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The difference between "telling" and tattle-taling?

4031 Views 7 Replies 5 Participants Last post by  mom2kbeth
Hey all, I have a question... my son is 3 1/2, very social and will be approaching that age where they are constantly tattle-taling on eachother. I cannot STAND when kids are "he did this, or she did that...nananana..." It drives me nuts!! On the other hand, of course i want to teach my kids to tell me about something when they can't handle it. It is a fine line, i know, but anyoen have experience with teaching the difference to pre-schoolers?

Some of this issue i think has to do with "the tattle-taler" being bossy or controlling... for instance, my little cousin (8) has always been a little tattle-tale, but she is VERY bossy and Very controlling. I think this topic is such an issue for me, because i can see my son is pretty bossy and controlling now... For now, he tells everyone what they are supposed to do or not do... but i know what's coming next... "MOMMY, BILLY'S NOT DOING THIS, OR IS DOING THAT..." KWIM?
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At your son's age, it is hard to really teach them the difference between tattling and telling, because what they are really doing at this age is making sense of the rules. Rules make them feel secure and tattling is almost a way of checking to make sure that the rules have not changed.

When they are older, it's not that hard to make a distinction between tattling and telling a grown-up something for a good reason. I've explained to my daughter that she is only responsible for her own behavior, and to let her teachers or other children's parents worry about the other children. The exceptions are if someone does something that is hurtful to her, and does not stop when she "uses her words," she can ask a grown-up for help. I am careful to phrase it that way - ask for help and the teacher will help you solve the problem - rather than make it about getting the offender in trouble. The other exception is if telling will help the other child; for example, if she sees her friend doing something dangerous and she doesn't want them to get hurt.

So far, it's working pretty well!
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yeah, like i said it is a fine line... im sure it is even harder for kids to differentiate... i just cant stand listening to my little cousin... and hope that it does happen to my ds!!!
I think that your reaction to your dc's "telling/tattling" can make a huge difference in what kind of a teller/tattler your dc will become. IMO, most kids who are big into the run-to-parents/teacher as soon as you see a peer do something "bad," are doing it for the special attention they then will get from their parent/teacher for being "good," or helpful.

I was a preschool and kindergarten teacher in my pre-mama days. "I'm telling!" was often heard ringing out from various areas of the classroom. The first response I always gave when a child came to report something was, "and did you tell ["bad" child's name] how you felt about that?" If it was an issue of name-calling, or someone saying that someone else couldn't play, I would watch the telling child go back and try to talk with his/her peer. If the peer was unresponsive, I would offer some support. But, I always made sure to emphasize the importance of telling the friend before telling the teacher.

We had a couple of kids who really liked to monitor what everyone else in the classroom was doing wrong (even to the degree of reporting that so-and-so put the stapler where the tape dispenser goes). We would always remind the "teller" in that situation "your job is to [play right now/look at your book, etc.]; you don't need to worry about that."

Basically, I think that if you don't make a big deal out of "tattling" situations, your child will soon learn that it doesn't make sense to take the time out from playing to run over to you just to have you not react. Of course, there are some situations that require the intervention of an adult, but obviously you would react to those.


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Thanks Lex... that does put things in perspective! I will use your advice!! Thank you!
With my kids..( now 8 and 5) we said tattling was telling with the main purpose of getting that person into trouble. Telling was to prevent someone from getting hurt or doing harm.
That makes sense! And young ones could probably even catch the concept behind that too... sometimes.. Thanks!
I agree with Nankay. With dd (and whenI was a Kindergarten teacher), I always say that she needs to tell me if it's something dangerous or if someone is being/can be hurt (both physically or emotionally). But if there is no danger/hurt involved, then it's probably tattling. I've always defined tattling as when you are telling with the intent of getting someone in trouble.
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