Help Me Find a Creative Way to Stop the Tattling!

Updated on May 25, 2012
B.C. asks from Arlington, TX
17 answers

4 kids, between 4-5 years old and I'm constantly being told, "Miss Bethany, so and so isn't cleaning!" (while I'm watching!), etc. It's almost constant in this house and it's driving me batty! I've explained the difference between telling (something where someone might be hurt) and tattling. I was thinking of starting them with X amount of popsicle sticks and they get one taken away every tattle, but then... I'm blank. Can you please help me try to resolve this issue? A creative way to nip this in the bud? I'm really good at coming up with rewards but no creative when it comes to discipline. I'm looking more for reward for having so and so many popsicle sticks left vs. getting nothing for so and so gone.

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So What Happened?

Oh Nikki! They hear that ALL day! Lol. "I'm not listening to it. You're friends, you can figure it out" but that doesn't really help.

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answers from Minneapolis on

I saw this on Pinterest. Its from a Kindergarten classroom, but I know one of my daycare provider pals who put it in her area. She tells the children in lessons all the time the difference between telling and tattling, then uses htis to reinforce the time to tattle.

She instructs them when they start a tattle that this is a tattle and a message needs to be go to the tattle phone. She insists it works for her preschool home daycare with kids 2-6 years old. I will assume, if nothing else, it distracts them from the mission of tattling??

Good Luck!

3 moms found this helpful


answers from Dallas on

In the cleaning situation, I would say, "Thanks for noticing; you can clean it for her," and hand cleaning supplies to the tattler. When they state that it isn't fair, then say, "Well, you shouldn't have tatttled." Then address the child who should have been cleaning, and tell her she needs to clean her own mess next time.

I have teenagers in my classroom who try to tattle, and I tell them all the time to stop; that's why I don't teach kindergarten. They need to act like juniors and seniors.

As for the popsicle stick plan, it may work for you, but I prefer immediate consequences and rewards rather than adding up sticks.

1 mom found this helpful

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answers from San Francisco on

I agree with Nikki and I would just endure. This reminded me of a great article I read by Po Bronson:

"...tattling has received some scientific interest, and researchers have spent hours observing kids at play. They've learned that nine out of ten times a kid runs up to a parent to tell, that kid is being completely honest. And while it might seem to a parent that tattling is incessant, to a child that's not the case — because for every one time a child seeks a parent for help, there were fourteen other instances when he was wronged and did not run to the parent for aid.

When the child — who's put up with as much as he can handle — finally comes to tell the parent the honest truth, he hears, in effect, "Stop bringing me your problems!" According to one researcher's work, parents are ten times more likely to chastise a child for tattling than they are to chide a child who lied.

Kids pick up on the power of "Don't Tell" and learn they can silence one another with it. By the middle years of elementary school, being labeled a tattler is about the worst thing a kid can be called on the playground. So a child considering reporting a problem to an adult not only faces peer condemnation as a traitor and the schoolyard equivalent of the death penalty — ostracism — but he also recalls every time he's heard teachers and parents say, "Work it out on your own."

Each year, the problems kids deal with become exponentially bigger. They watch other kids vandalize walls, shoplift, cut class, and climb fences into places they shouldn't be. To tattle about any of it is to act like a little kid, mortifying to any self-respecting tweener. Keeping their mouth shut is easy; they've been encouraged to do so since they were little.

The era of holding information back from parents has begun."

3 moms found this helpful


answers from Colorado Springs on

Betty MacDonald wrote four MRS. PIGGLE-WIGGLE books, well worth reading, and one of the stories is about a couple of tattle-talers (older than your group) who suddenly find that every time they open their mouths to tattle, a big black cloud of smoke comes out of their mouths and follows them around, inside and outside. When they choose not to tattle, one of the clouds fades away.

Unhappily, manufacturing clouds is not something you can do with your children.

But you might try rewarding your little ones for telling you GOOD things about one another instead of bad things. With young children, tattling becomes a game; the bad thing is that it also becomes a habit. What can you do instead for children who say, "Miss Bethany, So-and-so is cleaning very well!"? If you can do a sticker system, perhaps, with a reward at the end of the page, then maybe the attraction of positive comments might distract them from making negative comments. Just a thought.

You might find them all overdoing it to get stickers at first, but the idea is to get them to look for and verbalize the good things, not the bad ones, so maybe a little overdo is all right at first.

3 moms found this helpful


answers from San Francisco on

One of the first grade teachers I worked with used to say silly things like "are you on fire? is every bone in your body broken?" after the kids said "no" a few times she said "good, now go back and play/do your work."
The kids thought it was pretty funny and it usually got them to stop with the constant tattling, lol!

3 moms found this helpful


answers from Columbia on

I don't think you're understanding - Nikki is correct.

According to your SWH - they're repeatedly saying that, which means that you are giving in to listening to the complaint at some point. You should only need to ignore the complainer a few times before the behavior starts to change - if you are truly ignoring it.

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answers from St. Louis on

With my kids, not sure if it works with normal kids, they are instructed to bring me a solution. They can't because it is tattling so they stopped. I am here to tend to your wounds, nurture and give you guidance. Listening to tattling doesn't fall in my job description.

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answers from Los Angeles on

Go to right now and get the book Tattlin' Madeline. Perfect for that age and you can do the same thing they do in the book with your kids (a simple hand symbol to make them think twice if they are tattling vs. "reporting"). You need to teach them the difference between the two and train them to "catch" themselves tattling.

It's kind of like what Nikki said but gentler, and you really have to teach them what "tattling" is first so they can recognize it. It's all about learning whether something is worth telling or not. Then you stop them in the action to retrain them.

