Kids are a joy to have around, usually, but the years from infancy to preadolescent can be very challenging for any parent. “Mom, she took my pencil!” “Dad, he’s sticking out his tongue to mock me!” Do your children constantly complain about rule-breaking behavior to you? Is your child being mocked or bullied in school for complaining to his teachers for little things? Then he or she is probably exhibiting a very common, but very annoying character trait known as tattling.
All You Need to Know about Tattletale
What is tattling?
Usually tattling is a child complaining to an adult about someone breaking rules or simply annoying them, usually to get the person doing so into trouble.
Tattling versus Telling
One has to differentiate between tattling and telling. If a person complains to an adult about something valid, say an older bully in school who has tried to hurt him, then that is telling for his own safety and not tattling. Telling should be encouraged, as the kid should stand up for themselves and defend. If there is an adult mistreating them, pay attention to your child and don’t invalidate their claim before investigating.
Understanding a tattling child
Of course parenting is hard work and it can seem exhausting. It is easy to lose patience and resort to strict punishments without addressing the issue at hand. It is important to remember that you have to understand why your kid is behaving the way they are. Some common causes of tattling are:
If the two siblings don’t generally get along with each other, they can turn bitter and tattle just to see the other one be punished. It can be caused by the child feeling left out or derived of love and affection. To negate this jealousy, make sure you pay equal attention to both kids. Healthy competitiveness is good but too much of competition would make them feel inadequate and not let those lead healthy emotional lives.
Attention seeking and one-upping
Even if your child is a single child, they may feel like they are being neglected. In some cases they want to one-up their peers by complaining about their rule breaking and be a favourite of their teachers. Wanting the assistance of adults is common as children are just learning their way around the world, however tattling should be discouraged.
Talking to the tattletale
More often than not, huge problems with no easy solution in sight can be solved by talking. Although it is more difficult with children, a decent conversation can do wonders.
Explain the tattletale child why what they’re doing is not desirable.
Children don’t often realize the full consequences of their actions. Their worldview is still developing and they are learning from their mistakes. Tell them they should involve themselves only when they are being affected directly. For example, if a child is not paying attention in class and drawing instead of solving sums, it is up to the teacher to notice and discipline them. They do not need to report it.
Best ways to Discourage Tattling
Encourage children to encourage each other’s achievements
Once they learn to celebrate each other’s victories, feelings of harmony and joy would develop. Also be careful about leading by example and do not criticize or put others down in your conversations.
Help your child to develop good social behavior
Encourage your child to make more friends and talk or play with children of his age. Enroll them in afterschool team-building activities like football or group dancing. Ask them to spend time outdoors with their peers. As they interact more and find common ground with people their age, the feelings of resentment and hostility will reduce and your child will learn to have fun without tattling. Ask them to be patient and train them to be a good listener. Tattling often arises due to lack of empathy and understanding, or from jealousy about not being included in an activity. Once they develop better emotional skills, they will learn to build healthy friendships and reduce tattling.
Think about your child’s need for attention
Parents often tend to play favourites without realizing. Some children are easier to deal with than others. In that case you may be favouring the one who does homework without asking, eats their greens easily, or does not create a nuisance without any reason. The one who is type-casted as a troublemaker may tattle only to get your attention in some way. In that case, praise little achievements in the tattletale child’s personal lives or schoolwork. Encourage them to tell you about your day. Converse, listen, and be patient.
- Ask your child to address the problem directly. If a classmate is bothering them by being loud, or making irritating noises, ask your child to request the child to be quiet. Instead of complaining to the teacher “He’s making loud noises and being annoying!” you could ask him to tell his classmate “Please be quiet.” Respectful conversation is better than snitching.
- Ask your child to reflect on their motives before complaining. They should think whether they are complaining about what the person is doing is a threat to their safety or mental health, or whether they are just jealous and irritated. If they want to complain simply to get the other person into trouble, you should make them understand there is no use for tattling.
- Ask your children to tell good deeds instead of just the bad ones. Reverse the psychology behind tattling. Instead of negativity, they would spread positivity.
- Cut the monologue short and don’t give long lectures. Children get desensitized to long speeches. Instead ask “Can I help you in any way? What do you want me to do?”
With these easy tactics, your children will understand why tattling is not a solution and it will discourage them from tattling. They will find healthier ways to channel their unpleasant feelings and grow up to form stable and healthy friendships.