Watching the older children at our house yesterday gave me some insight into at least some kinds of tattling. I have wondered how to deal with tattling, since there are times when you want children to tell. It seems daunting to try to teach your child when to tattle and when not to tattle. It hasn’t been a big problem yet. With my three and two year olds, I have actually encouraged them to come to mom for help when they can’t solve the problem. (Say, Help me Mommy. I have a problem.) I’ll usually suggest something they can do, and then “gently” guide the other child into a response. I’m dealing with anger on this level by giving them words and problem solving skills necessary to solve their conflict. At some point they should have the problem solving skills to manage on their own. I’m not there yet, though!
I noticed yesterday that every time there was tattling, it was the result of anger. “I’m going to tell on you” was an angry arrow designed to hurt the other child. The problem wasn’t tattling; it was anger. Dealing with the anger seems like a better approach than dealing with the tattling.
And as I’m thinking about this topic, I wonder if my response can encourage or discourage tattling. I wonder if being swift to judgment or discipline of the offender increases the potency of “I’m going to tell on you!” I wonder if encouraging kids to solve their problems on their own (which takes much more work for the tattler) might not discourage tattling. I wonder.