Preschool Parenting Class 17: How to Handle Tattling

In some homes, especially among siblings Tattling is an art form. It’s kind of like a weapon used by kids to get power by bringing the authority figure on their side.

But just to be honest, it’s sometimes hard to figure out if a child is tattling to get another child in trouble or if they are telling you something that you need to know.

How can you teach a child the difference between Tattling and Telling?

Here are four ideas to help you get rid of Tattling in your home…

First, explain the difference to them. Tattling is a normal response for most kids because it just works. Most kids have tattled and found it to be a great way to get an adult’s attention. For many kids it genuinely feels like they are doing something good to inform an adult that another child did something wrong. It’s especially confusing to kids that are natural rule followers and like to have order instead of chaos in their environment. They’ll usually use Tattling to try and control their environment.

Clear communication is a crucial first step. Explain to your child, “Tattling is when you are trying to get someone in trouble, and telling is when you are trying to be helpful or protect someone from getting hurt.”

Secondly, point out examples of Tattling and Telling. Try to catch them in the act of both tattling and telling. Help them see the difference by using real life examples of their behavior through out the day. Try to do this without expressing anger or shaming them. Instead, display the heart of a teacher who is genuinely trying to show them the difference between the two.

Third, Encourage them to practice resolving their own conflict. Many times tattling is an attempt by your child to help solve a conflict. This is a great opportunity to teach your child how to face the conflict themselves and practice using their “voice” in a situation instead of running to an adult to do it for them.

Finally, don’t reward tattling. Ok, you’ve taken the time to explain clearly what tattling is, and you’ve taught them what it looks like through “real life” examples. Now it’s time to to put their new found knowledge to the test. They probably won’t be perfect at this, so the next time they come to tattle just help them identify what they’ve done and move on. Don’t give tattling any more power in your home.

It’s seems easier to just ignore the tattling and let it continue in your family. But this is one of those behaviors that can get out of control quickly, so it’s best for you to engage your child and teach them the healthy way to respond instead of tattling.