Sunday, May 10, 2015

T Is for Tattling, or How I Stop My Kids from Doing that Annoying Whine-Scream to Get Their Siblings in Trouble

Siblings love to get siblings in trouble.

It's a thing.

For kids with brothers and sisters, it seems like half of childhood is spent either getting a sibling in trouble or trying to stay out of the trouble a sibling is trying to get him into.

Tattling can become a major part of a parent's day.

But it doesn't have to be.

A little note before we continue: There is a fine line when dealing with tattling. The difference is their intent. Is the child trying to get someone else in trouble, or is he actually worried about the sibling's welfare? I want the kids to come talk to me when one of their siblings is doing something harmful, but at the same time, I don't want them to come talk to me when a sibling is just being naughty. Someday, these children of mine will one day be in charge of my well-being. I need to make sure that they know how to be a team, so I don't languish in my adult diaper while they bicker over the best course of action. They are a team, and they need to act like it. Tattling is a sure-fire way to break up that team. If there is a legitimate worry, I stop and deal with it immediately. Otherwise...

As far as I can tell, tattling occurs for one of two reasons.

1. A fight has broken out, and one child lost said fight. In an effort to get some pride back, he hustles himself down to mom to let her know that he has been grievously injured by another.

2. A child is jealous of his sibling who did something he shouldn't be doing. Instead of joining in for fear of getting into trouble, the jealous child runs to tell, because the situation just isn't fair.

I assess the situation and then deal with it accordingly. Simply stated, I shut that tattling nonsense down by making sure the child sees no benefit or reward whatsoever.

Situation #1: A child comes to tell me how horribly he was treated by a sibling.


Me: Yes, I heard. There was quite a scuffle going on upstairs. If you want to tell me what your brother did to you, you must first tell me what bad choices you made.

Child: BUT MOM, HE

Me: Ah, ah. I will not listen to your complaints about him until you tell me how you contributed to the fight. A fight is a two person deal. You and your brother both made some poor choices, and you need to tell me what you did first.

Child: BUT

Me: No.


Me: What did you do, and what could you have done to make the situation better instead of worse?

No child wants to rehash his own bad choices. This only has to happen once or twice before a child realizes it is a bad idea to come tell me about his brother's poor behavior. And if it takes more than once or twice, so be it. He is at least being made to stop and think about how he will handle things in the future.

Situation #2: A child is jealous of a rule-breaker.

I have a few comebacks for this situation, depending on the child, the offense, and my mood.

The conversation can go one of many ways.


Me: What do you think I should do about that?

Child: Take his iPod away.

Me: How do you think he's going to feel about that?

Child: He will be mad.

Me: At whom?

Child: You.

Me: But don't you think he will be even more mad at you? What do you think will happen the next time you are doing something you shouldn't?

Child: But Mom!

Me: I'm thinking he will be the first one to tell on you.

Child: Yes, but

Me: For your sake, I'm not going to do anything to him. We'll just pretend this conversation never took place, so you and your brother can still be friends.



Me: Wow. I wish you wouldn't have told me that. Now I can't do anything about it. If I go stop him, I'll just be encouraging you to tell me the next time you see someone doing something he shouldn't. And since you're only supposed to tell me when someone is hurting himself, another person, or property, I don't want to encourage you to tell me about other things.


Me: If only you wouldn't have told me. I could have found him myself. THEN he would have gotten in some serious trouble. Bummer.



Me: Why are you telling me?

Child: Because you told him to do it and he isn't!

Me: But why are you telling me? Do you think I won't figure it out myself?

Child: Yes, but, or no, but but...but

Me: I really don't see why you are putting yourself in the middle of this situation. What does it say about you that you feel the need to get your brother in trouble?



Regardless of my response to the tattler, I must in no way, shape or form allow him to think I am giving his tales any of my time or attention. It will only encourage him to tattle more in the future. That path will only cause more division between him and his siblings, and we can't have that.

Now, does this mean that the child who was doing something he shouldn't never answers for his crimes?

Heck no!

(Well, it depends on the crime, if it was even a crime to begin with.)

Long after the tattler has left and after the rule-breaker has broken the rule, I have a little chat with the offender. I let him know that I know, so he knows that I know, without letting him know how I know. Kids don't like chats like this, so that is half the punishment right there. If the offense is bad enough, more action will be taken, but never, ever will the tattler know about it.

Peace shall reign.

So help me and my future senile, aged, diapered self.

How do you/did you deal with your kids' tattling?

This post was supposed to be part of the A-Z Challenge, but I dropped out before I got to T. 

Have a lovely day!


  1. Emma's M.O. was to scream bloody murder when things weren't going her way. We used to fall for it and get after her brother for doing something to her, until we finally got wise.

  2. I love your conversations with your kids. You're so smart. You're also a very good mom.

    Have a fabulous day. ☺

    1. You, Sandee, are very good for my ego. :) Thank you.

  3. Replies
    1. Doesn't a legend imply old and probably dead? ;)

  4. YOu had me running towards you with this title. Haven't even read yet, but had to make that comment/.

    1. Ha! Is tattling a problem in your house? :)

  5. Amazing, Christine! Can't wait to put some of these conversations in action.

  6. this is pure brilliance! I'm implementing this TODAY. my two are constantly tattling. thank you!

  7. You are one cool cucumber lady! :D

  8. I am forever and by that I mean about 27 times a day, saying "I'm the parent I did not ask for your help..."


Thank you for taking the time to tell me what you're thinking!