Katherine - posted on 05/14/2011 ( 5 moms have responded )
Children start to tattle/report before they can talk! At about 14 months of age, little urchins will cry, point, or look at the sibling who took the cookie, stuffie, or other valued item. Because we, as parents, intervene and attempt to teach lessons, appealing to adults becomes habit.
However, around 4 years of age, they start hearing the grown-ups (or “grumps” as they were called in an old Star Trek TV episode) tell them “Don’t tattle.” The adults want them to resolve the issues themselves, and stop the attempts, often outright lies, to exert power over others by getting them in trouble. However, young children lack the social skills to handle the problematic situations unless adults have taught them how to do so (Remember: Telling is not teaching. Telling is one part of teaching; backed up by explanation, instruction, and practice).
The lying part takes us back to the previous blog post, but with regards to tittle-tattle, researchers who observed kids at play found that 9 out of 10 reports on the actions of others are truthful (Even though the Encarta World Dictionary lists the antonym of "Tattle" as being "Fact"). And while the tattling may seem to be incessant to parents, the observers found that for every report made to a parent, there were 14 other times when the child was wronged by another, but did not make a report to the parent. Finally, fed up with the actions of the other, the offended child seeks the assistance of the parent. The parental response? ...Parents are 10 times more likely to chastise a reporter than a kid who told a lie to them!
It doesn’t take long for kids to discover the power of “Don’t tell” …that one can prevent another from reporting on one’s aberrant actions by giving the potential reporter the threat of being known as a “tattle-tale” (or “tattle-tell). By 3rd or 4th grade, it’s the worst label that a kid can wear. It brings peer rejection, and the adult mantra of “Solve the problem.”
I love this article. It is so spot on IMO.