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Tattletaling - what is your approach to this? - Page 2

post #21 of 35

So I haven't read the whole thread.  But anyway, my approach has been to try to distinguish between "tattling" and "telling".  You tell someone when you are afraid or really hurt, or when someone else is hurt, or when you're afraid someone will be hurt.  If it's just because you want someone to get in trouble, then it's tattling.  And it's ok to tell me in private about anything at all, but the dragging over to the dad part would be the tattling issue.  Telling me when we get in the car would not be tattling.  Telling me alone is to tell me about her day, telling me in front of the dad is to tattle to get her in trouble.

post #22 of 35

It sounds like the problem is more that he has a problem seeing a situation as an accident, many kids have the same problem.  I don't know that anti-tattling techniques will really be that helpful because he probably doesn't realize what he is doing.  At that age my dd truly wasn't able to distinguish between accident or on purpose so telling her that sometimes it was okay to tell me what happened and sometimes it wasn't didn't seem like a good solution because she wasn't able to distinguish.  I asked her questions about the whole situation: what happened, how it happened, what the child said about what happened, what she did to stand up for herself, how it went, whether she got help for a teacher or not, and how she felt now.  It was usually really obvious when it was an accident that she was blowing out of proportion because she would say the child said it was an accident.  She was also able to work a lot of things out for herself without intervention because she knew the sequence her school teaches and was very vocal about standing up for herself in any case.  I also would ask her how she would feel if she did something on accident and someone got mad at her because they thought it was on purpose and I helped her work through deciding if something was really a big issue or could be let go of.  It takes a long time for kids to learn to see another person's point of view and for them to accept that when people accidently bump them it isn't a malicious act. 


At five kids are still very focused on their emotions even if they seem to be doing wonderfully with group skills in all other ways.  You might find the book Raising A Thinking Child helpful.  I read the second book in the series, Raising a Thinking Pre-Teen and really loved how the author writes and sets the book up so it is easy to follow.  She walks families through exercises they can do together to help kids see things from other people's points of view and take other people's emotions, as well as the possibility that two people feel very different feelings even in the same situation, into consideration.


post #23 of 35

As a kindy teacher, I deal with "tattletelling" ALL THE TIME.  I don't have a problem with kids asking for help with solving problems with their peers, but I don't think that's the same thing as "tattletelling."  To me, the purpose of tattletelling is to get an adult to go over and yell at the other kid and get them in trouble.  I.E.  "TEACHER!  HE THREW HIS BREAKFAST IN THE GREY TRASH CAN" (it's supposed to go in the red one).  That is tattling.  "Teacher, so and so is hitting me."  That is asking for help.  So first, you have to draw a distinction between tattling and asking an adult for help.


I do several things with my kiddos.  Not necessarily in this order.  These are just a few tricks that I have found to be helpful.

1.  I will ask them if they are telling me to be helpful or hurtful.  I ask them if they are telling me because they need help or because they want to get the other child in trouble.  They usually tell me they are trying to be helpful.  So then I help them brainstorm ways to help their friend do the right thing.  As in the first example, I might ask if the child tried nicely reminding them that they are supposed to throw their food mess in the red trash can.  I have them practice doing it in a nice tone.  Then I send them to practice it with the "offending" child.


2.  If they are telling me that a friend hit/kicked/hurt them or said something mean (and the child is no longer actively doing so).  I will ask the child if they told the friend to stop.  If they say they asked the child to stop, then I asked if the child stopped.  If they say, "yes."  Then I say, "AWESOME!  You solved your own problem!  All by yourself!  You didn't even need to ask for my help!  Give me five!"  And I don't go say anything to the other child, mostly because I figure the other child wasn't really trying to be hurtful if they were respectful enough to stop when asked.  And that asking was all they needed to correct the behavior.  If they say that the friend didn't stop hitting them when they said stop, then I will go over and intervene.


3.  I do a lot of role playing to help the children learn how to solve those kinds of problems with their peers (i.e. using assertive tone of voice, saying stop, walking away, etc.).  And what to do if they are having difficulty solving a problem (ask an adult for help), and what to do if they successfully solve a problem (basically that they don't need to tell on the other child if the other child stopped when asked)


Now, if there is an ongoing problem... or if a child is in the middle of a situation that they need help with, I step in immediately.  But I don't see these situations as the same as "tattling."


