Thursday, November 4, 2010

Why is it a bad thing to be a tattle tale?

I am starting to hear my daughter say "we don't want to be a tattle tale" and when I put some thought to this it really actually bothers me.  I know she is hearing this at daycare and she is in that "tattle tale stage".  But seriously - why is it bad and looked down on, often labeling the child and making them feel horrible for telling the truth.  Do we not want our kids to tell us the truth?  Do we want our kids to come to us if something is wrong?  Do we want open communications with our kids?

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 -


  1. You are a women of wisdom!

  2. I must say you put much thought into this very important topic. I am guilty of doing this with my sons a lot. More times than not it is about each other and about "it's my turn of his", but there has been a time when I am glad that my son trusted me enough to tell. It was probably the hardest thing for him to do, but he told just the same. I do know it was the constant nagging I do with my kids about how no matter what happens they can always come to me with anything and I won't be mad if you tell me the truth.

  3. I never thought of it that way! Lil Mootz is too little yet to understand tattling...heck, he can't even say his own name yet, but once he reaches that stage, you're absolutely right, it's important that I teach him the difference between "tattling" and telling me something of genuine concern. I do want him to know that he can tell me anything, regardless of the situation, and give it the attention it deserves.

  4. OMG - I'm sooo excited to actually have comments on my blog post! Thanks girls.

  5. I hear ya! Our princess of the house has been trying to establish her monarchy with constant corrections to her little brother(s. yes, even the baby!). When they don't listen she comes running to me - I can tell by the foot poundings when it's a tattle coming down the stairs. We had a conversation when it first started about when it's appropriate to come tell me: someone could get hurt; or someone is being mean and you couldn't work it out with them when you tried to talk to them. I was taken back when another parent immediately accused my daughter of tattling on hers when, personally, I would have wanted to know if it was my kid. What she was doing was dangerous and isn't allowed in my house. I was worried, like you mentioned, how this would affect her future decisions about when it's time to tell an adult. I just brought up the difference about tattling and getting an adult to help, and assured her I was happy she came to tell me because I would have been worried the other child could have been hurt. These kids can only learn how to make decisions if we guide them HOW to do it, instead of just labeling them for it!