Sunday, 15 February 2015

how to deal with tattling - with two simple phrases!






You hear it, don't you. At a certain age, it suddenly starts to emerge....

'Muuuuuuuum, ABC is doing XYZ!!!'

Now, our kiddos usually operate as a team so we didn't hear tattling for a good long while... but then 'suddenly' up it cropped. Um....how are we gonna handle this one?! My husband and I quickly realised we needed to think about an intentional and firm 'family policy' on how to handle this little thing known widely as....

Tattling.

When Sibling A tells the parents that Sibling B is (allegedly!) up to no good.

Why? Possibly because...

a) They hope to get them 'in trouble'
b) They are genuinely distressed/concerned about what is happening
c) They are taking too much responsibility for their sibling's behaviour
d) All of the above?!

So where does that leave the parents? Suddenly corralled into investigating all sorts of mischief that may or may not have happened as described. You obviously didn't witness the indiscretion, so it makes it rather tricky (and time consuming!) to get to the bottom of things.

And where does that leave the siblings? Split apart and ready to 'pounce and renounce' their beloved brother or sister in order to 'get them in trouble' or whatever the motive may be. Sometimes, yes, it's genuine distress, worry or dismay. But something doesn't feel right about kids running to 'tell' on their siblings throughout the day.

Tattling just doesn't seem like a good habit for our kids to get into, does it?

However, we don't like to tell our kids just what not to do - we want to give them strategies for dealing with these issues themselves.When a new issue crops, my hubby and I like to step back and chat about where we think the behaviour is coming from and how to best approach it. This helps us be intentional in our approach and working together with a 'game plan' tends to make us more consistent (ahhhh, the rub of parenting - consistency!). We thought about our goals for our children's relationship with each other. How we felt about behaviour that was 'not okay' going on in our home and us not knowing about it. How we also felt about being constantly pulled in to investigate and adjudicate over events we hadn't actually witnessed.

Some of the elements we wanted to consider for our family policy on 'tattling'... (dot points in an attempt to be brief!)...

  • Just saying 'No tattling' didn't seem realistic. While we don't want our kids to tattle, there are situations we do need to know about... you know, for health and safety and burning houses and whatnot ;) 
  • We want our kids to see themselves as a team. A sibling team: friends who look out for, support, protect and encourage each other - not bringing each other down. I want our kids to have each other's backs when launching into the big wide world. It is so important to me, to nurture those sibling bonds.
  • We want our kids to want each other to make good choices, to hope for each other's best. 
  • We do not want to be told about every minor misdemeanor and spend all day refereeing. They needed tools for dealing with things themselves.
  • If our kids are making a bad choice and we are not aware of it, we've decided it's pretty much 'between them and God' if you know what I mean. I don't need to micromanage every misdeed. Any character issues will surely come to light at other times, in ways I personally witness. It's more important to us to nurture the sibling relationship than to pit them against each other as tiny power crazed police! If they are flicking the lights on and off or getting out of bed when asked not to, and I don't see it myself, that's ok. In the end, our parenting is about engaging our children's hearts and moral development long term, which unfolds in more ways than getting out of bed one time. 
  • I DO want to be told about behaviour that is dangerous (harming or likely to harm themselves or others, like hitting siblings, preparing to jump from the top bunk or playing with matches) or destructive (harming property, like drawing on the walls or ripping up a book).
  • We want our kids to understand that they cannot control the actions of other people and they are not responsible for other's bad choices. This is one of life's lessons it took me a loooong time to learn so I want to get this one in early! If they see someone making a bad choice, I want them to encourage them to make a better choice, but without feeling like they must control the other person or be responsible if they continue. I want them to know I don't hold them to account for that - even the older siblings.

We then came up with two simple phrases to help guide the kids and ourselves through a potential tattling situation. Of course, we sat the kids down first and talked with them about our expectations and explained what these phrases mean.

Sooooo -

When a child comes running to me saying 'Mum, Mum, ABC is....'

I calmly stop them and first ask 'Is it dangerous or destructive?' 

If yes, I immediately go and investigate and deal with as necessary.

If no, I ask 'Have you encouraged them to make a better choice?'

If 'No', I suggest they go and gently encourage their sibling (eg 'ABC, remember that Mum said to stay in bed!'. But I remind them that they can't force them and they are not responsible if their sibling chooses not to obey.