ETA:  When I do the whole "You solved your own problem!" thing, it's amazing how quickly it turns the whole situation around.  Offending child has already stopped offending.  And telling child is all of a sudden excited and empowered because s/he is a great problem solver... in the blink of an eye, the problem has completely dissolved.


ETA part 2:  I did want to add that if the problem seems to be happening over and over again... i.e. one child is always picking on another child, then that is a different situation and these "tricks" don't really apply

Edited by shanniesue2 - 2/26/11 at 4:00pm
post #24 of 35

This is a good book that puts it in words kids can relate to:



post #25 of 35

I didn't read all the replies, but this came up in my dissertation research on social groups of preschoolers, so I'll condense what I found there:


1.) Tattling is NORMAL. It happens all over the world (I've read Russian articles on it, etc.) and is is believed to be developmentally linked, so try to put it in the mental category of "it's there" vs "I need to stop this behavior".


2.) Tattling is largely about children learning social rules, testing them against your oppinions, seeing your response, etc. So "Joey is spilling water in the bathroom!" could very well mean "Joey is doing something I know is not supposed to happen, but I'm not sure how important it is or how to deal with it!"


3.) Tattling, in the preschool realm, is less about power and control and more about learning communication and social norms. In elementary school, the power part may become a more significant issue. That doesn't mean it is LESS about social learning, but it may be a different social learning.


As for a response, the best I've seen is when adults use the tattling as a way to understand the situation and what options they have to influence it. Often the strategy is to either a.) Encourage the tattler to talk directly with the tattlee about the offense ("You hurt my feelings." "I was sitting in that chair." and mentor them through the process if they need it) b.) If it is an issue that is best handled by adults, include BOTH children in your explination of why the situation is unsafe, etc.

post #26 of 35

I'd like to add that this won't *stop* tattling in preschool, since it is largely developmental. But it helps to serve the underlying issues vs. punishment or expecting a young child to understand the difference between a "tattle" and something important they need to tell you. In blunt terms, young children are not able to do that. In their minds, the tattle IS important. And if you look at the issues that bring to you, I would largely agree with them. Often the underlying issues are equity, fairness, justice, etc. And those DO deserrve to be addressed. So while to us "Suzy took the doll I was playing with!" seems like an insignificant tattle, to THEM it is a very real issue of justice. Ignoring it or telling them not to come to you when they can't solve their problems by themselves is ultimately counter productive to learning.


So the frame of mind really has to be to work with it and use it for learning vs. trying to stop it :-)

post #27 of 35

Originally Posted by alexsam View Post


Often the underlying issues are equity, fairness, justice, etc. And those DO deserrve to be addressed. So while to us "Suzy took the doll I was playing with!" seems like an insignificant tattle, to THEM it is a very real issue of justice.


I like this point. With such a young child, they are still figuring why they should do the right thing when other people don't always. (It's a moral question many adults still ponder!)


I also think that the line between on purpose behavior and accidental behavior is very fuzzy to young children. It's quite common for young children to get into trouble for things they did accidental or without thinking, so when we expect them to cut others slack for accidents, it doesn't make sense to them.


It's all chances for growth, opportunities to help them become bigger people.

post #28 of 35
Thread Starter 

Wow, thank you.


I appreciate being able to look at this in a developmental context.  Really - thank you.


I have a lot to think about here - and without going through and naming names, I do appreciate your help, everyone.  luxlove.gif

post #29 of 35

In terms of the sibling relationship - we would stop and ask our kids, "Is this a tattle, or a report?"  A tattle was to get someone in trouble.  A report was to keep yourself, or someone else, or someTHING safe.  


Most of the time, the kids would stop and think about it, say, "Oops, this is a tattle, we need to try to work it out first."  They knew/know that we are available to help if they are unable to work it out as siblings.  As they are older now, the approach doesn't seem to have cramped them talking to us about problems they can't solve - but they do try to solve things on their own first.


