How to Raise a TattleTale


I’m sure I’m sensitive. And I’ll bet you’re going to say “She’ll grow out of it”. But our kid has become a tattletale.

At first it was cute, and honestly, when she got bitten the first time at school WE were quick to ask “Did you tell the teacher?”. The school also reinforced that behavior as they taught the kids to communicate with one another:

  1. When someone does something you don’t like, tell them to stop.
  2. If they don’t stop, tell a teacher.

And with lots of kids running around on a playground, I think that’s fabulous advice and has made our child a confident defender of her own space. Way better than a wallflower or her taking misguided frustration out on others. What the school did NOT teach her is when NOT to be a tattletale, I suppose.

Yesterday we were at a kids’ party with a bouncy house (need I say more?). There were kids of all ages in there, including some “bigger boys” who were indiscriminately bouncing everywhere, as boys do, sometimes colliding with Zoe. The first time she got an elbow (no injury) she came out crying and went straight to daddy for 5 seconds, then went straight back IN the bouncy house on her own initiative and told Dad, “I’m going to be brave.”

The next time she got bounced on she skipped both me AND Dad and went straight up to who I believe she thought was the father of that kid and said, “Excuse me. That boy with the white shirt just jumped on me.” Thankfully, the dad (and his friend who was sitting with him) were pretty awesome. They took her totally seriously and headed straight to the bouncy house for her to point out the offender (who had left, but still). More reinforcement of tattletale behavior.

Last night at dinner with friends, she kept telling on one of the other kids who “opened his mouth and had food in it”, “hit her with a pillow” (though she had hit him first with a pillow), and so on… She’s also likely to say things like “that girl isn’t wearing shoes outside” or “he didn’t close the door” or “she just dropped her (fill in the blank) and didn’t pick it up”, etc. If it’s a rule Zoe has to follow, it must be a rule for everyone – and if someone breaks it, she is ON IT.

She’s got a real future in Hall Monitor, Schoolmarm or Parking Ticket Lady ahead of her.

The real problem is, she’s so cute and articulate (in my opinion) that when she DOES start tattling, it’s adorable. I think things like “Yay! That rule’s getting THROUGH!” or “I’m glad she speaks up for herself!” But I am certain that some day, this little habit will make her the annoying kid in the room – and lose her a friend or two…

Suggestions welcome on how to redirect this behavior to only the really tough situations where defending herself matters and to make sure this doesn’t just become an attention-getting tactic or way to deflect from her own bad behavior. In the meantime, if you’re around Little Miss Zoe, I recommend you watch your Ps and Qs! ;)

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