"Tattletale, tattletale. You?re nothing but a tattletale."
Some things never change, I thought as I listened to the singsong taunt floating though the open window. I remember clearly being a child who heard?and probably said?those same words.
For parents, a child who tattles poses a real dilemma. Not only does constant tattling drive you crazy, your child will quickly lose friends if she becomes known as a tattletale. Still, it?s hard to know what to do. On the one hand, you don?t want to ignore a problem, but you hate to reward a child for tattling.
If you?ve got a tattler in your house, it?s important to know that kids in early elementary school are just learning about boundaries. They?re eager to make sure everyone knows and follows the rules. A kindergarten student who says "Tasha took two cookies" might really be asking "Did I understand the rules? Can I have two cookies, too?"
These efforts to clarify acceptable behaviors are perfectly normal and probably aren?t meant to get other children in trouble. However, a child who consistently tracks the behavior of another child has moved into the tattling arena.
So, how do you respond?
Help your child make wise judgment calls. Through experience, your child will learn what information adults need to know and what really doesn?t matter. You want him to come and get you if his little brother leaves the back yard. You don?t need to know if his sister takes the blue shovel instead of the red shovel. To help him understand what?s important, you might say, "I?m glad you came to get me when Dustin unlatched the gate. Always call me right away if somebody could get hurt. You did the right thing."1