I know a lot of people wouldn’t want to admit this, but I’m a horrible gossip.
Sometimes I’ll subconsciously shift a conversation to a “Did you see that post she wrote?” or “OMG, did you hear that?” hour of fodder without even realizing it (or intending to). I mean, who hasn’t talked about somebody behind their backs? I’m sure we’ve all been guilty of it at least once in our lives. Gossip has always been a huge part of my family, and it wasn’t until my daughter started doing the same thing that I started feeling guilty about it.
My little girl might only be 7 years old, but she’s already deeply enthralled with the recess politics that happen at school. That, and who ate what during lunch, how many times so-and-so went to the nurse last week, and who got a bad grade on yesterday’s math quiz. She either has great observation skills, or worse, is turning into a second grade gossipmonger.
While I should blame myself, I’ll take the easy way out and blame my mother (and every aunt I have in my family tree). The women in my family are a horrible, no good generation of gossips. My daughter often hears me talking about specific family dynamics on Bluetooth in the car whenever I call my mom, my favorite aunt in New York, or whoever else has the time to dish the dirt that day.
After listening to this day in and day out, my daughter probably got the idea that being a busybody is totally acceptable behavior. But is it?
Blogger Lisa Damour of the New York Times weighed the pros and cons of having your child come to you with valuable information (even if it does make them sound like a gossipmonger) when you least expect it.
When her daughter reported to her that a certain student in her junior high school was selling prescription pills, she said she had three options:
- hit the ceiling
- let it slide
- unwrap your present (aka: open up a valuable conversation with your child, even if it means talking about others)
“When we engage earnestly with adolescents around provocative hearsay we are allowed to have critical conversations, communicate high standards and make it clear that we’re available to offer help when needed. Sometimes with teenagers, the best moments start off in the worst way.”
While I agree with Damour, I also feel the need to teach my daughter the difference between gossip and conversation, intent and solicitation. I want to talk, but I also want to listen. If my daughter is giving me confidential information about another student (like with Damour’s example above), then it’s my job as a parent to take action.
But if she’s coming to me with intentionally malicious gossip, then she needs to know that there are consequences to her destructive conversations. Same goes with me. And my mom. And just about every family member I have.
For my daughter though, she’s only 7. She only knows what I teach her, and as a mother, I need to remember that every word that comes out of my mouth has an effect on her, regardless of whether it is helpful or hurtful.
With that being said, I’ll never forget a great quote I heard several years ago by Socrates: “Strong minds discuss ideas, average minds discuss events, weak minds discuss people.”
Clearly I wouldn’t want us to be the latter.
Enough said.More On