How To Get Kids To Stop Tattling (But Explain That Telling Is Ok)

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You want your children to be able to manage circumstances on their own, solve problems and come up with their own answers. It’s all part of collaborating without always involving a “manager” or a third party (like parents, teachers or another grown-up).

It’s easy to become frustrated when your children come to you for everything. It’s a little…annoying when your toddler comes crashing down the stairs for the third time in 15 minutes to tell you her sibling “looks at her strange.”

On the other hand, you don’t want your children to keep you in the dark about important events such as bullying at school and secrets that adults have asked them to keep. Red flags for you to explore should always be welcomed and encouraged to discuss.

But how do you explain the difference between telling and tattling to your child so that they understand the concept?

Teach Your children The Difference Between Tattling And Telling

Explain that tattling is when you try to get someone into trouble, whereas reporting is when you try to get someone out of trouble (i.e. getting hurt, bullied, etc.). Tell them that they don’t have to tell you what occurred if they’re attempting to get someone in trouble. However, if they need to prevent someone from being hurt, they must inform you of the situation.

hy do kids tattle?

Why do kids tattle?

When kids tattle they often don’t think about hurting another person or even getting someone else in trouble. They simply want to make sure that they are doing the right thing and that their siblings are following the rules.

Sure there are times when older kids tattle for the sole purpose of getting the other child in trouble, but most of the time, kids are not so sinister.

here are some common reasons that cause children to tattle.

See also: Helping Your Child Choose Good Friends And Be A Good Friend

They Don’t Know How To Handle Conflict

They are incapable of resolving conflicts. Tattling is very common among children aged four and five. Many children of this age lack the abilities essential to solve problems on their own. Children of this age group, according to child psychologist Jean Piaget, are unable to see things from other people’s perspectives. When the only perspective you understand is your own, it’s difficult to resolve problems. As a result of the tattling, the children seek for grownups to fix their problems for them.

See also: How To Teach Siblings To Be Best Friends

They See a Rule Was Broken

They expect everyone to adhere to the rules. By the time they reach the ages of 7 and 8, children are more capable of resolving issues on their own, and they now tattle because everything in their lives revolves on following the rules.

Piaget classified this age group as being in the Concrete Operational Stage. During this stage, children’s thinking becomes quite rigid, and they become the ultimate right-fighters. These children understand right from wrong, and they feel obligated to report anyone who breaks the rules. It makes no difference whether the rule is minor or significant. If a rule is broken, these kids expect to be punished…unless, of course, it is they who are breaking the rules!

See also: Preventing Sibling Rivalry In Young Families

They Believe the Problem Is Worth Fixing

They wish to report a genuine issue. The majority of children are thoughtful and kind. When toddlers witness someone in distress, their first reaction is to help, which usually entails informing an adult of the situation.

This isn’t usually a negative trait. There are several things that children must inform adults about. We want kids to tell us when they or someone else is in danger, harmed, or being bullied, for example. This is why it’s critical not to disregard children who want to share something with you.

See also: Putting An End To Kids Fighting Over Toys

Solving Conflict When Your Child Tattles or Tells On Another child

Solving Conflict When Your Child Tattles or Tells On Another child

I like to use the describe what you observe strategy. When you use the describe what you observe strategy, you don’t have to worry about separating tattling from telling since you may describe what the child is thinking, doing, feeling, or saying without asking any questions, mending anything, or passing judgement.

You can always trust the child’s word and reflect what you see back to them by describing what you see. 

  • “You didn’t like it when your brother didn’t share with you.”
  • “You didn’t like it when your toy broke.”
  • “You wanted to let me know she leaped on the couch.”
  • “You came to inform me about your friend because you were worried about him.”

Young children lack the ability to distinguish between tattling and telling. It’s always telling to them, and then it’s up to us — the parents – to decide.

It’s always okay, in my opinion, to tell an adult about something that’s going on.
It’s up to the adult to help the child figure out if they can handle it on their own or if they need aid from an adult. As your children grow older and more mature, they will be able to predict when they will need to tell you about something.

If the child hurries down the stairs and exclaims, “My brother won’t share with me,” you can say “Your brother won’t share with you, and you’re not happy with that.” You wanted to inform me. Tell me what you can do to make him aware that you don’t agree.”

This immediately shifts the child into problem-solving mode, allowing you to leave the “manager” role behind.

Now the child may inquire about what they can do, and you can respond by saying something like this:

“You can approach him and say, ‘I’d like a turn with that toy.’ Alternatively, you may say, ‘Please share.’ ‘Perhaps I could take a turn as soon as you’re done.’ You can also take a break from him and do something else. Perhaps you have another idea that might work as well!”

Giving our children the opportunity to deal with difficulties on their own is a life skill that will benefit them greatly.

Kids must learn to manage situations without the continual supervision and intervention of an adult. It’s critical for children’s development that they have the opportunity to practise at home so that when they’re adults and someone does something they don’t like, they’ll be prepared to respond in a variety of ways.

See also: Preventing Sibling Rivalry In Young Families

Tattling Situation Example (to help you put the strategy into action)

Let’s pretend you instruct your oldest child to put the toys away. After about five minutes, a smaller child approaches you and says, “He’s not picking up the toys.”

On the surface, it appears that the younger child is attempting to get the older child into trouble. While this is true, a simple shift in perspective also reveals two things:

The child may be trying to prove to you that he is responsible, that he understands the rules, or that he heard the instructions you gave his elder sibling. The underlying need in this situation is for the younger child to connect with you.

If the younger child feels powerless or inferior to his big sibling, he may use this as a method to feel more strong or reestablish the power balance between them.
While our adult brains may not always understand exactly what is going on in the time, we can trust our children’s words by using SAY WHAT YOU SEE.

The best thing about this method is that you don’t need all of the answers.

So, if a child comes to you and says, “My brother isn’t picking up the toys,” you can respond, “Your brother isn’t picking up the toys, and you sound concerned about it.”

“You want your brother to pick up the toys…There must be something you can do to assist him.”

“You wanted me to know that your brother isn’t picking up the toys, so I told you. He appears to be in need of your assistance. “I’m sure there’s something you can do.”

This assists the child in entering problem-solving mode, removing you from the management role and encouraging the child to solve the problem on his or her own.

You can sit down and speak about instances when it’s necessary to ask a grown-up for help when the kids aren’t fighting. For a complete guide on sibling rivalry visit: Genius Ways To Minimize Sibling Rivalry At Home.

How To Get Kids To Stop Tattling (But Explain That Telling Is Ok)

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