Dealing With Tattling
You want your children to inform you about serious matters, but you don’t want them to tattle about small, insignificant issues. Train your child to report. Children need to be taught when they should report to you. The general rule of thumb is: If someone is hurt or might get hurt, or if somebody’s property is going to be damaged, report it. Issues involving how your child gets along with another child or how other children are getting along should not be reported.
One way to help your child understand what he/she should report is to ask your child questions such as, “If Mary calls you a name once in a while, should you tell me about that?” The answer is obviously no but if your child doesn’t know the correct response, then teach it (however, if it is a bullying situation, children need to know that they can tell an adult and get help without getting in trouble for tattling). Other examples of questions to ask your child are, “if Billy is throwing stones at cars, should it be reported? If Tammy cheats in a game should that be reported? If Johnny is throwing stones at Mark should that be reported?” By asking questions that refer to different behaviors, you can teach your child under what conditions it would be appropriate for him/her to report to you. Knowing when to report and when not to stops the constant tattling that many children do.
It is also important to help children develop problem solving skills so that they will have the tools to deal with situations that would otherwise lead them to tattle. You may need to help them come up with solutions to different problems such as ignoring, talking it out, taking turns, making a compromise, or walking away.
If your child continues to tattle after proper training, you need to develop a “deaf ear”. Either refuse to respond to your child or say, “Take care of it yourself.” and remind him/her of the problem solving strategies you discussed. Do not scold your child for tattling. That will merely make matters worse. Rather, simply ignore any comments of a tattling nature. When your child begins to talk about something else, start interacting immediately. You want to give your child attention for behaving properly. When tattling is ignored, it seldom persists for very long. It is when children get attention or when they are able to get another person in trouble, that tattling is rewarded.
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