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Teaching Kids to Spot Gossip

Jan 17, 2022 | Teach Kids Articles

Teaching Kids to Spot Gossip

by Jenna Townsend 

What was your last conflict like? Disagreements, arguments, hurt feelings are hard. But do you know what can make conflicts worse? Gossip. During conflict, it’s easy to turn to gossip to “vent our feelings.” And while there is a place for talking through conflict, if we aren’t careful, it can become a coverup for gossip. We’ve all been guilty of it. And we often forget that gossiping isn’t just an adult problem. Kids struggle with gossip, too. Whether it’s at school or at home, how are kids working through conflict? Do they know how to spot gossip?  

Here’s four ways to help kids recognize and avoid gossip during conflict.  

First, help kids know what gossip is. Gossip is talking about a person or situation to make yourself look better, even if that means making someone else look bad.   Usually, we do this expecting our friends to justify our hurt feelings to make us feel better. But kids need to know that making hurtful comments and complaining about others only destroys friendships and trust. Even if what they’re saying is true, if they’re only sharing it to make someone else look bad and make themselves look good, it’s gossip.  

Give kids realistic, personal examples of what gossip might look like and how it can hurt others. Share any personal examples of gossip in your life—like times you’ve gossiped or times you’ve been gossiped against. Real-life examples can help kids see how you’ve been affected by gossip. It also helps them recognize gossip when it comes up in their lives.  

You might take the kids to James 1 verse 20 and talk about what it looks like to be slow to speak when they feel they’ve been wronged. You can learn this verse with kids and pray with them, asking God to help both of you practice slow speech during conflict.   

Second, help kids learn the difference between seeking advice and sharing gossip. This is important because you don’t want kids to think that they should never talk about conflict. Kids need to know that they can talk honestly about conflict and their feelings without being mean. How kids choose their words makes a huge difference. You can help kids see this by telling them that instead of saying something like, “Peter is such a jerk for taking my pen” they can say “When Peter took my pen without asking, it made me feel like he doesn’t respect my things. How should I handle this?” Ask kids to spot the difference between the two phrases. Talk with them about how they can choose helpful words during conflict.  

A third way to help them see the different between advice and gossip is to ask heart-revealing questions. For example, “Will sharing this help solve the problem in a way that honors God?” or “Will sharing this help build up the person or tear them down?” Point kids to Ephesians chapter 4 verse 26, which compares corrupting talk to talk that builds others up. Ask what “corrupting talk” means and share how they might choose words that build up.  

If you have a child come to you about a serious conflict such as abuse, help them to see that sharing what happened can be a way to build up; because it can help both the kids and the person who hurt them get the help they need. 

Speaking of looking for advice, our last idea is to encourage kids to ask the right people for right advice. Talking with someone who will help you solve the conflict in a godly way is a good thing. It’s one of the ways God provides His wisdom to us. Make a list with the kids of people they can go to for advice. Kids may want to write down their friends or classmates, but they shouldn’t be the only people on the list and maybe not at all. If kids only go to their peers, that can be an avenue for gossip by letting the conflict be talked about with everyone. When we’re looking for advice, our situation should only be shared with one or two people we can trust to help and to not share what we’ve said with others.  

Encourage kids to talk to one or two people who will be good listeners and good helpers who will point them to God’s way: like parents, Sunday school teachers, and school counselors. Help kids decide who to put on their list by asking them to think of people they can be honest with about their own guilt in the conflict. A key phrase to remember is “good advice needs good facts.”  

Avoiding gossip can help diffuse a conflict instead of blowing it up even bigger. Let’s use our tongues for peacemaking. 

This content is from the CEF podcast Teach Kids.  Listen to more content like this on the Teach Kids podcast through your favorite podcast platform.  #TeachKids #KidsMin

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