Oh for the love of all things holy… (and this is where those people who say “I could never homeschool because I don’t have the patience” would really get an earful)… the thing that sends me from zero to 60 faster than you can say “Boo!” is tattle-taling.
Ugh… puh-LEAZZZZE… Please, please, PLEASE GO. AWAY. AND. HANDLE. IT.
Of course, they can’t handle it. If they could handle it, they wouldn’t be bringing it to me. I mean, they might because sometimes my kids just use stuff like this as a cry for my attention. Check yourself on that. But really, I realized at some point that I really had not taught my kids how to handle things for themselves very well. The thing is: they didn’t need me to intervene, they needed me to teach them how to handle a tattle-tale moment.
We had been sort of dragged into this journey by my children’s penchant for approaching another parent to tattle on that parent’s child. I had implemented a rule where my kids had to come to me about the issue before going to the other child’s parent. Largely because the offense was not really an offense against my own child. Things like “So-and-so is going up the slide instead of down” or “He’s not giving her a turn”. There were a lot of “So-and-so has their own parent” and “If she wants a turn and is having a problem, she needs to speak up to her mommy”. Pretty much redirecting my children parenting and advocating for other children. Wait… that last part sounded wrong. There has ALWAYS been question about whether the other child was in a position where they could not defend themselves before redirecting my child because my children know that they need to help those who cannot help themselves. Okay… just clarifying.
That being said, we have a rule that if another person has hit my kids, they need to find a parent first. With very little exception. Exceptions are when that person is a cousin or someone we know VERY well. Even then–if they are afraid of that person’s reaction, they just find an adult. When someone is driven to hitting, you really don’t know why. Maybe it’s just ridiculous and correctable immaturity. But it’s not something we take chances with.
Anyway… step one of my journey cut down EASILY 75% of the tattle-taling in my house. My reply was always the same: “Did you tell THEM this?” and the answer was regularly “No.” So I would instruct them to tell the child bothering them exactly what they told me. I diligently modeled verbiage for them…
“Tell them that you wanted a turn to play on the swing”
“Just say ‘I really want my dolly back’ ”
“Tell her that you want her to leave your room”
“Tell them that you don’t like to play that way and if they want to keep playing that way, you’re going to go play with someone else.”
The rule became that they could not come to me until they had first addressed it with the offending party.
When the novelty of mom’s involvement-by-way-of-instruction wore off and there was no longer the threat of mom catching a bit of what actually happened (and the threat of mom stepping in disappeared), the tattle-taling got to a new level. NOW when they came to me, they HAD tried to correct it themselves already.
The routine became this:
Both kids had to sit side by side (usually on the bottom stair in the foyer). The child that brought the problem to me got to tell the story from their perspective while the other child had to be silent–no correcting or interjecting. Then the other child got to tell their version of what happened. Then I got to ask clarifying questions. This morning’s incident was my 10yo son complaining that my 5yo daughter kicked him in the penis. I love my daughter, but I know she totally could’ve done this on purpose even though she’s never done it before.
After both told their sides of the story, my clarifying questions were:
“Did you know you were kicking him?”
“Why did you kick him?”
“Because he wasn’t playing with me.”
There ya have it. Of course, this was sparked by my 10yo being in her room and completely ignoring her. Which is not okay, but we don’t physically take out our frustrations on people. Both got their clarifications on acceptable behavior, doled out appropriate corrective actions, and sent on their way.
For the most, when they have to sit next to one another and listen to the other tell the story, their stories are usually pretty similar. Often, that means one of them has changed something they might have initially said to me (and sometimes, that is one of my clarifying questions). But it all works out and there is far less tattle-taling in my house.