March 15, 2022
Dear Berry Patch Families,
Tattling, it’s one of THOSE topics for many parents.
Parents, have you heard anything like this at your house?
“Mom, Matthew is ….”
“Dad, tell Sophia to stop…”
“She touched me!”
“He looked at me!”
Tattling… it’s enough to drive a parent crazy!
Tattling is aggravating. But telling can be good. What’s the difference?
To get a handle on tattling and to train children to tell, they need to know the difference between tattling and telling. “Telling is a report that gets someone out of a harmful or hurtful situation. Tattling is a means to hurt the person being reported.”1 Telling is to assist in getting someone out of trouble. Tattling is meant to get a person in trouble.
Here are two examples.
1. Joey and Sydney are playing Legos when suddenly Joey comes dashing to his dad, “Sydney is being mean. Tell her to stop using the yellow Legos. I want the yellow Legos.” Joey’s comments are meant to get his sibling in trouble as well as get his own way.
2. Big sister Ava is reading a book and notices her younger brother playing with matches on the hearth. She comes running to her mom, “Mommy, Sammy is playing with matches.” This little girl is telling to keep her brother safe.
The best response to help a child determine the difference between tattling and telling is to ask a question, “Will what you’re telling me get someone in trouble or out of trouble?” Children usually discern the difference quickly. When a parent doesn’t respond to tattling, the behavior usually stops. On the flip side, praise the child who notices and comes alongside someone in need by telling to assist and keep loved ones safe.
Tattling can take a few different forms. Some kids are police officers at heart, making sure their siblings and friends are sticking to the rules. Help your rule-follower determine if he’s tattling or telling. Other children tattle on siblings and friends if it improves their own situation. Children will learn the difference of tattling and telling if Mom and Dad take the time to define the terms.
Hopefully this tactic will help alleviate the tattling in your family!
Becky Danielson, M.Ed.
Licensed Parent & Family Educator
1. Lori Wildenberg & Becky Danielson, Raising Little Kids with Big Love, Friendswood: Bold Vision Books, 2014, p. 152.