Sharing Toys, Tattling and Supporting Kids to Traverse Their Own Battles

The number one rule at my son’s pre-school is:  “Do everything to the glory of God.” I could get used to this one pretty easily, as I am a man of faith and put effort towards working this rule in my own life.

He’s been attending this school for about 18 months, but I’m just now starting to get used to their second rule: “no tattling unless someone is getting hurt.” I wondered how do they expect this young kid who blows up over getting the wrong kind of cereal to ever solve problems independently.


Over the course of getting to know the teachers and hanging around for a solid five to 10 minutes during drop-off and pick-up, I see this rule in occasional action. During one particular pickup, I witnessed a boy push a girl over while they were both standing. Her impulse was to run to the teacher and tattle. The teacher calmly comforted her until she was willing to approach the boy.

The victim of this pushover collected herself after roughly one minute and went over to the boy and expressed herself in words how this hurt her. I recall him trying to deny that he in fact pushed her, but guilt was pouring from his nonverbal cues. (Pre-school kids may be able to lie out of their mouth but their little bodies always give them away.)

The educator then coached the boy to say I’m sorry, and the girl said I forgive you. Now, he was taken aside after all this to discuss the situation further with the teacher, but this entire scenario went completely against everything I had previously been taught and how my immediate reaction would handle things.

I would want to jump in and say that the pushing behavior is unacceptable and punish the boy, but what does that accomplish? Further tears? Gratitude for justice? Empowerment?

If my goal as a father is to empower my son and daughter, I realize that there is no better time than now to start practicing this. Practice now when a grown up can hover in the background to guide, rather than practice when the grownups are peers.

Let’s face it, how does running and “telling the teacher” work in business? How does tattling work in the neighborhood? In family?

I find that I grow the most by taking time away from the difficult situation to meditate, pray and be with God. Then I can receive guidance for the next right action to take, whatever difficult conversation that needs to be. And usually it’s the conversation I most fear.

It’s taken me over thirty years to have the courage to have these conversations. I spent most of these years cowering from others. That is not what I call spiritual progress.

So now, when I walk over to the neighbors and my son comes running to tell me how his friend ripped a toy from his hands, I tell my son to work it out. I simply say take turns, and let him work through the situation on his own. Yes, I am hovering in the background, holding myself back from jumping in, but I can at least hope that I’m doing everything I can to build a strong foundation.

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