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Tackling Tattling

“MOOOOOOMM!!!  Charlie keeps looking at me and I don’t want him to!”  “DAAAAAADD!!!!!  Joanna won’t play with me!”   As parents, we’re all familiar with the tone, the complaints, and the whine in the voice that may even cause some of you to cringe just by reading this post.  Although there have been times when I’ve appreciated my older son telling me that my younger son just dumped the entire bin of Legos in the laundry room as I was rounding the corner with an armful of laundry, for example, it is tiring hearing of every small complaint he has regarding his brother’s behavior.  Tattling is definitely one of those hot button items that can leave the whole family feeling frustrated.

In the posts “Teaching a Tattler – Part 1”  and “Teaching a Tattler – Part 2” Amy McCready outlines the reasons children tattle; to get our attention, to “parent” their siblings as a way to feel more important, or simply because they don’t have the skill set to solve the problem on their own.  McCready suggests that you set aside time to talk to your child about tattling, specifically by making sure he or she knows the difference between tattling (getting the other person in trouble), and informing (getting the other person out of trouble).  Situations that warrant informing include any where a person is in a dangerous or potentially dangerous situation, such as a child playing with matches, going into the street, using drugs or alcohol, bullying, inappropriate adult contact, or stealing.  Tattling, then, encompasses the everyday complaints, “he-said, she-said,” or unfair childhood moments.

After distinguishing the difference between tattling and informing, it is useful, says McCready, to use role-play scenarios to reinforce the difference.  After the explaining and training, you can now set the standard for your child, and let them know that you expect they will limit their “I’m telling” to informing, rather than tattling.  Expect, however, that your child will still come to you from time to time with tattling information.  When this happens, simply ask him or her, “Are you telling me this to get your sister in trouble, or are you trying to help her?”  If your child responds that they are trying to help, this is another opportunity to teach problem solving skills by asking him or her what ideas they have to help the situation.  McCready also suggests that if the tattling is a result of a simple sibling argument, express your confidence in your children to work it out, and give them a chance to exercise those problem solving skills.

McCready’s posts give a simple, concrete plan for dealing with tattling.  Another great resource that can help with parenting strategies is Kidtelligent!  The Kidtelligent assessment can give you insight into your child and offer suggestions based on his or her unique personality type.  To learn more about Kidtelligent, go to, or follow us on Facebook at