These Magic Words Will Instantly Stop Tattling


stop tattling

Tattling is really confusing for parents. On the one hand, you’re glad that you’re little one has a sense of justice, or at least knows the rules. On the other hand, something inside you knows that at least some of the time, tattling isn’t really right. And of course, it can get plain annoying.

So what’s a mom to do? Some moms follow up with the accused and play judge, listening to both sides and the cross-examination before delivering a sentence. Other moms just believe their child and straight up punish the supposed perpetrator. Honestly, the former is just as bad as the latter because 1) you never really know what truly transpired and you don’t know if you’re being fair, and 2) it’s draining to get so deeply involved in these things.

There’s a third approach of automatically punishing the tattler, where some parents deliver the consequence appropriate to the said behavior to the kid who told instead of the kid who did it. I honestly hate this approach. I get that it’s supposed to deter tattling, but there’s no logic to it, and your kid will resent you for it. They have a keen sense of justice. And no parents want their kids to be afraid to tell them something important, but this approach will make that pretty likely.  

See, there are things we DO want kids to come to us with, and things we really don’t want them to. We need a way to help them differentiate.

Let’s look a little closer. What’s the big deal about tattling? It is problematic because the tattler is informing an adult of something with the specific goal of getting someone else in trouble.

That’s tattling. But there’s tattling and then there’s telling. Telling is different because it’s motivated by genuine care for another person and true concern for their safety or someone else’s. A child who tells need the adult’s help to fix a problem.

If you are approached with a report from a tiny police officer, first of all, I have to tell you this. Don’t do anything until you understand that no one is in danger. Straight up ask, “Is something unsafe happening?”

You do need to rule out emergencies and injuries that need your immediate attention. If someone’s in danger, clearly model that we focus on restoring safety before we worry about follow up or possible consequences.

Once that’s either out of the way or the situation has been addressed, you can pull out the magic words. Drumroll…

“Are you trying to get someone IN trouble or OUT of trouble?”

That’s the deciding factor in determining whether this is tattling or telling. If it turns out to be tattling, you can let the incident go (remember that you’ve already ensured everyone’s immediate safety), and you should also work on the tattler’s heart by helping him understand that his intentions aren’t kind. If they were truly telling, you can thank them for coming to you, and take it from there.

So next time you hear the dreaded, “Moooooommm!” and you know what’s coming next, just remember the magic words:

Are you trying to get someone IN trouble or OUT of trouble?



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