You were so proud when your preschooler began to know right from wrong and began to follow and recite the rules. But now she’s running to report every single time someone else does something wrong or doesn’t follow the rules and the tattling is getting tiresome. Here are some mom-tested tips to make sure the tales she’s telling are ones that need to be told.
Why Are You Telling Me This?
As annoying as tattling can be, establishing a no exceptions, no excuses, anti-tattling rule isn’t always the way to go. It’s a good sign that your child knows to come to you when she’s worried about something and you don't want to squash it before it has a chance to become more developed. After all, your child may be able to tell right from wrong, but she doesn’t yet understand the difference between something that's wrong and something that's dangerous or harmful.
“I think you have to be discerning and careful with this issue: if you accuse someone of ‘tattling’ too much, they may decide to take matters into their own hands on something they should have gotten help with,” says Circle of Moms member Sheri K.
Mom Sherri C. agrees. She says since kids are taught that adults are available to help work through problems, in her house they are “advocates for tattling within reason.”
Knowing what’s within reason is a matter of figuring out motive. Mom Tara K. asks her child two key questions to determine motive: Are you telling to get someone in trouble? Or are you telling to prevent someone from getting in trouble or [to] prevent a dangerous situation?
What Do You Want Me to Do?
Sometimes, though, a tattle is just a tattle and it’s a matter of an indignant child telling you how they’ve been wronged or how someone else is doing something they don’t like.
My time as a kindergarten teacher taught me a valuable lesson when it comes to tattling. Employing the phrase “What do you want me to do?” can do wonders when it comes to solving the problem. (Of course, you have to be sincere, not sarcastic when you say it, or you’ll have a bigger problem on your hands.)
What I discovered is that a lot of the time, kids just want to be heard. In dealing with her twelve siblings, Circle of Moms member Eliza W. discovered the same thing.
“What I started doing was listening... attentively,” she says. Eliza explains that allowing her siblings to get excited and dramatic about what they had to say often led them to see how silly they were being.
Provide Alternative Ways to Tell
Some kids can be persistent in tattling about non-issues. After all, as JuLeah W. points outs, “Kids get a lot of attention for tattling.” Providing a way to let them tattle, but not to get immediate attention can help stop the behavior.
Mom and kindergarten assistant Tami G. suggests providing a “tattle phone” into which tales can be told. In my classroom, it was a “tattle box.” Students could write or draw their concern on a piece of paper, knowing that I’d look them over at the end of the day and address legitimate issues.
As the year went by, the box grew increasingly...empty. My kids saw that I dealt immediately with tattles about danger or harm and that I deferred the non-issues. They learned what mom Kristin G. puts so well: “Making stupid mistakes is something we all do almost daily and not worth really even discussing."
Do your kids tattle on each other? How do you handle tattling in your house?