Children tattle. They do it at
daycare. They do it at home. It happens in the primary grades and
continues into high school. Regardless of the grade you teach, tattling
will occur in your classroom.
Many teachers don't like tattling and have
devised plans to reduce its occurrence and eliminate it from their
classrooms. For example:
"I use a Tattleman, which is a stuffed teddy
bear that I keep in the back of the room," says a veteran kindergarten
teacher. "I tell the students that if they're tattling because they're
upset, go tell it to the Tattleman. Many kids whisper in Tattleman's ear
throughout the year and it has significantly cut down the amount of
tattling in my classroom."
"I keep a plastic tree in the back of my
second-grade classroom. If the tattling is not about the 3 B's, blood,
barf, or being hurt, I tell my students to tell it to the tree."
"I teach my children to only come to me for medical emergencies," a
middle-school teacher announced. "When they come to tattle I ask them if
it's a medical emergency. When they say no I simply send them on their
way. It takes about a month or two, but tattling ends quickly in my
classroom. I just don't tolerate it."
"I made a Tattle Tail," one
early childhood educator announced. "When kids tattle, they carry the
stuffed tail with them for a portion of the day. It works."
the ideas expressed above may be well intentioned, the results do not
serve to create self-responsible, thinking, caring children. Let's take a
Understand tattling. Tattling is a necessary and desirable part of the developmental
sequence. Knowing that it is normal and inevitable will help you be less
resentful of it and more likely to deal with it effectively.
Rename tattling. Tattling is a negative word with negative
connotations. Because we call it tattling and define that as bad, we work
to eliminate it in classrooms. Why not just give tattling a new name. We
suggest you call it "reporting." Reporting doesn't have a negative
association attached to it. In fact, we even pay people in our society to
do reporting. Don't we all wish someone had reported the possibility of
violence before the Columbine massacre?
When to report. Some teachers help children determine when
reporting a situation, behavior, or circumstance is appropriate and when
it is not. The teacher who wants to hear only if it involves "the 3
B's"barf, blood, or being hurt" is one example. Another is the instructor
who asks of a child who wants to report something about a classmate, "Is
it going to get them in or out�of trouble?" If it's going to get them out of trouble, she wants to hear
the report. If the reporting is designed to get the other child into trouble, this teacher
instructs the reporter to keep it to himself.
Our position is that there
is no inappropriate time to report. Instruction on when and when not to
report is misguided and unhelpful to the student's development as a
self-responsible human being. It is always valuable to
right person. The important
issue in helping children learn about appropriate reporting behavior is
not when to report. Nor is it
the consideration of what to
report. The critical decision about reporting involves WHO to report to. We must help
children learn to report to the right person.
When a child reports to you
that a classmate was passing rubbing alcohol around on the bus and asking
students to sniff it, he is reporting to the right person. If a child
tells you his friend got sick in the bathroom, he is reporting to the
person who needs to hear the report.
The wrong person. If a student reports to you that another
student won't give him a turn on the swing, he has reported to the wrong
person. Your job in this instance is to help him find the correct person
to report to and teach him how to do it effectively. Say, "Sounds like
you're wanting a turn. That's something you need to report to Cherrie.
Would you like me to help you come up with an appropriate way to tell
her?" Then accompany the child to the scene and coach him through the
dialog, making sure he is heard. Later, after a few attempts with you
being present, you can send the child off alone to report his feelings and
desires to the person who most needs to hear them.
High school students can be
taught to report to the person sitting next to them that they don't like it
when answers are copied from their paper. The correct person to report to
in this case is the person doing the copying. If several instances of
reporting to this correct person are unsuccessful, a new "correct person"
emerges to report to�the teacher.
Young children can be taught to report to the
person who steps on their toe, not to the teacher. Middle-school students
can be taught to report bullying when they notice the victim is unable or
unwilling to stand up for herself. First, they can report their feelings
to the bully. If that doesn't work, they can report to an
occasion, children need to report to themselves. If the behavior is not
bothering anyone and is not potentially harmful, the child may need to say
something to himself, such as, "This isn't my issue," or "This is not a
Children will tattle. Why not relax and accept
it as normal and inevitable? Why not see it as an opportunity to help your
students learn about the importance of reporting to the right person?
Chick Moorman and Thomas Haller are the authors of The 10 Commitments: Parenting with
Purpose. They are two of the world's foremost authorities on raising
responsible, caring, confident children. To obtain more information about
how they can help you or your group meet your staff development needs,
visit their websites today: www.chickmoorman.com or