Tattletales are a common part of parenting, childhood and family life. If you find yourself frustrated by your little informer, begin first by identifying the positive qualities of this behavior. While it can be exhausting, tattling symbolizes some great qualities in your child as well. Is he or she observant? A good communicator? Honest? Fair? Caring? Skilled at identifying right from wrong? Which qualities are you proud of and want to develop further? Encouraging the attributes you appreciate about your child will motivate them to demonstrate the more desired behaviors you attach to those positive qualities. It will also help your tattletale know the difference between appropriate, purposeful informing versus tattle-telling.
It is also important for your child to know that they have the competence to manage their peer differences independently. When your child comes to you and tattles, give the problem back to them. “I appreciate you wanting everyone to play fair,” you might say. Then support their independence by saying, “You are a good friend/smart kid/strong person; I know you can encourage your friends to be fair with you.”
Overall, to reduce problematic tattle-telling, practice recognizing and developing the positive attributes of your child’s behaviors while also confidently encouraging their competence in handling peer and sibling situations on their own.
Randi Hennigan, M.S., Licensed Marriage & Family Therapist (LMFT), Licensed Professional Counselor (LPC) at Uptown Counseling & Family Therapy.