1st – its normal development, but that doesn’t make it less annoying to parents!
Kids tattle because they are developing a sense of right and wrong. Children’s worlds are often black and white, and they don’t know how to problem solve all of the gray social situations that occur in their daily lives.
Some children tattle to get attention from the adult. If the child is seeking attention, help them to notice the good things their friends are doing. Make sure you model this and notice the good things they are doing as well. See if you can get “positive tattles”. Pinterest has called this “tootling”.
How to respond to tattling
LISTEN – Give kids a safe place to let their feelings be heard. Most times they just want to be heard that “it isn’t fair!” or “I’m upset!”. Mirroring or echoing back their feelings makes them feel heard and listened to. “Wow, you are frustrated with how she is playing!” or “I bet that made you mad when that happened.” (Often you can stop at this step!)
Ask them to PROBLEM SOLVE – “How do you plan to solve this?” or “What could you say to your friend that might help?” If they come up with nothing, ask “Would you like some ideas?” Give multiple and wish them luck.
MEDIATE when necessary (but only when necessary)–
If name calling, put downs, or aggression is a concern, make sure you position yourself with both children and help them listen to each other and problem solve. This is more work up front, but helps in the long run, when kids no longer need you to solve their conflicts. Remember the resolution is not nearly as important as the process of working it out. Remember to praise both children for their efforts in communication and problem solving!
Use a script if necessary.
Say “I feel ___________ when you ______________.”
Or Bugs And Wishes (stolen from great ECE instructor, Kira Hamann)
“It bugs me when you _____________. I wish that you would stop!” (printable available here)
Encourage the other child to apologize and echo the feeling. “I’m sorry, I hit you and made you feel sad.”
If this child doesn’t want to or isn’t ready to apologize, ask if there is anything that the hurt child can think of to help him/her feel better. It could be hearing a joke, getting a hug or high five, working together on art, having some time by themselves, etc. Saying “I’m sorry” isn’t the only way to apologize.
Don’t reply to an apology with “It’s okay.” Rather encourage them to say “Please don’t do that again.”
We want our kids to be able to “report” bullying, abuse and injustice so make sure you don’t close off communication. Sometimes they just want to complain and unload to someone who will listen. Be sensitive to your children.