If your kids are young, tattling is probably a big part of your daily lives. The cries, “He took my car!” “She won’t give me a turn!” “He turned the light on but I want it off!” Some days it feels like it will never end! It can also be very frustrating to deal with as a parent.
But there’s good news! There’s a simple 3-step system that is proven to dramatically reduces tattling in almost any house. Not only does it make life easier for parents, but it also teaches your kids to problem solve and advocate for themselves.
Here’s how to get your child to analyze a situation before tattling!
Step One: Show Empathy
It’s important to show that you care about what they have to say, that you understand, and want to help. Saying something simple such as; “Oh no that’s a bummer!” or “It looks like you feel mad about that,” with a caring expression works great. Resist sounding sarcastic, even if the situation seems silly. Remember, children can tell when you’re not being genuine!
Step Two: Help Them Solve the Problem
The goal here is to teach your child how to solve their own problems by using their words and expressing themselves appropriately. Try not to solve it for them, because that won’t help them to develop their analytical skills–and the tattling may never stop!
How you guide your child through a problem may differ depending on each child’s developmental level. For toddlers, try getting on the floor next to them, and prompting them to use a phrase to tell the other child what they want or don’t want. For example, they could say, “My turn” or “I don’t like that.” It’s important that you have your child directly tell the other child, instead of you telling the other child, as much as you can. This way they not only do they develop their problem-solving skills, they gain confidence, too!
As your children get older, you can teach them even more. One question that works great is to ask them, “Do you want help thinking of ideas of what to do? I’m so excited to see how you will handle this!” If they say yes, you can give them 3 solutions that will solve the problem. Have at least one be obviously bad “you could grab it out of her hands” and talk through the consequences of each choice to teach them how to choose the best one.
What works best in our house right now is asking “have you told your brother/sister/the dog/etc how you feel?” This works as a prompt for our kids to go back to the “offender” and to use their words to tell the other child what the problem is and how it makes them feel.
Step Three: Praise Your Child
Make sure to tell your child how proud you are that they used their words and worked out the problem all by themselves! Learning to problem solve isn’t easy for children and they will need a lot of praise, encouragement, and practice along the way to keep trying!
When to Get Involved:
Of course, there are sometimes when the right way to solve the problem IS to get an adult involved, and we want to teach our children that as well. For example, we teach our kids that if anyone ever hits or hurts them, they should say “no” or “stop” loudly to the child and then immediately go tell an adult. This isn’t tattling, it is appropriately getting adults involved when needed.
What you choose to get involved with and what you choose to let them work out on their own will vary depending on each child’s age, problem solving skills, and the situation. Use your best judgement and gauge the problem in their perspective.. We won’t always be there to guide them, so the more we can allow them to solve problems the better prepared they will be to succeed wherever they go.
It’s a part of growing up to make mistakes, so don’t get frustrated if your child doesn’t get it right away!
So next time you hear the familiar, whiny strains of your child tattling to you because their friend sneezed and it woke up their toy, try to think of it as an amazing opportunity to teach your child to skillfully cope with life’s challenges. And eat lots of chocolate.