How to Talk to Your Kids about Gossip


Most of us have fallen prey to idle gossip.  It’s something that is often times subtle and rather ambiguous in and of itself.  Perhaps it’s not the blatantly hateful water cooler discussions at the office, but the few words spoken in “concern” about someone’s appearance, actions, or short-comings with another friend or co-worker.

Gossip derives from the idea of “whispering”. According to Merriam-Webster’s Dictionary, “gossip” means “To indulge in idle talk or rumors about others; spreading of sensational stories.”  Gossip is a close cousin to slander, which is referred to as, “malicious talk; to spread damaging information;to defame”.  Here’s one to wake you up, to further solidify how evil talking about others is in God’s eyes, the Bible calls Satan, “accuser of the brethren.” (Rev. 12:10).

Paul talks about gossip in Romans. Notice how he clumps this rather subtle sin in with such things as murderers and God-haters!

(Romans 1:28-32) “Furthermore, just as they did not think it worthwhile to retain the knowledge of God, so God gave them over to a depraved mind, so that they do what ought not to be done. They have become filled with every kind of wickedness, evil, greed and depravity. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit and malice. They are gossips, slanderers, God-haters, insolent, arrogant and boastful; they invent ways of doing evil; they disobey their parents; they have no understanding, no fidelity, no love, no mercy. Although they know God’s righteous decree that those who do such things deserve death, they not only continue to do these very things but also approve of those who practice them.”

Okay, if that got your attention, like it did mine, it’s time to start being mindful about what comes out of our mouths. While I can honestly tell you I haven’t slipped up and committed a little murder here and there, I have slipped up and spoken negatively about others.  According to Paul, those actions…my little slip ups, deserve the same punishment as that of a murderer.  Death.  Whoa!!

As we all know, there is no more effective way to teach our children than by our own actions and words.  I guarantee, if you desire that your children learn to speak words of love and kindness, like Jesus, about others– and yet they hear you talking about others in a negative way–they will DO AS YOU DO! (James 1:26)

Surprisingly, Thumper’s mom was NOT the first one who came up with the brilliant advice of, “If you can’t say something nice about someone, don’t say anything at all.”  It’s actually a Biblical truth found in Ephesians 4:29.

If you have genuine concerns about someone and have true intent to help them, go to this person directly.  Criticism can never be “constructive” if it’s expressed to a third party. In the same aspect, if a friend comes to you for advice, don’t betray this confidence. Stay trustworthy.

Reinforce these ideas with your children when you have the chance – if you hear your child speaking negatively about someone else, remind them that they would not want someone to talk about them that way.

Avoid hanging out with people who gossip, and if a friend starts talking negatively about someone and you think the conversation is heading into gossip or slander, stop your friend–in brotherly/sisterly love.  Remind them of what God’s Word teaches us.  Speak positively about friends, co-workers and even strangers.  Let your “little light” shine out from your words and actions.  Be an example of Jesus to your children and other adults.
About the Author: Lisa Strnad is a weekly contributing writer to What’s in the Bible? and Jelly Telly.  She works freelance in Christian Media, specializing in writing, promotions and marketing. Lisa lives with her husband and their two sons in Nashville, TN. Follow her personal blog:

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Amy Neftzger
Amy Neftzger

Nice post! I've also learned that when we spread negative information that it often hurts the person spreading the information even when the person is speaking the truth. It brings home the point in Eph 4:29 - we should all think before we talk negatively about someone who isn't present. If you talk about someone who isn't there, the person will likely defend themselves when you're not there and they may make you look bad in order to discredit you and make themselves look better.

Sena Andrade
Sena Andrade

Great article, Lisa! As my son is getting older, I'm seeing first hand how pervasive gossip is in social circles and how important it is for my husband and I to lead by example. I think when we talk to our kids about how harmful gossip can be, they are more than happy to help keep their parents accountable!