How do you address tattling?

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.


Tara - posted on 05/15/2011




Well it depends on what they are tattling about. There was a time when my two older girls will literally tattle or come to me about ridiculous things, while true they were quite random things such as but not limited to:
"Jaeli is breathing too loud."
"Alyssa keeps farting"
"Jaeli's shirt is stained"
"Alyssa said my hair looks like a rat nest"
"Jaeli said I have big feet"
"Alyssa said I have a big nose"
and so on...
In almost all those cases I would look at the child telling and say something like but not limited to the following:
"I'm sure that smells bad."
"Your feet are your feet/nose, big or small it doesn't really matter."
"That must have hurt your feelings"
"It sounds like you guys need a break from each other."
So always validating the complaint but not really doing anything else.
Other things require different responses.
Such as:
"Alyssa hit me."
"Jaeli didn't come home from the park when I told her to."
"Alyssa lied to you about...."
"Jaeli went.... without telling you."
Things like that are different. I tell the kids this rule about tattling that is pretty general and doesn't apply to all things but works in most cases:
Are you telling to get someone trouble?
Are you telling to prevent someone from getting in trouble or prevent a dangerous situation?


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Katherine - posted on 05/15/2011




Are you telling to get someone trouble?
Are you telling to prevent someone from getting in trouble or prevent a dangerous situation?


Stifler's - posted on 05/15/2011




Kids I know are the opposite... they dob or make up stories to get the other sibling in trouble and get what they want.

JuLeah - posted on 05/14/2011




I address tattling in an up front way. So a little one comes to me and says, "Mary hit me" Together the little one and I talk to Mary. Odds are, Mary popped her one. I guide the kid though the process of looking at Mary and saying, "Don't hit me" or "Give back the toy" or whatever offence Mary committed. Usually that is all it takes. The kids go off and play.
Older kids need a different kind of help .... if a 3rd grader came to me and said ... whoever hit them, or took their toy, I would believe them, and ask them how I can help. I'd share with them what I can do, talk to the kid, help them talk with the kid .... we can brainstorm and figure out how to help the kid solve the problem ... it is about giving skills and tools.

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