If 'Yes' - I say 'I am glad you are trying to help your sibling. That is a loving choice, helping them do the right thing. You don't have to control what they do, if they don't listen, they are responsible - not you.'

At this point their intention usually becomes clear. If perhaps they were hoping to throw their beloved sibling under the bus, (!!) they walk away realising that I'm not playing that game. If they seem genuinely distressed then it's an opportunity to comfort them and talk about choices and personal responsibility. We chat about using our words (and not our hands!) to encourage others to make good choices.

We can't police our children 24/7, even if we did want to... (a good time to insert the phrase 'Ain't nobody got time for that!' Haha!). We take our kid's character development extremely seriously as parents, but part of this is recognising that at the end of the day, parenting is not about controlling every behaviour but about reaching their hearts and helping transform the attitudes behind their behaviour.

This approach aims to preserve and encourage sibling bonds, to save our sanity, and to have a consistent 'line in the sand' about what issues we intervene in and those we won't. I don't want our kids to be tempted to be 'tattletales'. Our family policy is an intentional choice, knowing you have to win some and lose some. They say in parenting you pick your battles and we hope this is a case where we miss some minor battles in order to gain victory in a greater war - their hearts and their relationships.

The kids now know where we stand and feel empowered and also relieved (especially our oldest, who tends to feel responsible for her younger siblings behaviour, which is a burden too great for a kid to bear, I think!). Tattling is now at a minimum and we have a 'policy' in place to help guide us all when it does emerge. I am thankful to see the sibling bond continue to grow and strengthen as my kids encourage each other to make good choices, without being burdened to either 'tattle' or control others.

So, those two simple phrases? In case they got lost in my rambling (TL:DR!?), in summary they are - when your kids come running to you to tattle on a sibling, simply ask -



Is it dangerous or destructive?

Have you encouraged them to make a good choice?


I hope this technique is helpful to your family or at least a prompt to consider your own family approach to tattling :)

xx

'So then, let us always aim for those things that lead to peace and help strengthen one another' 
Roman 19.19










38 comments:

  1. Great post Kate, you're one wise woman. I love the concept of siblings being a team :)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. aw thanks amber! i know you work towards your kiddos being a team in your family too. love the idea of siblings always looking out for each other - even if it is against the parents, haha ;)

      Delete
  2. Love it! This is an area that we are still working on, so I found your suggestions helpful. thanks.

    ReplyDelete
  3. Great post. I hate tattling I think it's so bad for kids in every way…and your solutions are great. Like you said… at the end of the day, parenting is not about controlling every behaviour but about reaching their hearts and helping transform the attitudes behind their behaviour.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yes, tattling isn't a great habit for kids is it? (or adults - aka GOSSIP/SLANDER, lol). Yes, hopefully we can work on reaching their hearts and not give them incentives to rat each other out along the way :)

      Delete
  4. what great questions you ask, I really like the second - and your reasoning!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. thanks! :) yeah, encouraging them to look out for each other is one of my biggest aims :)

      Delete
  5. Thanks! Teaching by setting an example, walking the talk, can be a productive thing to do instead of tattling.

    http://darleenclaire.com/

    ReplyDelete
  6. Love this post, Kate. Will be keeping these tips under my belt, now that I have two! ;-)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. aw thanks Velle - hopefully you get a couple years or so reprieve before the tattling kicks in :)

      Delete
  7. great advice, we have been dealing with this a bit here as well We go through phases with it and seems to be ramping up lately. . . .really like these two phrases, think we are going to have a family meeting on this here. Thanks for your thoughts. . .so great to read and others dealing with similar issues and their solutions.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. hope they help melaine - so true we are all going through the same things and good to swap info when we can :)

      Delete
  8. This is exactly what I need for my two boys! Wasn't sure how to deal with the increased number of rattles lately. Will immediately give it a try! Many thanks! Vera

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. oh really hope it works well for your family too :)

      Delete
  9. Thanks for the advice! Will give it a try!

