love kids. I have always loved kids. Kids are joy pure and simple, they
are fluffy clouds, rainbows, unicorns, and kittens all rolled up into
little humans... Even though they don't always act like it. When they
don't act like it I can put up with defiance and sass mouth, I have all
the patience in the world for doddling and never ending random
questions, but if there was one trait that I could genetically engineer
out of every child everywhere it would be tattle telling.
it's the fact that I am not really into rules. Maybe I just like it
when people mind there own dang business. Whatever it is, the constant
whining drawn out calls that 'so and so did something' make my skin
crawl. They make me want to scream. Make me want to banish otherwise
perfectly lovable & awesome children to a deep dark pit never to be
heard from again. Seriously.
child I've ever met has come into this phase at some point and for
years I have been very carefully observing what makes these tattle tales
tick in order to minimize, if not totally eliminate it from my son
it work? Most likely not, I highly suspect that tattling is just one of
those perfectly normal developmental stages that we must do our best to
accept, but my sanity is so totally worth the try.
may be completely wrong here, but I feel like constant tattling (and I
am talking serial tattling here, like the kid at our swim class who
complains when everyone isn't swimming in the right direction.) is
sometimes a sign that kids are struggling to understand concepts and
develop skills (i.e. Boundaries and problem solving), while the common
adult reactions to it (in my case the exasperated brush-off) are often
unhelpful in meeting those needs to learn and understand.
also noticed that tattle telling has two phases. First as children
start to learn about and try to understand the rules and boundaries in
place for them, and second as children are learning to navigate social
interactions with peers on their own.
the first phase, the worst tattling offenders always seem to be the
children receiving the most verbal correction and direction from the
adults around them. Usually because they have the most rules to follow.
It's been my experience that these children are often more worried about
doing things 'right' then just doing things and having fun. It has also
been my experience that this worry extends to everyone around them
& they end up mirroring the constant verbal correction they get from
adults in the form of tattling.
I suggesting that children don't need clear and consistent rules and
boundaries? Of coarse not. But maybe they do need less of them, and
maybe we as parents could find more creative ways to teach these rules
then simply spouting them out every time our children come close to our
boundaries. Because if *I* find it ridiculously annoying when children
spout rules at each other at every infraction, imagine how annoying it
is for Oliver to hear it from me.
developmental phase two of tattling this constant correction and rule
spouting leaves children with few examples or tools to use in social
situations with peers. In a difficult situation the only thing a child
may know to do is recite an enforceable rule, yet many children have
never been granted any authority with which to enforce the rules, nor
any leadership or problem solving skills to find solutions and are left
with only the option to run straight to the nearest adult.
basically I have developed a 'nip tattling in the bud before it even
starts' plan that involves not only giving my son more freedom from
unnecessary rules, but also changing the way I teach him our family rules
to promote confidence, decision making and problem solving, and do my best not
model rule spouting and telling to him.
I said earlier, I am not in any way suggesting that this might actually
work. For me it is simply worth the extra effort to ensure I am giving
my son the tools and confidence to solve problems in his own way.
1: set up reliable routines
eliminating the need to spout out rules and repeat myself over and over
again, I have found that most all 'rules' can be replaced painlessly
with routines. 'Don't leave your toys out' and 'Wash your hands before
you eat' don't really have to be rules if you lead by example and just
do them as part of a reliable routine. I have talked about using routine
to set boundaries with young children before, and as Oliver grows I
find myself relying on them more and more.
only do reliable routines allow us to teach good habits and work with
our children to learn important skills without conflict or power
struggles, they also have the added benefit of giving kids control and
confidence. Oliver can and often does initiate several of our routines
by himself and has recently started asking us not to help him as he
starts to take pride in what he can do for himself.
every routine get executed exactly how I would want it to? No. Is
Oliver always an enthusiastic participant? No. Does that really matter?
Not one bit, It is worth it that he is learning self motivation and
ownership/pride of a job well done.
hope this will help him tackle tough situations on his own in the
future, but at the very least I will have avoided modelling to him the
kind of 'rule spouting' that tattling seems to mirror.
2: focus on the feelings
are some rules that are more serious then a fun routine. In our house
they all fall under one of three main rules; respect yourself, respect
others, respect your environment. but while things like 'no hitting' are
most definitely rules in our house I try my best to avoid simply
telling my son not to hit. I much prefer to focus on developing empathy
and emotional maturity then having Oliver follow hard and fast rules. In
stead of 'No hitting' I am more likely to say 'ouch, Oliver that hurt
when you hit me and made me very sad'. I firmly believe that this will
help Oliver when he is negotiating difficult situations with peers by
giving him the words to stand up for himself and make his feelings
known, as well as the empathy and compassion for others.
can work in a variety of situations positive or negative and is
something I try to focus on daily. 'Oliver, it scares me when you jump
on the furniture, I don't want you to get hurt' or 'it makes me so proud
when you treat your books so nicely'
3: give options and alternatives:
of constantly correcting a child's behavior with negative words or
simply reciting rules, I try to add positive language to the
conversation and create an environment where I can say 'yes' more then
'no' to build upon confidence, pride in accomplishment, and model
problem solving skills that they can then take with them when they start
striking out on their own and interacting with peers.
of 'hang up your coat and put your shoes away' I try 'where would you
like to hang your coat? On the hook or in your room?' and then let them
do it themselves. Or combine this method with the focus on
feelings with 'it scares me when you do that, it's dangerous, would you
like to jump on a cushion on the floor instead?'
open ended options and alternatives can be overwhelming for some
children, but they are also a great way to promote creativity and
problem solving. 'you and your friend are having trouble sharing that
toy. Can you think of something else you can do together?'
I hear myself saying these things and I feel silly, especially when the
results aren't immediate. But then I think about how amazing it would be
to hear Oliver model this type of language instead of tattling and it
feels totally worth it.
4: relax and let things go
Is it really so important to me that Oliver always uses an 'inside
voice' when we are inside or always says 'please' and 'thank you'? These
are both traits that I would like to teach him of coarse, but is it
really worth it to me to interrupt otherwise positive moments to correct
his behavior when he doesn't?
the 'please' and 'thank-you's are implied by the sweetness of his
tone. Other times they are omitted because he just isn't in a very good
mood. Sometimes inside games get really too exciting for an inside
voice and sometimes it is necessary to be loud to fully express big
way, it's ok to let the rules go sometimes and just be in that moment
as it is. Whether the child notices these letting go moments or not, I
still think it is a good skill to model for them. Not everyone is going
to have the same rules, not everyone is going to follow them all the
time, and in the midst of a happy moment, so long as no one is getting
hurt, there's no need to worry about it.
the end will these steps help to minimize the tattling in my future? I
would like to think so. I would certainly never turn my child away if he
came to me for help but giving him the tools to solve his own problems
is also very important to me so at the very least I won't need to
intervene in every single tiny injustice he perceives and hopefully I
can find within myself the patience to approach each tattling as a
do you think? Have I missed any key elements to tattle telling? Do you
have any tips for promoting confidence and problem solving in your
children? How do you react when your children tattle on other kids?