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What To Do About Tattling

This week, The 4 Moms of 35+ Kids are discussing what to do about tattling among children.

Even before I had children, when I taught in the public school system, I had to deal with children tattling. It seems that one common tactic children employ to get attention from adults is to tattle about insignificant infractions among their peers.

I’m sure you’ve all heard about the children in the backseat of the car on a road trip who repeatedly call, “MOM! He won’t quit breathing on me!” or “He is staring at me!

By the way, I know for a fact that a grown woman can not lose her ever lovin’ mind because of excessive tattling. It does make for mighty unpleasant days, though, so let’s talk about some solutions!

Here are some solutions I have used to successfully curtail tattling:

  • Explain clearly the difference between senseless tattling and informing an adult of a real danger.

I won’t say whether or not we have a child my husband and I refer to as “The Informer” (and another we refer to as “The Sheriff”), but I will say that some children often truly believe that each and every infraction committed by a sibling should be reported to the adult in charge.

Give them concrete examples of misbehavior or silliness that does not need to be reported to you. This may vary from family to family, so be specific so your children will know your expectations.

Here is how that might sound in our family:

Girl: “Mommy! She said, ‘Duh!’ to me when I told her it was time to brush her teeth!”

Me: “That’s not nice to say. The Bible says a fool hates wisdom and instruction. Tell her that is foolish and rude to say.”

This would be a good time to give an example of a when it would be appropriate for the child to tell a parent when advice is being disregarded.

Me: “I don’t need to know every time she is rude to you. You can remind her yourself that it isn’t nice. If you had told her, ‘Don’t cross the street right now because I can see a car coming,’ and she had said, ‘Whatever!’ and began to cross anyway, then you should immediately tell me. Can you see that one of those situations involves danger and the other doesn’t?”

  • Curtail tattling by not making it easy to tattle.

When I taught 4th grade I kept an empty tissue box on my desk. I had wrapped it in pretty paper and written “Tattle Box” on the side. There was a slot in the top where students could put letters reporting infractions their classmates had committed. If the letters included 1) heading 2) greeting 3) body and 4) signature, I would address the concern.

Whenever a student started to tattle to me, I would remind them to put it in writing, in proper letter form, and drop it in the “Tattle Box”. This kept tattling to a minimum, because the tattle tale soon realized it wasn’t worth the effort to write all that out unless it was something important. Occasionally I got letters in the box that needed to be addressed and I was able to take care of whatever the problem was.

  • Reduce tattling by focusing on desired behavior.

Make sure you are training your children every day in how you expect them to behave. We like to read the Proverbs frequently and talk about the difference between being foolish and wise. I encourage each child to write, in his own words, what that means in this daily S.O.A.P. journal.

When my children are behaving, there is less to tattle about.

I think tattling is a greater temptation for some children than for others, and I think it seems to come naturally with childishness. This doesn’t mean tattling should be accepted and ignored. It should be dealt with, and can be curtailed.

All of these things have reduced tattling for me. What do you do about tattling?

Be sure to see what the rest of my 4 Moms team does about tattling at their houses.

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Comments

  1. The Tattle Box is all kinds of brilliant.

  2. I agree–the tattle box is genius! I’m totally remembering that for the next time I’m interacting with, and responsible for the well-being of a group of children. Do you still use that idea with your own kids now that you’re no longer teaching? So brilliant :)

    • Smockity Frocks says:

      I haven’t used it with my own children, but writing this post brought it to mind, so I may make one for our house!

  3. …I mean “no longer teaching professionally.” Obviously if you’re teaching your kids you’re still teaching :)

  4. I agree, tattling can be some children’s way of getting attention for themselves. My Mom used to say: “if someone’s bleeding or something’s on fire, *then* come and tell me”. That worked pretty well- we knew we’d be ignored for the petty stuff anway, so that lessened the tattlin’.

    Luckily, they grow out of it. I look forward to that day…in, you know, 30 years LOL

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