The kids are playing in the family room and all seems to be going well.
You are taking the opportunity to get things organized for supper until Miranda bursts into the room.
"Jared won't follow the rules. Make him listen to me! He's ruining the game for everyone."
What are you going to do? You can tell by both her words and her demeanour that she is simply tattling on Jared. She has that righteous look, that attitude that says she is the good kid who is trying to save the play for the whole group.
The problem is now that she's in the kitchen with you, things are calm in the family room. Hmm. I wonder where the problem is. Miranda loves to tattle. It gives her a sense of power and gets her the adult attention she craves. She wants an adult to solve the problem and wants to get Jared into trouble.
You have a number of options. When you know a child is tattling you can ignore them. You might tell them that you don't listen to tattlers. Ask her what she might do to solve the problem with the other kids. Say, "What is happening?" "What have you tried?" "What do the other kids think?"
Generally, however it's best not to engage a tattler. It makes tattling attractive because now they have your undivided attention.
If you do see a child tattling often, figure out other appropriate ways to give them the attention they seek. You might have them help prepare dinner by ripping lettuce or setting the table. When they learn tattling doesn't work but helping out does, you will have a healthy situation.
It is easy to have a problem distinguishing tattling from telling. A child is telling you something when they see that another child needs protection, or they are about to ruin someone's property, or they are scared or in danger.
But most parents can tell the difference. The tattler projects an attitude that they must tell you what is going on because it's up to them to make sure all the other kids toe the line. They will also be very interested to discover what you are going to do to the other child. A child who is telling looks scared, worried and upset. They are in a situation they can't handle on their own and they need help from an adult.
Colleen and Kyla are running around the living room and Colleen accidently knocks a vase of flowers onto the floor. The vase shatters and there is broken glass and spilled water on the floor. Kyla says she will go and get her dad because broken glass is dangerous. Colleen says she can clean it up herself. Kyla gets her dad.
In this case, Kyla is not tattling. She is genuinely concerned that the girls will cut themselves if they try to clean the mess up themselves. Dad can clean up all the glass and then recruit the kids to help mop up the water from the floor.
Adam and Riley are playing in the sandbox. Riley has a dump truck and is moving piles of sand from one place to another. Adam wants a turn with the truck. Instead of asking Riley, he immediately goes to his mom and tells her that Riley won't let him have a turn. Adam is tattling. He wants his mom to solve his problem and he wants to get Riley in trouble so that he'll look like the victim and the good kid.
If you're dealing with a child who tattles, you can suggest to the kids that they work to solve their problem.
It's important for kids to learn that there are times when they must get help from an adult and other times when they must work to come up with a solution on their own.
. Tri-Cities resident Kathy Lynn is a professional speaker and author of Who's In Charge Anyway? and But Nobody Told Me I'd Ever Have to Leave Home. If you want to read more, sign up for her informational newsletter at www.parentingtoday. ca.