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How to Discourage Tattle Telling

Four and five-year-olds especially have this habit of tattle telling on their fellow classmates. This can be extremely annoying for teachers who have to listen to every single little ting Billy said or what Susie did, even if it isn’t anything notable. Tattle-telling is not a huge deal and is actually completely normal for young children, but it is something parents want to try to discourage before it gets out of hand.

What Exactly is Tattle Telling?

Tattle-telling is when kids come to let you know that someone is doing something wrong. Pretty much anytime something happens, no matter how small the incident is or even if they were involved or not, you can bet a tattle tell will come and let you know.

Four and five-year-olds are just getting adjusted to new rules, especially in school. They are told what’s wrong and what’s right in the classroom setting (or even at home). Child psychologists have suggested that at a time when attention is everything, tattling allows a child to make themselves look good while making someone else look bad by pointing out bad behavior and faults, no matter how small or meaningless. It could be to make themselves look more favorable, to get more attention, to have power over someone or even just for revenge.

Tattling isn’t necessarily a bad thing. It shows your child knows right from wrong, but they just don’t have the emotional or social skills needed to handle problems for themselves. This is a great teaching moment then!

Tattling Prevention

Here are some tips on how we can help prevent tattling from our children before it starts happening:

Take advantage of teachable moments – If you and your child happen to come across another situation where another child is tattling, ask your child what they think about it. Tell them that it is an example of tattle telling and ask them what they would do in that situation. This helps with empathy as well.

Talk about being fair – A big reason that kids tattle, as mentioned before, is to get justice for bad behavior. Sit down with your child and explain that while you are so proud of them for following the rules and how great it is for everyone when the rules are followed, sometimes people choose to break them. Empathize with them and let your child know that you know it can be upsetting to see someone not following the rules, especially when they do their best to do so, but it’s best to focus on yourself and not the actions of the other person.

Explain the difference between tattling and an urgent matter – Your child should understand when something is a tattle compared to something more urgent. An adult should always be told if someone could be hurt or in danger, or that they are putting their hands on another child. Tattling includes minor things like Susie is taking more crayons than she should. Come up with different scenarios and ask your child if they think it is tattling or not. Include scenarios both in the classroom and at home.

How to Discourage Tattling

If your child is already in the habit of tattling, here’s how to stop it:

Understand the situation – First, try to understand why your child is tattling without making a big deal about it. If you understand why then it may help you tackle the issue a bit better.

Don’t give him/her extra attention – As a reason for tattling could be to get more attention and make themselves look better, it’s best to not give your child the extra attention they are wanting for tattling. Assure your child that you heard them but don’t make them out to be the hero for tattling.

Acknowledge feelings – Your child may genuinely be feeling upset about another child breaking rules or acting out, so be sure to talk to them about this. Tell them that you know they’re upset and that they’re trying to do something good, but sometimes we can’t help other peoples’ actions. Tell them to ignore it and focus on themselves.

Encourage communication – If your child tattles, ask them if they have talked to the other child about it. Tell them they need to express their feelings to them with their words. Tell them to start out their sentences with “I feel upset/sad when you…because…” and talk it out. It can’t always stop the other child from misbehaving, but your child may feel better for expressing themselves in a healthy way.

Have a Tattle Tree – Some teachers have implemented tattle trees in their classrooms, and it’s a great way of getting kids to work out things for themselves! Even parents can have a cut-out tree (or just use an indoor plant as the designated tattle tree). When your child comes with you with a tattle, tell them to tell it to the Tattle Tree. They are often happy enough to go talk to the tree then go on about their day as if nothing has happened. Sometimes both children go to the tree to talk about it and end up sorting the situation themselves, which is a major bonus!



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