Nobody likes a tattletale. Especially mom and dad! Hang out with the kids for a few days and chances are you will hear more he said, she said than you would joining a couple that has been married for 50 years. For whatever reason, probably because they are kids – children feel the need to report every whistle, sneeze and fart of their siblings – either hoping that their little sister will get in trouble, or because they just want to feel like an important part of the family. Still, it gets old quick.
After so much tattling, parents become complacent and actually, start tuning out nearly everything their child says about what someone else is doing. The siblings start getting into trouble and in what feels like a wicked course of events, the tattler is the one in hot water. Which feels completely unfair. But what is the best way for parents to curb the tattletale in their home?
First, recognize that one of the reasons your tattletale is so unrelenting is because they are testing and trying their own justification system. You have spent many a days teaching them right from wrong in the hopes that they will develop a moral compass that keeps them in the right direction. And now that they have, anything that they feel is an injustice will be reported straight to the nearest authorities. They tell firstly because they want you to know and they want you to step in and correct whatever behavior it is that they feel is wrong. At first, tattling starts out innocently. Soon however they realize that when they tell mom what little brother or sister did – sister or brother gets in trouble. Ha, ha! So tattling becomes effective at showing just how bright they are and helps to dismantle their siblings in front of their parents. And while it is annoying, you are the one that taught them to do it. Yes, parents are responsible for their child being a tattletale.
Many parents are constantly getting on to their kids. Don’t touch that, stay away from this, get off of that, No, No M’am, don’t hit your sister etc. etc. etc…To a child, them telling you what others are doing wrong is no different than emulating your behavior, where you are constantly telling them what they are doing wrong. If you are the one making the rules and enforcing them – your child sees no reason why they can’t join you. Also, many parents dote on the child that who tattles in the beginning. Have you ever caught yourself saying, “Wow, you are so responsible for telling me that?” Of course you have, thus you have helped to create your little tattletale. Okay, so how in the world do you get them to stop! Or at least learn to realize there is a difference between telling you that little Jake is reading a book and telling you that Little Jake just ate a marble. After all, children can be a great source of information about what goes on in your home when you are in the bathroom.
First, decide if your tattletale is doing so to gain attention or prominence over a sibling, or whether their intentions are good. If they are tattling because they sense danger, or because their moral barometer is working in high gear – than you should praise them for being so responsible. Encouraging this type of tattling ensures that they will continue to do so. However, if they are simply tattling to get someone in trouble – than you should turn the tattletale around. Ask them if they are feeling left out of something or are mad at their friend or sibling. Most young children will be brave enough to admit that there was mischief behind the tattletale. If that is the case, then try to help them understand how they would feel if someone did that to them. In many instances, this can help to diffuse the tattling a little.
Another reason that kids tattle is because they are blown away by some injustice. In the midst of their toy truck being taken away, they aren’t exactly sure how to react. They know the rules and don’t know how to get their toy truck back without getting in trouble. Instead, they come running to you or blurt out “He stole my truck,” with a pointed finger and tear stained cheek. In cases like these, your job as a parent is to recognize that they need some help learning how to deal with this on their own. Empower them to find behaviors and words that will ensure they get their truck back from the bandit who took it. The easiest way to accomplish this is to act as the mediator between the two kids. Help them choose words and make requests so next time, they wont have to rush to you. When they see that it works, they will learn to act on their own behalf and not have to waste time tattling.
If and when the little tattletale becomes chronically addicted to reporting everything, start helping them learn to filter what is really important and what isn’t. Advise them, don’t threaten – that misplaced tattle tales for the sake of evil will not be tolerated and will have some sort of consequence for them. This way, they won’t end up being like the boy who cried wolf. While annoying, child development experts say that your little tattle tale is actually showing signs of proper development. As they are learning to figure out the world around them and how things work, they are often just seeking you as wise counsel when they tattle tale. Appreciate the fact that your child knows the rules and has a good sense of right and wrong. However, by no means indulge the tattling or else you might just be creating a monster.