Thursday, July 24, 2014

Tattling or Telling? Two Questions to Teach Kids

*Today's guest post is brought to you by Leah DeCesare, author of Naked Parenting: 7 Keys to Raising Kids with Confidence

It can be hard for kids to understand if something is tattling or telling. Here is a simple guide to help us teach kids the difference.

1.    Is anyone hurt?

This is the first thing to teach kids. If they are hurt or someone else is hurt, it’s telling. Go get an adult. Broadening this, kids should also know it’s good to tell a parent or teacher if someone is threatening to hurt them or another child. It’s not tattling if physical harm is involved or intended.

If a child is injured, it is always okay to tell, however, it’s also good to help kids distinguish if the hurt was by accident or on purpose. If a hurt was unintentional, the child still needs attending to, depending upon the extent of the injury, but then reframe the incident for the child.

There’s a difference between Billy kicking or pinching and a child accidentally tripping over Billy as he played with a truck. In either case, having the hurt child understand the difference is a valuable lesson.

A child who routinely “tells” on a sibling or playmate for not-quite-hurts may need to be directed in some problem solving skills as the habitual “teller” may have crossed into the tattler. Hurt feelings can be tough for both kids and parents, help them by using question #2.

2.    Can I figure this out by myself?

Whether it’s between siblings or friends, as a mom, I always first try to allow the kids to solve problems on their own. Even if I’m asked to help them, I try to guide them in problem solving instead of just offering up my ideas. This technique empowers children and helps them become more self-sufficient and confident.

Kids can come to some creative and effective solutions on their own. Some questions you might ask to direct them are: Did you ask the person to stop what they were doing? Was it an accident? Did the person apologize? What else could you try?

If a child is very young or needs more help in working through the situation, you could then offer your suggestions. Some options the child could try depending upon the situation include separating themselves from the offender, offering to share a toy of their own, not bringing a favorite toy if they don’t want to share it, or directly telling a child, “I don’t like when you call me that name/do that to me.”

Encouraging and guiding children to learn the differences between telling and tattling can create more harmony in your family and can help children learn the critical lesson that they can effect outcomes by their own actions. The correlation between one’s behavior and the resulting effects is monumental in parenting, here is one way to help kids make that connection.

© Copyright Leah DeCesare 2014

Leah DeCesare is the mother of three children, two teenagers and an elementary-aged daughter. She is a writer, doula, early parenting and childbirth educator and she blogs at about perspectives on parenting from pregnancy to teens.

Her book, Naked Parenting: 7 Keys to Raising Kids with Confidence, is parenting stripped down to the bare basics focusing on seven keys to raising kids who are self-sufficient, confident, respectful, and resilient. Nudity not required. It is a sensible, realistic and practical guide for parents with children of all ages. Fun, honest, and easy-to-read, it provides creative tips and ideas that any parent can start using today.

The principles of Naked Parenting provide a framework to guide parenting decisions and actions within one’s own style of parenting. Simply explained, with straightforward strategies that parents can apply to issues of all kinds. Naked Parenting is available now on Amazon.

Twitter: @leahdecesare
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Facebook: MothersCircleLeah


  1. Thank you for having me guest post, Renae! Have a terrific weekend!

  2. Great post. My oldest pisses me off with telling. He feels the need to tell every freaking thing. I have tried to tell him that he only needs to say something is someone is doing something dangerous or injured but he chops it up as I need to do the opposite lol. He comes and tells me that the two youngest are falling asleep in bed together and other random things throughout the day, such as one brother playing with another's brothers toys.

    1. Victoria - Tattling can really wear a mom down! :-) I always marvel at how well the kids know the rules to monitor others but then are less diligent in following those same rules themselves! Thanks for the comment!

  3. This is such a helpful blog post. A definite bookmark worthy page! Thank you!