24 March 2014 08:00 AM

Stay Away from Gossip

by rbavaria

It’s never been particularly difficult to gossip.  Talking about someone is pretty easy, and it seems to be a universal pastime judging by the number of TV shows, websites, newspapers, magazines, and conversations that come our way each day.  Much of it is harmless – after all, who really cares which celebrity is “seeing” another celebrity?

But when kids indulge, trouble can follow.  In the classroom, on the playground, at lunch, on the school bus.  Gossip can be hurtful, even dangerous.

One of my favorite adages – I’ve heard it since I was a kid from parents and other adults – reminds us that “Whoever gossips to you will gossip about you.”  Wise words as true today as it was years ago. 

School gossip never leads to anything good.  Kids get hurt, angry, sad, and lonely from it.  Here are some things we adults, parents and teachers, can do to help.

  1. Define “gossip” for kids.  Better yet, have them define it for you.  They know more about it than you think.  When I’ve discussed it with young kids, they tell me gossip is talk that makes a person feel unhappy or lonely.  They recognize that gossip changes as it spreads from person to person.  (They’ve played the “whisper game” enough to know it’s true.)  They recognize it’s sometimes deliberately hurtful.  “It’s a bunch of lies!” is how they put it.  Once you’ve had this discussion, give them some tactics for dealing with it. 
  2. Don’t put up with gossip.  A simple “I don’t do gossip” followed by a friendly, non-confrontational, even smiling silence will more often than not take the wind out of a gossip’s sail.  Be polite but firm.
  3. Walk away from gossip.  If the gossip keeps gossiping, tell kids it’s not rude to walk away.  This isn’t easy for kids.  After all, being accepted and “popular” is important to them.  Teach them they’ll be even more popular if they don’t participate in hurting their classmates.
  4. Don’t pass on gossip.  Sometimes it’s hard to confront or walk away from gossips.  Like when it’s online, a particularly nasty kind of gossip.  Refusing to pass it on, deleting it, is a smart thing to do.
  5. Tell an adult gossip is really nasty or unsafe.  When gossip crosses the line to become unsafe, it’s wise to involve a trusted adult.  This is not “tattling.”  This is “reporting,” and there’s a big difference. Tattling is a nuisance most kids grow out of.Gossip can be dangerous.
  6. Be a non-gossip role model.  It’s up to us adults – parents and teachers – to show that we try our best not to gossip, that we avoid gossips, and that we don’t permit gossip in our families.

Gossip is everywhere, and its temptation is strong, but we can stand against it.   When we slip, we try harder the next time.  That’s good role-modeling.  Our kids will notice.

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