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I hear teachers and other Mom's telling the children NOT to be a tattle tail. This is not something I have ever told my 4 year old. Quite the opposite is true; we've always tried to make sure he knows that he can tell his parents, (or basically any adult) anything. We feel we would be conflicting our expectations (at this age) if we tell him "do not tattle". Thus far, we have not had any challenges with our son being a "tattle", but I am very curious...what are your thoughts?

I agree that you want to establish open communication with your children. Building a foundation of communication when young should help you weather “harder” times.

Tattling can be annoying as children repeatedly expect adults to solve their conflicts. Discouraging tattling does not have to contradict your efforts for open communication.

While I admit we have Gordon tattle tails, we have found the follow approach effective in most instances:

When we hear “Johnny took my toy”

1.) Ask what happened.
Parent: Why did Johnny take the toy?
Child: I don’t know he just wanted it.

2.) Ask what did you do?
Parent: What did you do after Johnny took the toy?
Child: I screamed and tried to take the toy back.

3.) What should you do?
Parent: What should you have done after he took the toy?
Child: I should tell him that I was playing with the toy and he hurt my feelings.

4.) Now go talk to Johnny. In many cases, the children will be able to work it out. However, if your child has given a good effort the the toy was not return, then you as a parent need to intervene. If you are uncertain of the truth you may choose to put the toy in time out.

The idea is to teach our children to solve their own problems. Coach them up and send them back into the game.


Written May 2011 by
Dr. Gordon, Orlando Pediatrician






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