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answers from Dallas on

The rule in my house is don't tattle unless someone could get hurt or something could get broken. If they tattle for any other reason they are both in trouble. One for whatever they were doing, and the other for tattling. Time outs for everybody!

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answers from Portland on

How about just ignoring it whenever possible?

I know it can be hard, but what I've done in the past is to address it at circle/group time, and to make it clear: if you see another child doing something that will hurt someone else, you may ask them to stop. If they don't, then you may tell me. Otherwise, it's not your business. You take care of you and Suzy will take care of Suzy.

And then, I just stand firm with my one-line response: That's not your business, go (play, wash your own hands, etc.) and no more eye contact, no explanations, no attention.

Taking away popsicle sticks will only work if you have a privilege or reward assigned to them. Most parents will give you an earful about rewards for not tattling, mainly because some parents do rely on the older child doing the same thing at home to keep the littler kids safe. What is 'reporting' at home--and often praised-- is tattling at school. If they feel their child is being 'penalized' because they didn't get the reward, then you will have upset parents.

If I had a child who was persistent in tattling, I would sometimes offer them a chair: "I need you to sit here until you are ready to mind your own business/let Suzy take care of herself."

With a group this size, from my experience, it is very rare that children are in such danger that tattling is warranted. I've made it clear that "if it is not happening to you, you need to let those kids figure out how they are going to solve their problem. We are all here at preschool to learn how to get along-- and we are all still learning."

Like I said, keep it short, do not give more attention than need be, and offer the tattlers who won't let it go a chair to sit in until they're ready to butt out. Usually, once the kids have gotten an " I need you to sit here until you are ready to do X" and they see I'm not running over to immediately correct the other kid, the behavior does start to diminish.

And with the children who weren't doing what was asked, I try to 'catch' them the next time, discreetly, so they don't get to skip out on following directions again. A quiet and connected (side hug) "Hey, Charlie, it's cleanup time right now. I want you to be our block guy and make our block area nice by putting them away where they belong. Come find me when you are done so I can check." A friendly squeeze, then I go off to give the child room to do what I've asked. Give the child a specific area/task and then follow up. Washing hands was a big one for my group, so I bought a soap with a nice scent and would ask to 'smell their soap'. I will bet you will come up with some clever ways to double-check on the kids who have a harder time following through with the directions given to them!

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answers from San Antonio on

One thing we did with our oldest three (now 14, 13 & 12) was when one would come and complain, using your example, that the other wasn't cleaning we'd point out "Well, you're not cleaning right now either. You're standing here talking to me. And I can see that s/he wasn't helping. S/he won't get xyz reward unless s/he helps."

That usually was enough to get them both going.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Jacksonville on

I don't have a house full either, just my own 2, but what I do with mine is turn it around on them and ask them this question:
"Why are you telling me that?" The only reason I can see is that you are trying to get __ in trouble. Is that why you are telling me?"

They usually stop pretty quick after that... because, really, that is usually what they are trying to do, even if they don't realize it at first.

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answers from Dallas on

IS there a way? Well, I don't have a house full of kids, I've just got my two. BUT, my two don't tattle much because when they start to tattle, I put my hand up, and say "If this is a tattle, don't bother telling me, because I'm not getting involved. You two can figure it out." and they just walk away. Eventually, they just quit trying.

They do still tattle if there is physical violence going on, but that's a reason to tattle. Which is why I don't necessarily think actual punishment would be a good idea, because can they discern at ages 4 & 5 what is a good tattle and what is a bad tattle? I'm not sure.

So I say just employ a "Miss Bethany doesn't care" policy. Hold up your hand, turn your head, and say "If this is a tattle I don't want to hear it." They'll stop.

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answers from Atlanta on

I'm not sure exactly what you're saying. You mean miss Bethany is another child not cleaning while the other kids are? Sounds like they're worried about whats fair or what is going on with the other -- trying to keep it all together where they're all doing the same thing at the same time. They're very little and it's pretty normal for this age to do this. This is a good time to examine your own way of doing things, what are you modeling? (don't mean you're tattling) No one likes the tattling thing especially when it's constant, it can be annoying to say the least. But then again you want them to tell you things especially as they get older. But not in this way, I know.

A lot is just their age. I'd ignore it for the most part and let it die out, and maybe just say, "lets mind our own bees wax." They'll get it in time. The reward game comes back to bite ya big time eventually. It becomes exhausting as they get older. Making a litte game into things that need to be done works much better and or singing a little song for things, like the clean up song etc. Children don't listen to explanations and reason at this age, that's for much older kids. It's just babble to them and then as they get older when they need to listen to reason they won't because that's all they've ever heard. Remember children live in the moment. Meet them where they are. Hold the space, don't let them guide it, you guide it.
Hope this helps for you.


answers from Redding on

4 and 5. They don't really know they are tattling, basically they are just communicating, they are like living journals.
I'd use it more as a lesson on how to mind your "own" business.
"If you are busy doing what you are supposed to be doing how can you know what the others are doing?" "When you come and tell me about little Suzie, you make me think you are not doing what you should be..."
Kids don't like negativity responses.


answers from Norfolk on

Just tell the tattler "I can see for myself whether so and so is cleaning or not. You don't need to tell me. Just take care of your own area and never mind what so and so is doing.".
Of course, if so and so isn't doing what they should be doing, you might want to address that (so there is less to tattle on in the first place).



answers from San Francisco on

In advance tell the children when one of their tattles is not valid, such as, "Miss Bethany so and so isn't cleaning", then the tattler will get to do double cleaning.

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