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How to deal with a kid who tattletales

October 5th, 2009 / 5 Comments

“Mom, I saw him take another cookie!”

“Did you know what she did at school today?”

Parents are constantly dealing with irritants. Tattletaling is one of them that seems to be just annoying, but not serious.

However, tattletaling can develop into a bad habit and character flaw in our children.

My two older kids are close in age and were in the same school for most of their school years (ironically they are now at crosstown rivals – USC and UCLA!) It was tempting for me to ask one child how the other behaved at school. Tell me the details of what your brother did at recess!

As much as some information may be helpful for parents, tattletaling is not a good trait. Tattletaling is basically gossiping. It is often mean-spirited, done to put down someone else. Kids also tattletale to get revenge by getting someone in trouble. Tattletales like to have the inside information in order to make him/herself feel superior.

What do you do if your child is a tattletale?

A teacher friend of mine told me what she did when her first graders would tattletale on their classmates. She placed a stuffed bear in the corner of the room. Whenever someone comes to her to tell a tale of what so-and-so did at recess, she says, “I don’t want to hear it. Go tell it to the bear.” It works.

Here are 5 steps to help your child not be a tattletale:

1. Tell him to stop. As soon as he starts telling you some juicy tale, say, “Stop! I don’t want to hear it.” As much as you may want to hear it, and no matter why he thinks you should know, stop him in mid-sentence, go to step 2.

2. Tell him to go outside and tell it to the dog, or to the tree, or to the pole.

3. Tell him if he really wants to help his friend or sibling, he should go talk to the person about it instead of telling you or other people about it. Talking about another person is gossiping.

4. Tell him his true motives for tattletaling.  “Telling on other people makes you feel like you are better than they are, doesn’t it?” “Are you trying to get them in trouble to get back at them for something they did to you?” By exposing his true motive, you help him deal with the root of why he tattletales.

5. Tell him what it would be like if he was on the other end. “Would you like your brother to tattletale on you? What would you want me to do if your brother comes to me with a story about what you did?”

“A wise man’s heart guides his mouth, and his lips promote instruction.” Proverbs 16:23

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  1. According to D.J.Leong, Ph.D and E.Bodrova, Ph. D a child who tattle-tattles is simply on the way to self regulation!!! If this is true, as annoying as you find tattle tales, it really is a healthy sign that the child is on the way to self regulation – she or he is simply in the stage of ‘other regulation.” Your role as a parent, or teacher is to teach and affirm that the child is learning the rules!! Self-regulation is taught. It doesn’t emerge naturally. Part of the role of the parent/teacher is to realize that children who hit, push, and fight are exhibiting reactive behavior. Three-, 4- and 5-year-olds are not “bad children,” they are simply being reactive. One way researchers have found to enable children to develop self-regulation is to have children practice what’s called “other-regulation.” Here’s how other-regulation, which seems to lead to self-regulation, works:
    Young children seem to want to regulate others all of the time. They love to tattle on others. A child may have nine cookies in front of her and point out that someone else has two more than they should have. Children are great at saying what everyone else should do. That’s part of human nature. But when children are in a situation in which they should be in charge of themselves, they’re not even aware that they have a problem. When children come to you saying “Mrs. Baily, Vanessa is taking all the puzzles, the rule is work with only one,” you can simply affirm his understanding by saying “Yes, that’s the rule!” Understand that when children tattle tale he or she does not want you to punish the other child – he or she is trying to regulate others, they are really on progressing on his or her way to learning self-regulation.

  2. Tattle tales are so annoying. One time I was called to sit at the teachers table because I was talking a little bit but everyone else is talking like crazy so, I sat on the floor near her table. But then, I got told on for not sitting at her desk. All the chairs were being used! There was only one but the person who was next to it was like I’m saving this for my friend and would tell on me if I took it. Now, I’m grounded until 3rd semester which is like a month and 5 days

  3. School is the only thing that annoys me now. The only thing I like is recess.

  4. to this day beings my brother was a back stabbing tattletail.i can’t stand to be around him and we are in our 50’s.he lives a very lonely life now because of it.who wants a back stabbing person around them ????

  5. my cousin tattle tailed on me and I GOT KICKED OUT OF HER HOUSE just for saying that i was in a angry mood is she mean or what


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