Tattling seems to be an inherent characteristic; once a child develops a working vocabulary and a sense of justice he seems compelled to rat out siblings, friends and even Dad for every minor offense. Fortunately, you can help your child learn how tattling affects others and teach him more constructive methods of resolving difficult situations.
A few simple sock puppets or paper puppets can help your child remember not to tattle. Talk about how tattling makes your child feel; she might feel happy when she gets to tattle, but how does it feel when someone tattles on her? Have her think about how it makes other people feel when she tattles on them. Once you have a range of emotions, such as angry, sad and surprised, make one puppet for each emotion, each featuring a facial expression that expresses that emotion. Talk to your child about using the puppets to remember how tattling makes everyone feel. Keep them on her bedside table or in the playroom as a continuous reminder.
The Tattle Hamburger
A child who wants to point out another's flaws or get some attention for himself will soon lose interest when you insist upon tattle hamburgers. The purpose of this activity is to focus on each person's good characteristics more than the bad. Explain to your child that anytime he wants to tattle on anybody, he first must start off by saying something nice about them -- that's the bottom half of the hamburger bun. He can then tattle – that's the hamburger meat -- but it must be followed by another compliment to add the other half of the bun. As the activity forces a child to focus more on the positive qualities of others, the tattling will decrease.
Help your child act out a variety of tattling-related scenarios to understand how it makes people feel and to learn alternatives to tattling. Find a time when your child is calm and role play using costume play. Have your child take turns being the tattler and the person being tattled on. Provide different scenarios for her to explore, such as fighting over a toy, somebody cutting in front of her in line or not sharing the crayons when it's time to color. Talk about more useful ways to handle difficult scenarios like these and then practice acting out the solutions. See if your child can come up with a few alternatives to tattling, too. Later, put the play into practice. If your child runs to tell you that her brother took her toy, ask her how she tried to resolve it. If she hasn't, send her back to try. If she has and it didn't work, praise her for trying and help her come up with a new solution so that both parties are happier.
Tattling Versus Reporting
It is important to help children learn to differentiate between tattling and reporting. For example, it is tattling when someone doesn't want to give your child a toy, but it's reporting if someone is hurt or in danger. Reporting conveys important information about an incident or event. Talk about the difference in intention between the two similar acts; tattling is for the purpose of self gain, whereas reporting is to help someone else. Ask your child to come up with a few examples of his own to demonstrate the difference between tattling and reporting. Then, if your child tells you his sister is jumping on the table, praise him and point out that he's helping his sister stay safe.
- Thinking Parent, Thinking Child: How to Turn Your Most Challenging Problems into Solutions; Myrna Shure Ph.D.
- How to Handle the Hard-to-Handle Student, K-5; Maryln S. Appelbaum
- Sage Publications: How to Handle Children Who Are Disruptive
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