    ReplyDelete
  10. Great tips Kate - I find that before the tattling happens my two generally try to physically control the other to not make the bad choice... which means it ends in a brawl (while I am obliviously emptying the dishwasher) - and so the tattling starts (through much wailing) with "x kicked me"... any suggestions for dialling it back to just tattling and not a mini version of police brutality? I am reinforcing the fact that they do not need to physically make each other do what they think is the right thing and if they are worried about the others actions to come to me for help - but sometimes they just end up having a fight... thankfully it doesn't happen too often, possibly just a natural aspect of sibling life - I know my brother and I came to blows and we still talk to each other!! Maybe it's not about the tattling but just an excuse for a rumble? (I worry that I worry too much but also that I don't worry enough)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. heehee I totally understand where you are coming from! laughing at the 'mini police brutality' comment, lol!!! and yes, hear you also on worrying too much or worrying about not worrying enough haha - ahhhh motherhood. my thoughts - a line i use a lot is 'use your words and NOT your hands'. if they are trying to force the issue on their siblings, I would personally focus firstly on NOT using hands, then encouraging them to come talk to you if they are distressed. another thing i say to overly involved siblings is something like 'thats a job for a mummy, not a brother' eg making clear that it is my role to sort out behaviour, not theirs. so perhaps first focus on them controlling their hands, coming to you first at which point you can walk them through the process of judging in future if they need to talk to you about it, how to encourage their brother, and so on. I encourage my kids to remember that my job is not the same as theirs, they do not need to take on a parenting role! also, if it all does fall to pieces, I will sit with them sometimes and walk them through how it could have been handled differently eg - when X stood on your lego, what could you have done? Hit them or come and talked to me? etc etc. hth?? x

      Delete
    2. Lol Kate meetoo! Mini Police Brutality.

      Delete
  11. Fabulous post. I love that it's clear, simple and easy for little ones to understand.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. thanks so much Kate and thanks for sharing too :)

      Delete
  12. This comment has been removed by the author.

    ReplyDelete
  13. Fabulous post. These are good ways to use tale telling as a way to teach our kids skills that they'll value forever.Thank you x

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. thanks and so true - its so important to keep a long term view on these issues huh :)

      Delete
  14. I really enjoyed reading this. Thanks. Excellent food for thought and I feel the same way. I like how you deal with it at home. Obviously "tattling" or "dobbing" as it's often referred to at school, is very common at school. The other day I observed my daughter's teacher having a conversation with her class about this after lunch. They were discussing "The Disaster Scale" which is where they are encouraged to think about and rate their disasters or incidences that they are itching to tell the teacher about and decide whether or not it rates high enough on the scale to warrant dobbing/tattling. Broken arms and kids on the roof were rated among things at a 10 on the disaster scale and then down to someone accidentally stepping on your foot at a number 1. It was interesting hearing the kids talk through their incidences and as a class decide where it would sit on the disaster scale. (The overall idea being eventually that only things high on the disaster scale are reported to the teachers). I like how with your idea it is more than just considering if it's important enough to tattle about but also a strategy for how to deal with it and an underlying msg about looking out for and caring about one another. I'm sure (hopeful) they will be covering that with the students as well. I'll be using your idea with my kids at home.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. thanks so much Deborah for such a thoughtful comment! Love the example at your daughters school too - my kids school talks about 'big problems and little problems' for similar reasons. YES as you said, for us its also more about whether they tattle or not, but also trying to build into them a sense of care for each other, wanting each other to succeed rather than just throwing each other under the bus haha ;) I really hope and pray to build in a sense of friendship and 'team-thinking' in my kids over the years. Hope it works for your clan too! x

      Delete
  15. Thanks so much for this post, Kate! Tattling is a daily occurrence in our house... Drives me nuts :) I love how you guys handle it, can't wait to share with my husband!

    ReplyDelete
  16. Thanks so much for this post, Kate! Tattling is a daily occurrence in our house... Drives me nuts :) I love how you guys handle it, can't wait to share with my husband!

    ReplyDelete
  17. Great post! I love "Is it dangerous or destructive?
    Have you encouraged them to make a good choice?". Something I will use at home now!
    Louise x

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Oh, I would be so thrilled if it worked well for your family too! :)

      Delete
  18. My 4 1/2 year old is driving me insane with this this summer holiday so I will definitley be taking this on board and trying it out and hopefully stop me yelling " I don't care" so much at her :-(

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Big hugs, I hope it works well for your family xxxx

      Delete

i love to hear your thoughts, thanks for leaving your comments! xx