Your preschooler gleefully walks in the door and tells you her best friend Tracy told her that Karen’s family is getting a new puppy. While this rumor might seem harmless, the act of spreading unsubstantiated information can be the start of an unwanted habit, gossiping. As a parent, you probably gossip more than you realize, and your own nasty propensity could influence your child’s behavior. Institute a “gossip free” policy in your house to stop your child’s newly found love of spreading rumors in its tracks.
Explain the difference between the “truth” and a “rumor” in terms your child will understand. For instance, sit your older toddler or preschooler down and ask if your red shirt is indeed red. After he says “yes” explain to him that this was the truth. Now explain what a "rumor" is. A rumor is information which is passed between people -- sometimes it spreads between many people -- which may or may not be true. For instance, tell your child that you heard a rumor she is the one that broke her grandmother's vase.
Tell your preschooler or older toddler that rumors can hurt, but once again in a way she will understand. For instance, once you've told your child you heard a rumor she broke her grandmother's vase, ask her how that made her feel. If she is feeling angry or sad because an unsubstantiated or untrue piece of information was said about her, tell her that this is how her friend or the other kids at preschool or daycare may feel if a rumor was spread about them.
Teach your child tactics to stop the gossip cycle. Tell your child to walk away if he hears a rumor or secret about another person or to tell the teacher if it’s happening in preschool or daycare.
Stop gossiping yourself, at least in front of your kids. The next time your hairdresser gives you a juicy bit of information about another client, refrain from telling your best friends all the gory details while your kids are present. Children will see you gossiping and think that spreading rumors is acceptable.
Explain to your child when it’s OK to tell Mom, Dad or another trusted adult about a rumor or secret. Let children know it’s alright to spill the beans about a friend that was inappropriately touched by an adult or bullied by the other kids. Tell your child "I understand you are trying to keep your friend's secret or you're worried that she might feel sad or ashamed if you tell, but it's OK to tell Mom or Dad if you heard something really bad, even if you're not sure that it's true."