The BEST Tip to Tackle Tattling
Written by Maggie Cerria
Reviewed by Ali Kresch Levine, PsyD
“Moooooommm! Tommy hit me!!!” Does this sound familiar? If you have children, you probably know how frustrating it can be when one of your kids tattles on the other. Have no fear; this brief article provides a quick explanation about why kids tattle and has a great tip to help your family tackle tattling.
Why do kids tattle?
Usually, kids tattle when they recognize that their sibling has broken a house rule and they want to know that there will be a consequence for their behavior. Kids crave consistency and they want to make sure that the rules of the house are enforced. Although parents often cringe when they hear the “he said - she said,” tattling can actually be a good thing! When kids tattle, it means they understand the expectations of the house and this reinforces why it’s so important to have a clear set of house rules to make sure everyone is on the same page when it comes to expected behaviors.
This article from Psychology Today goes on to explain that “there’s a deeper reason behind children’s tattling: It’s an intermediate step in social development between direct, physical aggression and more sophisticated forms of interpersonal problem solving.” This is important to remember because young children inherently want to solve their problems but they haven’t developed the skills needed to do it on their own. As parents, if we understand why tattling occurs we can begin to teach our children the problem-solving skills needed to resolve conflicts without them needing to come to us.
Being a parent can be tough and there are times when the dinner is burning, the baby is crying, and the dog is barking at the back door and the last thing we want to hear is “she won’t let me have a turn!” In these stressful moments, wouldn’t it be great to have a helpful tip to address tattling?
This article from Imperfect Families includes a wonderful tip to help teach your kids the problem-solving skills they need to resolve their own conflicts so that they don’t have to tattle.
Tattling Tip - Be a Problem Solver
Imagine a situation where your younger child was playing and left a mess of toys after he was finished. Your older child walks by and since they understand the house rule of ‘Put the toys away after you play,’ they’ll come running to you to tattle on their younger sibling. When the older child comes to you, take a moment and ask them, “How can we be a problem solver to help in this situation?” Wait for their response, and if they need help you can try to encourage the older child to suggest playing a clean-up game with their younger sibling. This will help to keep everyone excited to follow the house rule, and help solve the problem of the messy playroom! More importantly, by encouraging your child to be a problem solver you're empowering them with the confidence that they can solve their problems on their own.
As your child begins to learn and practice their problem-solving skills, they will most likely require more of a "scaffold style" of support from you to help guide them. Eventually, their confidence will build as they make the connection of solving problems on their own, and your support can be weaned as they master the skill. This article includes some additional “problem solving” suggestions for different scenarios your child might tattle about. It shares and encourages a four-step model when educating kids to be problem solvers:
- Identify the problem
- Think about solutions
- Think about how solutions will impact others
- Try the solution
A Goodtimer is a great tool to encourage kids to follow your house rules and inspire them to have the autonomy to make great problem-solving decisions on their own. When you start using Goodtimer, you can use the included House Rules worksheet and include a rule to ‘be a problem solver’ and encourage your kids to stop tattling and start working with their siblings to solve their problems on their own. It might sound simple, but given some time your kids will stop tattling and start solving their problems on their own and you won’t have to constantly be the judge and jury dolling out punishments for rule-breakers.
Teaching our kids to solve problems on their own isn’t easy, but with patience and useful tools like Goodtimer, it’s possible to teach our kids to resolve their conflicts without our help. Taking a moment to address tattling when it occurs and encourage your kids to be independent problem-solvers will help to eliminate tattling and set them up for success in the future.