“Mom, look Amit has turned on the television without your permission” or “Mom, Priya hit me,” complains your child. The endless reporting of other kids’ misbehaviour or wrong actions, commonly known as ‘tattling’, can be annoying for parents.
Parents are often tempted to discourage tattling by asking them to resolve their own problems. This may seem like the right thing to do in normal circumstances as you are teaching your child to be independent.
However, this well-meaning advice can confuse your child. Kids might interpret it as a closed door policy and may feel emotionally and physically deprived. Your child is also likely to not tell you when he/she is being bullied or if someone is in danger.
Rather than simply shutting off tattling, you need to have a better plan to handle it and tell your child when or what he/she should be reporting.
Reasons why kids tattle might be
- Need for attention or recognition.
- Need for emotional or social support as he/she is unable to resolve problems on their own.
- A way for kids to show off their understanding of rules and spot wrong from right.
- Intended to boost their self-esteem at the expense of another kid’s bad behaviour or actions.
Tips to discourage tattling
- Encourage your child to think before he/she acts. Help them build their decision-making skills by teaching them to identify incidents based on whether it needs adult attention or can be handled on their own. If it threatens someone’s safety, teach them to bring it your notice immediately.
- Assure your child that if he/she is unsure of how to handle a particular situation, he/she can come to you anytime.
- Equip your child to solve problems on his/her own. If your child is facing a problem with a child who is not ready to share, teach them to request, negotiate and take turns.
- Take the attraction away from tattling by gently telling your child about the feeling of the person he/she tattled on. Tell your child how betrayed and sad the other child must have felt and one day he/ she could also be on the receiving end. This will not only discourage tattling but also teach your kid empathy.
- Do not punish the kid he/she tattled on, at least not publicly.
- Positive appreciation and paying attention when needed keeps your child feeling secure so that they do not try to find ways to get it.
- Teach them that while they intend for everyone to obey rules, it is not always possible to ensure it. It is also a great way to teach your child to let go and reflect on his/her own behaviour.
You need to curb your preschooler’s instinct to come running to you every time something happens. However, at the same time, you also need to teach them to identify telling from tattling and speak up when needed.