Mishmeres HaSholom – Ask the Rav

Q: I occasionally babysit at neighbors’ homes and have to cope with children who aren’t always willing to listen to me. I try hard to manage with them pleasantly, but sometimes I have no choice but to “threaten” that I’ll tell on them to Ima.

  1. Am I allowed to employ this threat, even if I’m not planning to carry it out and tell the mother?
  2. Sometimes there are incidents that I really think the mother should be aware of (one child bullying his siblings, kids taking nosh without permission, using bad language, etc.). Am I allowed to report all this l’toeles, or are there things that I should avoid telling even the mother?

A: You are allowed to threaten to tell the mother, when necessary, regardless of whether you really intend to tell her or not. You are also permitted to report to the mother everything that went on with the children — both between you and the children and among the children themselves, all the more so when you are speaking of acts that show a deficiency in chinuch, honesty, and fairness.

The reasons for the heter: First of all, there is constructive benefit in the mother knowing about her children’s behavior in her absence, so she should know which areas of their upbringing she needs to zero in on.

Second of all, these behaviors are very common among children, so speaking about them is not considered a report of anyone’s “flaws” or a denial of his “virtues”; therefore, this is not a violation of the prohibition of lashon hara.

The questions and answers above were taken from the Mishmeres Hasholom pamphlet in Israel. For details and inquiries please e-mail us at office@hasholom.org or call 972-2 5379160.

The views expressed are of the individual author. Readers are encouraged to consult their own posek for guidance.

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