Children of many different backgrounds will go through the same developmental woes that parents dread. Tattling is one of these woes. Even though it can be used for good (e.g., when a child is reporting a bully, sees something that isn’t right), tattling can also be used in negative ways. If you respond too much to a child’s tattling on others (particularly their siblings or friends), they may lose a lot of respect and friendship from these people. You have to actively encourage your child to be honest, but not to push boundaries with others.
Why Children Tattle
Most of the time, it’s healthy for children to tattle. If a child sees their siblings doing something they aren’t allowed to do and tell you, they shouldn’t be rewarded for it. You’ll be encouraging a behavior that may turn out either good or bad — it all depends on the child, and how often they tattle. In good circumstances, when a child tattles, it’s not too often and it’s always about something important. If you’re too receptive or thankful when your child tattles to you, however, it may become a habit that not everyone else will appreciate. Especially when it comes to relationships between your child and their friends at school, if tattling (i.e., seeking out attention and rewards from adults) becomes persistent, they could become a target for bullying.
Explaining to your child that there are appropriate and inappropriate times to tattle is crucial in helping them understand the difference between right and wrong. Encourage them to tell you things at home that they see are wrong, but wrong in the way that it doesn’t feel right – not just because they don’t like the way their sibling is behaving. Explain to your child that if they went around tattling on everyone at school for everything they did, some people will probably get angry about it. Let them know it’s always good to be honest, but it’s not their place to inform on everyone for every little thing that happens.