Teaching a tattler – Part 1

Understanding the difference between tattling and informing

“I’m telling!”

Wait for it…


a little girl tattling to her mom

Sound familiar? Dealing with tattling can be tricky. After all, we appreciate being “in the know” about little Peyton’s tendency to stray into the neighbor’s yard, or Aaron’s lying habit. But that doesn’t mean we want to hear about every nitpicky complaint your eight year-old can come up with in regards to her little brother. How and where do we draw the line?

First, we should understand that children tattle for several reasons. At times, they just want our attention. Other times, kids play the “parent” to their siblings as a way to feel more important or mature. At the heart of many tattling situations, however, is that your child simply doesn’t have the skill to solve the problem by herself.

By taking some time to discuss tattling with your child, you can help your kids to better understand when they need to get you involved.

Tattling versus informing
An excellent place to start with kids is to make sure they know the difference between tattling and informing. The root of tattling is the idea of getting the other person in trouble. This is the opposite of informing, where the goal is to get the person out of trouble.

Informing should be used when someone is in a dangerous (or potentially dangerous) situation. Danger exists when someone can be hurt physically, by drugs or alcohol, driving too fast, playing with the stove or matches, or when a young child goes into the street. Mental or emotional trauma also warrants informing – such as bullying, inappropriate adult contact, or online predators. Informing about illegal or immoral behaviors is also important, for instance lying about risky behavior, stealing, or cheating.

Tattling, on the other hand, can be described as the everyday “he-said, she-said” or “That’s not fair!!” moments of childhood.

How do you handle tattling in your home?

In my next blog post, part 2 of Teaching a Tattler will focus on training and follow up strategies.

About the Author

Amy McCready
Nationally recognized parenting expert Amy McCready is the Founder of Positive Parenting Solutions and the best selling author of The “Me, Me, Me” Epidemic - A Step-by-Step Guide to Raising Capable, Grateful Kids in an Over-Entitled World and If I Have to Tell You One More Time…The Revolutionary Program That Gets Your Kids to Listen Without Nagging, Reminding or Yelling. As a “recovering yeller” and a Certified Positive Discipline Instructor, Amy is a champion of positive parenting techniques for happier families and well-behaved kids. Amy is a TODAY Show contributor and has been featured on CBS This Morning, CNN, Fox & Friends, MSNBC, Rachael Ray, Steve Harvey & others. In her most important role, she is the proud mom of two amazing young men.