Tattletales often have a negative association because kids see them as someone who spoils the fun and tries to control what other children do by telling an adult when another child does something they don’t like. However, there is a right and wrong time to tell an adult when something is going wrong. To avoid your child being labeled a gossip or a snitch, it’s important for parents to talk to their child about how not to be a tattle tale and when it’s okay to tell an adult what’s going on.
Tattle Tale Definition
While most people understand a tattle tale is someone who tells on the behavior of other people, the Merriam Webster Dictionary lists the definition as “a child who tells a parent, teacher, etc., about something bad or wrong that another child has done.” When a child is labeled as a tattle tale by other children, it may lead that child to lose friends or have difficulty joining in with the other children because they fear the child will tell on them, even if they aren’t doing something wrong. They may also call your child by another tattle tale synonym, including snitch, squealer or spy. All of these names can hurt your child’s feelings and his reputation.
Why Do Children Become Tattle Tales?
There are many reasons why children feel the need for telling on friends or anyone else they may encounter. For young children, the reasons are often different than for older children. For instance, a young child may feel the need to tell because they haven’t yet developed the right social skills to handle the situation in a more appropriate manner. It can also be the result of sibling rivalry or the need for attention. Young children are also developing a moral compass and may be struggling with whether something is right or wrong.
Older children, particularly those in middle and high school, are less likely to tattle in general, but when they do, there are different reasons for it. For instance, children who tattle at this age often have difficulty with social problem solving skills.. They are also more likely to become a tattle tale on a particular person if they want to get back at him for something he’s done to them. Older children are more likely to use telling as a method of gossip or in a vindictive matter.
When Is It Okay to Tattle Tale
While much of what happens among children doesn’t necessitate tattling, there are certain times when a child should feel comfortable reaching out to an adult they trust to get help. As a general rule, if a child is hurting another child, either emotionally or physically, it’s okay to talk to an adult about the behavior and help the hurt child get help. Illegal actions should also be reported as soon as possible. However, many other social issues that occur should be handled among the children if at all possible.
In most cases, if the situation doesn’t involve the child directly, it isn’t their place to bring the situation to the attention of the adult. It should be up to someone who is affected by the behavior to make the decision to present it to an adult. Another appropriate time for involving an adult is after a child has attempted to resolve the issue on their own without success. Sometimes having an adult perspective can help a child find new ways to approach a situation and fix it without parental or adult involvement.
How to Teach Your Child Not to Be a Tattle Tale?
As a parent, it’s your role to help your child learn how to behave properly in a variety of social situations. Being a tattle tale can have a lot of negative repercussions for your child, which makes it critical to guide him in when it’s okay to tattle and when he should attempt to resolve it himself or just walk away. The following tips can help you teach your child how to help without being labeled as a tattle tale by his peers:
- Motivate Your Child — Find out why your child feels the need to tattle. Is he trying to maintain control? Does he want to get someone else in trouble? Is he trying to help? Finding his motivation and changing it can help you guide your child toward proper behavior.
- Downplay the Situation — One of the reasons children tell on friends is to get a reaction from parents. If the situation doesn’t warrant your attention, downplay it, but be careful not to dismiss your child’s concerns. You need to let your child know he can come to you when he needs you, but it helps him learn when it’s appropriate to tell if you downplay these situations.
- Problem Solve — Most tattling can be avoided if children have the right problem solving skills. When your child tattles to you, talk about the situation and discuss the other steps he could have taken. This will help him learn how to handle things in the future.
- Don’t Scold — Scolding your child for tattling won’t help him find new ways to deal with the situation. It will only show him you don’t approve and make him feel like he can’t talk to you about certain things.
- Be a Mediator — When tattling occurs because a child doesn’t know how to handle a situation, offer to be a mediator. Sit down with both children involved and talk about how things could be handled differently. Let them take the lead on the conversation and guide as necessary.
- Listen — Sometimes your child just needs someone to listen to them vent, just like you may when you have a rough day at work. In these situations, listening and validating your child’s feelings can be the best thing you can do.
- Wait It Out — In many cases, you won’t have to teach your child not to tattle tale at all. In fact, most children grow out of the behavior on their own. However, if your child continues to participate, even after he has developed problem solving and social skills, you may need to intervene.
Some parents are too quick to intervene when their children are having difficulties. This makes it difficult for children to become independent and learn how to handle problems on their own. For this reason, it’s essential for parents to teach their children when it’s appropriate to tattle tale and when it isn’t.
Use Activities to Teach Your Child
If you feel the need to help your child clearly see why they shouldn’t be a tattletale, there are many activities you can use to illustrate your point and allow them to practice. For instance, role playing can be a great way to teach your child how to handle situations other than telling on friends. Creating a picture collage of pictures that relate to tattle telling can help your child visualize why it often isn’t the right thing to do. Drawing pictures and helping your child talk about he feels when he tattles or when someone tattles on him can also help illustrate your point.
Tattle telling can be a major problem among children. While it can be necessary in some cases, particularly when someone is doing something dangerous or illegal, there are many situations where it’s best for the child to handle the situation himself or just walk away if it doesn’t involve him. Helping him identify when being a tattle tale is okay and when it isn’t will help him handle things in a more socially acceptable form, preventing him from being labeled as a tattle tale. When he realizes he has control over his actions and can still make a positive change, he will be able to deal with problems throughout his life in an appropriate manner.