If your child was being bullied - would you want them to tell you?
If your child knew of something that could affect someone's safety - would you want them to tell you?
If your child knew of a crime or abuse being committed - would you want them to tell you?
I hope your answer would be "ABSO-FREAKIN-LUTELY!"
So why do people instill in their young children (often between 2-5 years old) that it's not right to "tattle” (squeal, rat, nark, snitch, hate). I realize "Jenny took my toy" is a lot different then "Brutus keeps shoving me in my locker", so we need to use discretion as parents on how to appropriately handle the tattling.
I often see this when a child complains to an adult: a. the adult doesn't actually know if the other person is guilty of the accusation or b. the adult doesn't know how to handle the situation. I don't think you should say to the tattling child right away "don't be a tattle tale, it's not nice". Now, I don't agree that you should just react after a "tattle" has been told either. You need to watch and be confident that the person is truly guilty and decide if it requires action.
Often times young tattle tales don't even require any action from the adult. They are insignificant things - but keep in mind that it wasn't insignificant to your child at the time. Maybe sometimes the kid tattling needs someone to just listen to them. Pay attention to what they may be trying to tell you, and I don't mean just their words. Maybe something is going on emotionally with them and they just want your attention, or maybe even just your recognition of their own good behavior.
How about when a tattle tale happens respond to them by saying something like "thank you for not joining in and making fun of Jenny, I know you know that is not nice and I appreciate your concern" instead of just saying "don't be a tattle tale". Try putting the focus back on them in a positive way. It could communicate to the tattler that the truth is ok at the same time you are not just going react towards the offenders right away just because they told on them. I think sometimes when we just halt it with "don't be a tattle tale" we unconsciously just inhibited them from speaking the truth. And we all want our kids to tell us the truth about everything don't we?
As I mentioned before, after a tattle happens you need to watch and know if something is going on that does need addressed. We can’t just jump in and solve all of our kid’s social conflicts. If we did that they’d never learn how to resolve conflicts with friends. And if we jump in all of the time (or even just once) the tattler will have repercussions from his/her “friends” for tattling. Remember – it’s not always easy for the tattler. A friend reminded me of this by saying “when is it ever easy to do the right thing?”
- Mamma G -