Sunday, June 04, 2006

My Little Tattle Tale

Okay all you parents out there, I need advice! My 5 year old was taught repeatedly in preschool to let the teachers know if any of the students were doing something wrong. They kept a close watch on behavior and manners. And I reinforced it by asking her, when she would come home with tales of hitting, if she had told the teachers. I wanted to help her become someone who walks away from violence, instead of reacting. And similarly, her teachers were big on using words to solve problems, instead of physical interactions. So basically, what we've created is a tattle tale.

Which I don't mind to some degree. I always want her to feel she can come to me with problems. And she helps me keep an eye on George (although she does feel the need to tell me of even the smallest rule infractions, all day, every day). The problem arises when she plays with her friends. There is a family on our street that has a daughter close in age to Emma. On a street full of boys, this little girl is, by default, Emma's best friend. This family is nice enough, and I'm glad Emma has a friend close by, but their rules and behavior are much different from ours. I could go on and on about that, but suffice it to say that when the girls get together there is a LOT of tattling going on. Again, I can deal with that....when they're at our house. But when she goes over there and complains to the other mom about bad behavior, well, it doesn't go over quite as well. And granted, she's VERY quick to tattle.

Which brings us to my question. How to temper this impulse? I'm trying to teach her to talk to the person breaking the rules first, not to run straight to the adults. But as we all know, little kids don't necessarily obey other kids. I don't want Emma to be a whiney kid that complains to the adults, every time something doesn't go her way. But heck, I also don't want her getting hit! It's so hard to teach that fine line between dealing with something yourself, and getting someone else involved. How did/do you do it?

7 comments:

glynis said...

You know my kids are about the same ages as yours and as my dd starts playing with other children w/o me around, this is a bit of a problem for us too. I wish I had an answer--I'll be watching what more experienced parents tell you!

Anonymous said...

I had this problem with both my kids, like you said started in school with you need to help the teacher and watch the other kids. Basically I think is how the teachers cope with big classes and not enough staff. Anywho, my way of handling was to tell them to stop and think. Yes there are things that have to be told. If what you see you feel, your friend or classmate, could get hurt, or hurt another then come tell mommy or your teacher for more advice. If they are being silly or not following rules and they aren't really hurting anyone but themselves then let it be, because they will eventually get caught. The exception to this rule is the teacher or someone didn't see who did it and tries to blame you (yup we all know it happens) then you must speak up and say it wasn't you. The only hard choice at that point is do we say who did it or remain silent but the important rule here if is someone is about to get hurt, being hurt or might result in someone getting hurt than tattling is not a bad thing, just stop and think before you speak. Hope that helps (it's how I handled it when it came our way).

DSanchez @ DSP

loonyhiker said...

Believe it or not, I still have that problem on the high school level. I also teach autistic children who only see things in black or white. The rule in my class is to tell an adult if it could hurt someone (that person, someone else or you). If it can't hurt someone but you feel a need to tell me the story, write the story down. Tell me what happened, why you think it is important to tell, and what you would do differently. Since some of my kids don't write sentences, they have to draw a picture of it and at a later time, we discuss it but not at that time. It also delays the "tattle tale" urge but still gives them attention and helps them learn problems solving. It helps them decide what is life threatening and what isn't. We also talk about whether they have ever done this and would they like someone to tell on them about this. Some kids decide it isn't worth going through all that trouble but some really have the need to work out the problem. It has really decreased the amount of tattling. At first it takes a lot of time, but it is worth it in the long run. Hope this helps someone.

Tink said...

Basically I did the same thing Pat did with my children. If she really feels the need to say something maybe she should wait until she gets home and tell you. Or in the alternative, if the other girl is doing something Emma feels is wrong, leave, telling her she will return later to play.

Zephanee said...

When I taught, I would tell the kids that they should only tell me when someone is hurting them, someone is hurting someone else, or someone is bothering them and you have told them to stop and they haven't. The tattling problem is especially bad at that age. They want to please their parents and teachers and show that they know the rules and follow them. So they point out when others don't to make themselves feel and look better. It's natural. I would usually say something like, "I am glad you know the rules, but I would be even happier if you didn't tattle when someone else breaks them." whenever someone tattled. We also had "tattle sticks" that were popsicle sticks stuck in a library card holder. They would lose their tattle sticks for the week if they tattled. At the end of the week, if they still had their sticks, they would get a small treat like a sticker or a pencil. I know it sounds corny, but it actually worked wonders in my class. Nobody wanted to lose their tattle stick.

heather said...

I would only agree with those other ideas - spot on! I find it is a good habit to hand the responsibility for solving problems back to the child eg. if they say another child just took their favourite toy, you say: Oh that's no good - what are you going to do about it?? This encourages them to come up with their own solutions to problems instead of expecting others to sort it out for them. Encourage them to come up with at least one answer to the problem, get them to test it out, if it doesn't work, think of another solution etc. At the first stages, you may need to add an idea or two yourself and they could choose one to try.
In other situations it may simply be enough for you to model some "it doesn't matter that much" responses to minor happenings. This may help her realise what is not that important.

ArtcMom said...

I remember seeing a movie in grade school about this. It stuck with me. Basically it taught, as long as no one was being injured then it wasn't worth "telling" over and they should work it out for themselves. Easier said than done. Good luck!