It worked for me:
Due to an illness, I had to stay in bed almost the entire summer. Whenever one of my four children tattled on another (or whenever there was a ruckus outdoors), I called out loudly: "Attention, everyone front and center!" All four kids had to come from play and line up at the foot of my bed. Then the initial complainer stated his case, and thereafter each child was obliged to tell the story from his or her point of view. No one was allowed to voice the slightest objection while another was talking. After that process was done, each child had to state how he or she could have acted to keep the problem from happening in the first place. This only had to happen about four times. All four agreed it was so boring that they would make a peace agreement among themselves outdoors so they wouldn't have to go through it again. -- Jo Chalfant of Wichita, KS
I urge parents to be discerning in what they label "tattling." When a child reveals a violation of rules (set by adults for the welfare of children) only to be reprimanded and criticized, the message sent is that the crime of tattling is somehow worse than the original offense. -- Lois Korbe of Oklahoma City, OK
We made a distinction with our three girls between "telling" and "tattling." We feel if some things are left unreported to the adult in charge, it could lead to harm to one or more persons, property, programs (of benefit to all parties). Our basic teaching was if it's a rule that applies to everyone's good, one should tell the adult in charge if it is broken. Only in an "emergency" should one kid intervene to prevent another's actions. For example: a smaller child wandering out into the street is an "emergency" and should be brought back to the yard. But two kids fighting on the school playground is serious and an adult should be notified right away without intervention. We defined "tattling" as telling on someone else mainly to get that other person into trouble. This was easily identified by asking the child to think first of what harm would come to him or anyone else if he ignored the other kids' words or actions. -- Sharon Mock of Duluth, MN
Here are a few other guidelines that might help: If there's no hitting, don't intervene automatically. Children have to learn to work out their own confrontations. Make sure the rules at school and at home are similar. It's OK to ask teachers how they handle various situations.
If a child is tattling to get the other one in trouble, look at the child and calmly state: "I'm sorry, but I can't help. You need to work it out between yourselves." For children under the age of 7, many parents give an example of what could be agreed on, but then let the kids decide on the final compromise.
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