You’ve heard it before – no one likes a tattletale. It’s certainly not fun to be the mom of a tattletale. I’d always rather not hear the constant barrage of what my kids did to make each other angry! Unless they’re bleeding, they need to work it out! As you teach your kids the way to behave appropriately and give them a sense of social responsibility, it’s important to help them see the differences between telling vs. tattling. It can be a fine line, but it’s an important line for them to learn to recognize.
Teaching Kids About Telling Vs. Tattling
When is it Telling?
Encourage your kids to tell. You want to make sure they know they can tell you anything, particularly when it relates to the following questions:
- Is someone (you or someone else) in danger?
- Has someone or something made you feel uncomfortable?
- Has someone told you not to tell me something?
- Will our house/furniture/car/dog be damaged by something you or someone else is doing?
- Is it important?
When is it Tattling?
Discourage your kids from tattling. According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, the definition of tattle is “idle talk” or “gossip.” For our kids, that usually means tattling is done to get someone else in trouble (which isn’t always a conscious decision, but that is usually at the root of it). It’s tattling when:
- There is no danger involved.
- The situation can be resolved calmly without involving a parent or adult.
- It’s not important.
- You’re hoping to get someone else in trouble over something minor.
Helping Your Kids Learn the Difference
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Because the concept of telling versus tattling can be a hard one, giving your kids tools to help them learn and understand the difference is important. We read a lot of books in our house, so when I’m trying to teach my kids a particular concept, I look for books that will help me reinforce it. Here are some good ones!
- Don’t Squeal Unless it’s a Big Deal: A Tale of Tattletales – written by Jeanie Franz Ransom, a former elementary school counselor. What I love about this book is that it doesn’t just identify when it’s tattling versus when it’s appropriate to tell; it also goes into the underlying emotions associated with tattling.
- A Bad Case of Tattle Tongue – written by Julia Cook, a former teacher and school counselor. It’s a cute, funny look at the trouble with tattling.
- Tattle Tails – this one is particularly neat because it was written by and illustrated by a fourth-grade classroom in Ohio!
There are many, many reasons your children should tell you things and just a few reasons why they should not tattle. Helping them understand the difference will prepare them to be good friends and set them on the right path for avoiding gossip as they get older.