More than anything, I wanted the kids to think about what they were trying to communicate.  With three girls in a row, you can bet that we got a lot of "Maaaaaaaawwwwwwwmmmmmmmmyyyyyyy!!!" shrieks at the top of their lungs.  I really wanted to curb that in terms of tattling, and help them to a) think about what they were communicating and b) foster a more cooperative spirit with problem solving and their siblings.  They haven't killed each other yet at 16, 13, 11 and 9 - the baby just gets doted on :)

post #30 of 35

There really isn't one right or wrong way to handle this type of situation. It's yet one more parenting "seat of the pants" situations, IMO. I think it makes sense to find out, first, if anyone was physically hurt. After that, it's a matter of finding out what the child's motivation for telling you is, and why he feels the need to tell you the way he did. And then talking through that with him, however many times it takes.


However, running over to tell her Dad? Deciding that she needed a consequence for her behavior? My response to him would have been "Sweetheart? NOT your job." That is up to you and the teacher to handle, if it is necessary.


When mine were younger, I pretty much held the line of "unless one of you is bleeding or badly hurt - you need to try and sort out your differences yourselves." If it wasn't working, then they could come to me - but not in a "tattling" sort of way. Tattling got them both in trouble - one for doing, the other for telling. I should likely state, although it seems obvious, that this is for breaking of house rules - not for truly dangerous things. And ya know - kids usually can tell the difference. If one felt they could impose a consequence (or even suggest one for their sibling/friend/whoever? "NOT your job."

post #31 of 35

Another little tidbit of educational research on tattling shows that in the vast majority of times (if I'm remembering right, the research indicated almost all the time), they DO try to solve their own problems first and "tattle" when they are unsuccessful. Another reason to see the adult response to tattling as an opportunity to mentor problem solving and to consider the issues important from *their* perspectives. 


And, one more thing- tattling happens EVEN in preschool classrooms which do not have punishments or rewards (meaning, no incentives for outside praise or to "get others in trouble"). It happens because this is a stage of ethical, social, and communications development and persists even when there is no power gain for the preschool tattler. It is adults who "up the stakes" of tattling by judging the value of the tattle ("important" or not) and imposing consequences. The more you try to "stomp it out", the bigger it gets because you add more fuel to the fire as it takes on a whole set of adult imposed expectations and meaning. If you see it as a request to help with social mentorship, it will fade as the developmental scene changes.

Edited by alexsam - 3/7/11 at 11:44am
post #32 of 35

I am fine with telling. Kids are told to never tell on anything, and then they end up sexually abused, bullied, being offered drugs (and possibly trying them), victims of things, etc. I want my children to be able to tell me anything. That being said, I do try to teach them the difference between gossip and telling something that needs to be told. It is better to risk telling something that did not need to be told than to have the child not tell you something you really needed to know.

post #33 of 35

Let me share a little story. It is a little humorous, but it is a recurring theme I see with parents. I was visiting a friend and the older boy ran up and said younger boy was....She cut him off and told him not to tattle. He tried to say But <brother> is..... Again, she cut him off and said we do not allow tattling. The little boy went away. Friend finished up what she was doing and then went back to the kitchen...where she found the 1 yr old had eaten all the choc covered coffee beans. LOL.....let's just say....she should have let the 4 yr old tattle! LOL Oh..and in addition to the caffeine in the toddler, was the choc melted on his fingers and all over the place! 


Sometimes, tattling is good!

Edited by Lisa1970 - 3/9/11 at 9:53am
post #34 of 35
Originally Posted by Linda on the move View Post
I also think that the line between on purpose behavior and accidental behavior is very fuzzy to young children. It's quite common for young children to get into trouble for things they did accidental or without thinking, so when we expect them to cut others slack for accidents, it doesn't make sense to them.


Yes. We've spent significant time going over "on purpose" or "accident" with DC. It has to be repeated often, but they are getting it and able to accept better "she stepped on my foot, but it was an accident." It sounds like that's the root of the problem with the OP's son, and working on that may make the "tattle" part less of a problem.


post #35 of 35

Our approach was with regard to intent. WHY do they feel the need to tell? We always listened to them of course, but we modeled that "telling" was most useful or mindful when it came from the intent of stopping someone from getting hurt (physical and otherwise), if there is danger or property from being damaged rather than just "I don't like that you are taking too long with that toy- I'm telling!"  We tried to assist as necessary with that kind of conflict as well of course, but we wanted to impart the difference.

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