping on the telephone with a friend or at home with your spouse? How do you handle circumstances when someone else is gossiping? Do you stop your child when he is speaking unkindly about someone? Show your child how to be a good friend and help him develop character by avoiding gossip.