Between the ages of 5-7 yrs old, children begin to develop a strong sense of justice and fairness. This is normal as it is part of their growing moral awareness. As a result, children become the ambassadors of all things true and righteous…AKA tattlers. It’s most annoying to adults and if the habit occurs too often, the children may find themselves without playmates, either.

Some examples of tattling are:

“Tom took my pencil.”

“Becky won’t share her cookies with Mary.”

“Travis wants to beat up Bob at recess.” (But is this tattling??)

As the last example shows, children need to speak up if someone is in danger. The question is how to help them understand the difference.

During my Etiquette summer camps, I read a story to the campers on this topic entitled “A Bad Case of Tattle Tongue” written by Julia Cook. The main character tattles on everyone and we see that he loses friends and irritates his mom a lot. During a dream, the young man is taught to tell the difference between tattling and speaking up if necessary.

He learns the 4 Rules for Tattling:

Rule #1 Be a Danger Ranger

If a person or animal is in danger, you must warn someone. This isn’t tattling when your child informs a teacher that a student has been threatened. Your child needed to inform the teacher about Travis so Bob would be kept out of harm’s way.

Rule #2 Be a Problem Solver

If the problem involves you, take charge and try to solve it yourself. When Tom took the pencil, ask him politely to give it back. Don’t tattle to the teacher.

Rule #3 Now or Later

Is the problem a Now problem or a Not Now problem? Can your problem be solved at a later time? When Tom took the pencil, you still had another one in your desk to use for class. So it was a Not Now problem. You could always ask Tom to give back the pencil later after class.

Rule #4 MYOB – Mind Your Own Business

When Becky didn’t share her cookies with Mary, was this your problem? No. Let Mary deal with it.

To curb this bad habit, teach your children to ask the questions, “Is it dangerous?” and “Does it have anything to do with me?” If not, don’t tattle. These incidents will begin to subside and stop completely thanks to the natural consequences of disapproving peers who don’t want to play with tattlers.

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