Taming a Tattletale

The most prominent reason why children tattle is due to “a developmental stage called rule-governed behavior,” says Carl Chenkin, Ph.D., a clinical psychologist specializing in family issues. “Somewhere around age 5 children begin to understand there are rules to be followed, but they don’t have the capacity to distinguish between major and minor rule breaking. So what happens is every broken rule is brought to an adult’s attention.”


If this is happening in your house, investigate the cause of your child’s tattling. If parents can determine the motive, they can properly address it.


Upon receiving a tattletale’s report, listen attentively but explain that tattling isn’t necessary for the small things (a child broke another’s crayon), but is with the big things (a child playing with matches). Ask, “Is someone going to get hurt? Is anyone crying?” If the answer is no, curb the conversation; but don’t scold or punish for tattling, as this may cut off communication lines. Tell the child that as long as people are working together peacefully and no one is in danger, they can work out a solution on their own.


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28 Jun 2013

By By Denise Yearian and Mary Alice Cookson