Is tattling a problem for your child? Do they tattle too much, or are they hesitant to share important problems for fear of being labeled a tattletale? As a parent, how do you keep tattling in check?
Kids begin to tattle between ages 5 – 10. Many kids tattle because they’re testing out a newfound sense of wrong and right, which is ultimately an important part of their development. But they need your guidance to understand how to respond to certain kinds of wrongdoing.
Playacting can be helpful here. Describe situations, like witnessing bullying or littering, then let your child decide whether they should alert an adult, intervene themselves, or just ignore the behavior. Make sure they’re aware of certain things they should always tell an adult.
For some kids, tattling is a way to vent frustrations. They may not want you to do anything other than hear them out. In these cases, all you need to do is offer a sympathetic ear. Validate their feelings of anger towards a person or behavior. Let them know that even adults need to gripe sometimes.
Don’t validate tattling, though. When kids tattle, you don’t want to reward them, but you also don’t want to scold them, punish them, or make them feel as if their concerns are being brushed aside. As a solution, don’t praise them for actually tattling. Instead, try praising them for being attentive. If you find they’re REALLY attentive, assign them something else to observe and relay to you. Ask them to look for 3 examples of kindness to report. Sure beats hearing about yet another playground name-calling incident.
If you find the tattling habit persistent and hard to break, it may be tied to insecurity. Kids who feel unable to control their surroundings will sometimes engage in constant tattling because it makes them feel more powerful. This bad habit won’t exactly endear them to their peers or build their confidence. When they come to you to tattle, offer support and advice but resist the urge to get actively involved. Give praise when they are able deal with an issue on their own.