“He did it.” “She looked at me!” “He stole my iPod.”
For parents, it can be really tough to know how to handle tattling. Do you ignore it? Do you let them duke it out? Do you plug in your own iPod and drown it out?
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Here are a few options for you to try and see what works for you.
Option #1: Define the difference between tattling and telling.
It helps to be clear with children about when it’s important to tell an adult about upsetting behaviors. One way to do that is to teach children the difference between “tattling” and “telling” and then you can develop a family rule about it.
Tattling is when you tell on someone just to get the other person in trouble.
Telling is when you tell an adult that you trust that someone has hurt your body, or is threatening to hurt you or someone else. You should also tell an adult when someone uses words to hurt your feelings over and over.
So when Sue comes and tells you that Joe breathed on her, you can ask “Is your body hurt?” If not, that’s tattling and you don’t listen to the rest of her story.
Option #2: Ignore it and let them work it out between themselves. If one child comes to talk to you, you can empathize, but send the child back equipped to handle the situation on their own by role playing what s/he might say to the other sibling.
Option #3: NEVER take sides in a sibling disagreement.
This advice comes from “Mom! Jason’s Breathing on Me! The Solution to Sibling Bickering” by Anthony E. Wolf. The pat answer you should always use, according to Wolf is “The two of you. Stop it now. ” You never listen to details and you never take sides. You respond “I don’t want to hear about it.” Wolf’s contention is that siblings tattle to “win” and if you respond and/or take sides that child will “win” and will continue to tattle.
Option #4: Tell the bunny.
A first-grade teacher used this strategy. When a student in her class would come to tell her about an offense, she would ask if anyone was hurt? If not, she would instruct the child to “Go tell the bunny.” (A stuffed animal with big ears to listen with that she kept in the classroom.) The child would also be encouraged to write down the offense on a piece of paper that was put in the “telling box.” At the end of the day, the teacher would read the offenses privately and none of them warranted intervention. This practice significantly reduced the amount of “tattling” that the teacher had to listen to each day.
Option #5: Problem-Solve.
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If the situation warrants it, you may want to take the time to teach your children a method for solving problems. Let’s say that two kids want to play computer at the same time and one child comes to tell you about it. You can use the BEAR method for problem-solving. First, ask “What’s the problem and then define the problem in neutral terms.
Then, proceed with these steps: