In a Nutshell: With a little planning, you can reduce the tattles, teach kids valuable skills, and save a little sanity along the way.
Do you want to train your kids to tattle? Luckily for you, I have uncovered the magic formula! Just follow these two steps, and I can practically guarantee a house filled with tattle tales.
First, every time children argue, step in and try to solve the problem immediately. This shows them they can’t solve anything without you.
Second, when a child comes a-tattling, immediately take her side and punish the other child.
Oh, you don’t want to train your child to tattle? Me either! In fact, there is almost nothing that irritates, frustrates, and exasperates me more than the unwelcome combo package of bickering and tattling. If your summer days are filled with constant cries of “Mooooommmm!” coming from conflict-filled corners of the house, here are some ideas to reduce the tattles, teach kids valuable skills, and save a little sanity along the way.
1. Teach the difference between tattling and reporting
Whatever you call it (whistle blowing, reporting, telling), teach kids the correct time to come to you with information. I may despise tattling, but I really want kids to tell me if a sibling is bullying, lying to me, or breaking other big rules. We can teach kids that there are times when it is good and courageous to tell an adult when things are going wrong, and how that is different from tattling. Play a game with kids and give them scenarios like, “Your sister took a bigger cookie and left you the small one” or “You saw your sister take a candy bar from the store.” Ask them if that is a situation they should come tell you about. Help them realize the difference between a good ol’ stinking tattle, and a helpful and necessary report.
2. Stay out of the fray
Kids inevitably try to draw adults to their side when there is conflict. But it amazes me how often adults don’t even wait to be sucked in before they jump headfirst into minor childhood arguments. Most inconsequential sibling bickering can safely be ignored by a parent. Give them a little space to negotiate and learn to deal with conflicts on their own if no one is in danger of getting hurt (physically or emotionally). Just doing this one thing will help reduce the tattle bug and help kids learn how to handle the inevitable skirmishes that come with life.
3. Role play negotiation skills
It may seem awkward at first, but I’ve found that role playing skills is by far the best way to deal with sibling rivalry. After a conflict has occurred, analyze what went wrong. Is one kid not sharing toys? Is one child always trying to make the other play the way he wants? Is someone feeling like their privacy is always invaded? What skill was lacking in the way the kids dealt with it? Maybe you could teach a toddler to ask, “Do you want to trade?” instead of grabbing, or encourage a teen to say, “Please leave my room” instead of pushing someone out. This is where the great phrase of “Let’s try that again” can come in handy. If a consequence has been given for misbehavior, role playing the right way to deal with the situation can be offered as a way to reduce the punishment. Kids who have practiced skills are more likely to use them to resolve the conflict, instead of running to tattle to you.
4. Develop a strategy for dealing with tattling
My sister has had a “family court” to help kids deal with conflicts. Other people have established a set consequence for tattling, treating it like the misbehavior it is. Some parents like to use a phrase like, “I hope it works out” or “I bet this is one you can handle on your own.” If the tattling is extreme in your house, you can make a chart for “No Tattle Days” to earn a family reward, or have kids earn privileges only when they’ve had a “No Tattle Day” the day before. If all else fails, get creative with your strategies. When we were little, when we’d come tattling, my fun mom used to give us random things to go tell the offending sibling. She’d say things like, “You go tell her that flowers on rocks never flourish.” We’d march right up to each other and repeat the nonsense. There are lots of options, but have a strategy ahead of time. (BTW, getting mad and saying, “Why can’t you two ever get along?” probably doesn’t count as a strategy :).)
Sibling rivalry and tattling go with the territory of having more than one child in a room. But you don’t have to let it leave you frazzled. There is hope! With a little thought and planning, you can tame…not train…tattling.