Children and Lashon Hara – by Michael T. Pullen

So what do you do with 10 year olds when they say things that are not true when they do not understand the gravity of there words?

I live in a small sleepy suburb just West of Boston, MA. It is a bedroom community where the executive elite of Boston reside. It is a wealthy town. It is quiet. It is not usually in the public eye.

Wednesday morning Sudbury caught the attention of most of America. Why would anyone care about this town? Well, 1 street over from my house a man was arrested on account of trying to be a terrorist. I say trying because he attempted to join 3 terrorist organizations that would not let him in. And in a country where a weapon is as easy to buy as alcohol he was not able to buy his semiautomatic rifles he wanted for attacking the local mall.

So … good the Fed caught the man.

Well of course as parents we have been wondering what would come back home from school after such excitement.

We have some neighbors who have moved here from Iran. Lovely people. She is doing research on autistic children and he resigned from his high level job to come support her in the US. They have 2 children and one is in class with my son. So on the way home from school, as the kids rode the bus, another boy (happens to belong to our synagogue) decided to tell those around him that this Iranian boy’s father is a terrorist. We are not sure the boy heard on the bus, however, when they got off at the bus stop a couple of girls decided to inform him that this boy was saying this on the bus. Of course he got quite upset.

In the end my wife called the mother (she did not know anything about it even 2 hours later – he did not tell her) and the principal.

So my thing is this, the boy who is spreading these rumors is Jewish. My kids are Jewish. They are all under 10. How do you teach children about Lashon Hara? My favorite tale is the one of the child who is telling stories is asked to take a pillow of feathers and to run as fast as he can without dropping a feather. The moral of the story is that your words are like the feathers, once they are out of the bag and carried by the wind they are impossible to gather and put back in. It is a good tale but does it work?

What lessons have you encountered on such “soft” topics?



2 thoughts on “Children and Lashon Hara – by Michael T. Pullen

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  1. Of course I think the best thing to do is lead by example. I hear so much lashon hara when I hang out with people and it hurts me all the time. I know that I sometimes talk it myself but I’m so aware of it and I do try to at least be somewhat careful about it. If in your home there is random speech about others, that is exactly what your kids will learn to do.

    After that, I believe a lot of it has to do with teaching your children compassion and sensitivity. I will often point out to a kid if something is hurtful to another, whether the other person is me or someone else. If they are able to tune into the suffering of others and relate to it on some level, hopefully they won’t want to do something to others they wouldn’t want done to themselves.

    Oh, and if the words spoken are actually a lie, that’s a whole other ball game. (Everything till now was based on the idea that lashon hara is anything spoken about someone else, even if it’s true. The rules of lashon hara are quite extensive.) Of course lying is totally unacceptable but again, I only know that because of how I saw my parents behave. If parents tell little lies here and there but then expect their kids to be truthful or only to stick to white lies, they’re going to be disappointed. A lie is a lie and a smart kid will see that and, if their parents tell little lies for convenience, they very well might tell bigger lies for convenience or other reasons.

    Haha, I sound so dogmatic here. I’m also in a mood so take it how you like.

  2. Oh, and let me just say that it’s disgusting that Jewish kids are behaving like this. It is so important that Jewish kids are taught to treat everyone with respect. It’s such an embarrassment when Jewish kids act high and mighty.

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