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How to Effectively Deal With A Tattler

Stop Tattletales Today

How to Effectively Deal With A Tattler

Tattling can be a particularly annoying problem, especially among siblings, who are often trying to one up each other in the game of sibling rivalry. Still, when one child comes to you to tattle on the other, it can be difficult to know how to handle the situation without sending one child or the other exactly the wrong message.

If you punish the child who is legitimately misbehaving, then your tattletale learns that the behavior is effective, but if you punish the tattletale are you teaching the other child that they can simply get away with it?

The answer just doesn’t seem to be obvious, but perhaps that is because you are looking at the problem the wrong way. It turns out that the problem isn’t really about who to punish or how. It’s about nipping bad behavior in the bud all around.

Start With The Foundations

Begin with good ground rules. Before you ever have a problem with tattling, it is important that you communicate to your children what kind of information they should be sharing with you—and what they should not. We all worry that if we punish and discourage tattling indiscriminately that our children won’t come to us when someone is behaving in a manner we really need to know about.

Make sure that your children know that you should absolutely be informed when dangerous and other serious behaviors are at issue. At the same time, discourage them from coming to you with problems they can solve themselves by refusing to take a punitive interest and forcing them to deal with the issue on their own.

If your child knows that you will respond to petty complaints with a neutral response, they will lose interest in dragging you into the matter. As for the reported misbehavior, chances are, you will have an opportunity to observe and correct it independently of your interaction with the tattler.

The Tattling Habit

Despite this, you may still find yourself dealing with a confirmed tattler at one point or another. Worse, this is an epidemic that can spread from one child to another. Though it can take time to undo a habit like this, with a little work, it is possible. You can start by re-emphasizing the rules to your child, explaining that tattling is not a desirable behavior. Then you may want to take some time to determine what your child’s motivation is. Do they want attention? Are they using tattling behavior to govern their siblings' and peers' behavior?

Do they have a problem with a particular child? None of these issues excuses the behavior, but knowing about them can help you deal with it more effectively. For example, a child who craves attention or has self-esteem issues needs to be taught to look for positive attention, while a child who has a particular problem with another child may need to be taught some healthier conflict resolution skills. These solutions will be separate from the way that you handle tattling behavior, but without them, your attempts will be less successful.

When to Punish A Child For Tattling

Sometimes, tattling gets to a point where a punishment is necessary. If you've already exhausted your other options and the behavior is still continuing, it may be time to take a more severe approach. You shouldn't jump to punish your child as a first stop, but it becomes necessary after a while if other strategies have not worked.

Always pick a punishment equal to the action. If your child is tattling on others when they do know the parameters for when they should go to an adult, begin by simply scolding them. Tell them that they know when they should and shouldn't be coming to an adult, and that you don't want to be bothered again with problems they can solve on their own. They can ask for advice, but you won't solve small problems for them. Inform them that they can ask you at any time if they need a refresher on when something is and isn't tattling, but otherwise they need to mind their manners.

If the problem persists after this, it may be time to take a privilege away. Don't pick something too drastic, but do choose something that gets the message across. Perhaps they won't be allowed to go to a friend's house for a couple of weeks, or they'll lose access to the T.V. for a week. This should get the message to your child that they need to listen to what you've said about tattling versus reporting an actual issue.

The key here is to make sure your child understands that they can come to you for legitimate issues. When they do, you want to reinforce it with a positive response. But, when they continuously tattle on others when they do know better, you want to respond in a way that discourages that behavior. By tackling this problem head-on, you can nip it in the bud sooner rather than later.

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