Tattle-taling is a NORMAL part of development.
It begins as early as the age of 3. All children do it.
The truth is, preschoolers are only able to think in black and white terms. And if things don’t go their way, they feel they have been wronged. Period.
The upside is that by tattling, preschoolers demonstrate they understand ruleshave been broken, implying that they know the difference between right and wrong. At this age, however, they have not mastered conflict resolution. Their only outlet is to tell an adult what is going on, often misinterpreted as tattling.
We all want to raise our children to be independent thinkers, learn to trust their own instincts and to make decisions on their own.
So while trying to encourage these qualities, how can we determine when they are just informing us of a situation or when they are telling us in the hopes that we will intervene?
Is there really a difference between these two scenarios?
Before scolding your children, make sure you know exactly what is going on.
Children tattle in dangerous situations.
We try to teach our children to tell an adult if they or someone they are with is in a dangerous situation. In such cases, be sure to praise your children for bringing awareness to the situation.
Children need to feel like you are taking their problems seriously.
Children may also tattle when they are confused.
Children may not know the difference between something that could be harmful or dangerous and something that is just plain irritating. They may tattle, not for purpose of getting another child in trouble, but rather because another child’s behaviour makes them feel uncomfortable or because they know it is wrong. Often children tattle because at that moment they are not sure what to do with the information.
It is best to empower these children. There is no need to rescue them, but give them ideas on how best to handle the situation on their own. This teaches them problem-solving skills from an early age.
Determine if you really want to get involved.
Remind your children as often as necessary that unless there is danger, you do not need to know about it. And if your children are acting appropriately, praise them.
A rule in our house has always remained strong: No tattle-taling unless, somebody is ‘bleeding’. Clearly this is an extreme boundary, but it sends our children the message that they need to think long and hard before coming to us to complain.
Does this always work? Of course not. And we too continue to encourage them to work out their problems on their own.
Keep in mind that if you decide to get involved, there is often no turning back. If there is a need for you to discipline the ‘other’ child, you are merely reinforcing the tattle-taler’s behaviour, regardless of the outcome.
The good news is that beyond preschool and as children mature, they are better able to differentiate between telling and tattle-taling. It then becomes the parents’ responsibility to manage what often feels like incessant complaining. As children mature, with parental guidance, they develop their own means of coping.
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