My Child Is a Tattletale! (And That's a Good Thing)

Cynthia Dermody


Photo by home-sweet-home

How do I get my child to stop tattling?

It's a common question around CafeMom Answers and Groups. And that's probably because almost all kids start to do it sometime after 18 months. Annoying, yes. But good, too. It means your tot is learning that there are rules and he is starting to try to follow them. It also means that he's developing a moral sense -- the difference between right and wrong.

But that still doesn't mean it's okay for him to do it, and that's where you come in. Moms here offered some creative ways of dealing with the problem in older children:

"I would interrupt them and ask ... is there blood? Will there be blood? If they said no to both, then I said you will have to work it out and sent them on their way. They knew if they resorted to violence, it was time out!" salexander

"We started going by the 3 Bs (barfing, bleeding or broken). If you're not doing any of these, then don't tell us about it! Seriously though, we had to tell the kids (OVER AND OVER) if no one was hurt, or had been hit, or something really bad, that they had to deal with it." Nika75

Younger children and especially toddlers need a different approach. They first have be taught the difference between good telling (when they or someone else is in trouble) and bad telling (when it's used to get revenge or a parent's esteem), says Vicki Panaccione, child development expert at Here's her advice:

Listen to your child There are some things we want our children to tell us and many things we don't. I have had parents tell their kid, "I don't want to hear it," when, in fact, the child was being harassed. So, listen to what the child is saying and help sort out whether it's a tattle or a telling -- just like in a math problem, you would help a child discern whether they need to add or subtract, tattling is a skill that they need to decide if they should tell or not tell.

Applaud their good choices Reinforce their understanding that what they saw another do was wrong/broke a rule and you are glad that they know that rule; and still remind them that they just need to pay attention to their own behavior and make their own good choices ... not worry if another kid is making a bad choice. 

Don't punish them Instead, encourage them to think about what they could do on their own to solve the problem. For example, if someone takes his toy, he might decide to play with something else, tell them to give it back, or express their feelings to a parent. Instead of tattling on someone, it is okay for a child to tell mom that she is really mad because Susie took her toy.

Talk about their feelings Encourage them to talk about their feelings: "Wow, you sound really mad about that," and then ask her to problem solve, "What do you think you can do about it?" That way you put the focus on the child and let them know you are willing to listen to anything they have to tell you about themselves -- not someone else.

Are your children tattletales? How are you dealing with it?

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