Don't be a tattletale!
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Don’t be a tattletale

Don't be a tattletale!I was at the playground the other day and heard a child telling another that they were a tattletale.  This is one of those negative labels that adults pass on to children without thinking about the consequences.  And I feel it’s one of the most harmful lessons we can teach our children.

We wouldn’t encourage our children to use the words stupid or jerk (or much worse terms), so why do we teach them that it’s okay to use words like tattletale and liar?  I think it’s because we feel they are descriptive of actual flaws that we want to discourage~ mainly putting your nose in other people’s business and lying.  But let’s forget the fact that adults shouldn’t be teaching children negative labels and names to call one another.  There is something so much more insidious about the word tattletale.

It implies that you should only be concerned about things that affect you directly, everything else is another person’s business and you should stay out of it.  The other message is that you should’t tell on other people.  Essentially it’s okay to hide information.

“It’s not my business” is a giant flaw in our society as a whole.  Children, women and animals are mistreated and continue to be mistreated because people turn a blind eye.  Society often chooses to be blind to pollution issues, addictions, metal illnesses, abuse, racism, gender equality, and this list goes on and on and on.  I am trying to teach my child to be observant, and active, and involved.  We all need to be breaking out of this harmful practice of isolation.  Technology increasingly enables us to live a solitary existence under the mistaken belief that “internet connections” are the same as physical connection.  I don’t want to raise a child that lives online and needn’t be concerned about or get involved with her immediate neighbours and community.  We live in an amazing community simply because people are involved and care.

More importantly I want my child to communicate with me.  I want her to always feel she can share anything with me.  If someone is doing “something wrong” I WANT to know, because that “something” could be inappropriate touching or worse.  I’m trying to keep an open dialogue so that they will come to me, even if they are unsure if what is happening is bad or their fault. And I especially don’t need teachers (and yes, I’ve definitely heard teachers telling students not to be tattletales) working against my efforts.  Teachers are often an adult that children will approach if they need to talk about abuse.  Pushing kids away cuts off that line of communication.  And we need to keep all lines open!

I understand the concept that is trying to be imparted~ you do not need to tell on someone every time they do something that is outside the rules.  Not everything needs to be reported.  We don’t want a “Big Brother” society; however, children have a hard time defining the nuances that this lesson implies.  That comes with maturity and so we all need to be very careful when we throw around these seemingly simple labels and lessons.

If you give a child a rule and they report someone breaking that rule then why are we getting so frustrated?  The issue really is that adults don’t want to spend the time communicating properly with children.  We don’t want to enforce every rule, we don’t want to explain why it is okay that “Jimmy is doing X”, and we would rather put the blame on the child and basically tell them to shut up.

It is a lazy way out of what could be a more meaningful conversation.  When you say to a child “don’t be a tattletale!” you are essentially telling them that you don’t want to hear what they have to say.  Don’t talk to me because I’m not listening.  Don’t tell me what that person is doing because it’s not your business.  The rules don’t apply to everyone equally.  You are wrong.

None of the lessons behind the word tattletale are lessons I want my child to learn.

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cell phone courtesy

Can anyone tell me when exactly it became okay to use, not just cell phones, but technology in general as an excuse to be discourteous to one another?
At one point in time you wouldn’t even consider answering a phone call during family dinner.  Now, I frequently see people out in restaurants who spend barely 1/4 of their meal speaking to the person at the table with them.  They’re answering calls, emails, texts or just plain searching things online.
I remember this starting when call waiting was introduced.  You’d be in the midst of a conversation with someone and get cut off by this muted beep mid-sentence.  Then the person would check the other call to determine if the new caller was more important than you.  It irritated me to no end.  And what really ticked me off was sometimes you’d be left waiting on the other line for ages while they had a discussion with the interrupter.  I clearly have little patience for any of this so if the person wasn’t back on the line with me in a minute, I’d hang up.
I, personally, have a rule for myself that I don’t answer my cell when spending time with a friend.  If it rings I may check the number to make sure it’s not urgent.  But, let’s face it, how often do we genuinely get an emergency call?  I expect the same courtesy from my friends, which even my  most tech-addicted ones can respect.
I’m possibly a bit overly sensitive about this because I also don’t believe in talking on my phone during dog walks.  I just think that whomever (including my animals) I’m with deserves my full attention.  It’s their time to spend out in the world with me~ and not only do I find it a disservice to them to be distracted and dragging them around while I talk, but I also find the quality of conversation I can give to a person on the phone to be sub-par.  Why should I be on the phone when I can’t focus fully on a conversation?  Quality of conversation is important to me on both sides.
And we can’t blame this on a new generation who have grown up with all these devices because I’ve seen it from every age group.
Part of the problem is that the issue is so prevalent that we’re making it seem okay to our influential little ones, who will be the ones setting the new standards of courtesy in technology and quality of communication, and the other part is we don’t demand courtesy or focus from one another often enough.  We accept being ignored by our friends as they pay attention to their devices more than the person in front of them, and the fractured communication they offer us.
For example, I ride the streetcar daily with people who are abusing the comfort of other passengers.  People talking loudly on their phone for the whole ride, spending ages goofing around with ring tones, playing music on speaker, or (my favourite) the person with the MOST ANNOYING ring… like a squawking chicken… who gets 10 calls which they don’t answer but also has no idea how to shut of their ringer!  And the 40 other riders allow themselves to be held hostage by this one rude jerk.