Me too! Unfortunately, I don’t think there is a magic formula to stop tattling. But in my years as a mom and an elementary school teacher, I have picked up a few tricks of the trade. Here are my top three ways to stop tattling that I have learned from my own experience or had other moms and teachers share with me.
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Three Ways To Stop Tattling
- Ask the child this question: Are you trying to get someone into trouble or out of trouble?
- Create a “tattle tail” together
- Read a book together such as A Children’s Book about Tattling (Help Me Be Good)
“Are you trying to get someone into trouble or out of trouble?”
My friend Kori is a mom and also a teacher, and she is the one who taught me strategy Number 1. I love this question because it makes kids stop and think about the reason why they want to tell on someone. If the only reason to tell you something is because they want to get a friend in trouble, then that is tattling. But if they want to help keep a friend out of trouble, like if someone could get hurt doing something dangerous, then that is not tattling at all. That is being a responsible friend. This question helps kids understand the difference. After hearing you ask it consistently, eventually kids will start to internalize it and be able to apply it themselves.
Create a “tattle tail”
In my classroom tattling could be a very big issue, especially among younger students like the first and second graders. Sometimes kids just need to get something off their chest, and the tattle tail is a place where they can do that without annoying anyone. To make a tattle tail, braid a few pieces of yarn together and tape it to the wall. Place an empty shoebox with a hole cut in the lid and some index cards and pencils nearby. This is a place where kids can go to talk to the tattle tail, or write on the index cards about whatever they would like to say, then place them in the shoebox. You, as the adult, can read through the cards later in the day to see if there are any real issues, like bullying, that need to be addressed. However, nine times out of ten I found that children wrote innocuous things like, “Jonny said he was going to wear a blue shirt today, but he didn’t. He wore green. He is a liar!” Sometimes the kids even told on themselves! “Dear Tattle Tail, I took a red pen off of my teacher’s desk when she was teaching reading groups. Susan said that makes me a Steeler. I don’t even like that football team! I feel bad. Don’t tell anyone. Love, Michael.”
Read about it.
You can read books that expressly talk about tattling, like A Children’s Book about Tattling (Help Me Be Good), which is great for younger kids. With older kids you could read classic children’s books where the main characters are being naughty, such as Beezus and Ramona or Superfudge and stop each time the character does something inappropriate to talk about if that is something that warrants telling an adult.
“Wow, that is a crazy thing that just happened to Ramona! If you were her friend, do you think you would tell a grown-up?”
Helping kids to walk through those situations while they are hypothetical prepares them for when similar things pop up in real life.
Do you have any other tips for stopping tattling? I would love to hear them in the comments.
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