Why Kids Tattle
There is a little girl who is near and dear to my heart. She was sweet and kind by nature, but there was another side to her. The tattling side.
She tattled when she saw someone take another child's toy. She tattled when someone wasn't following directions. She tattled when someone said something she didn't want to hear. She was, as some put it, "a tattler."
One year she had a teacher who was so frustrated by her tattling. "No classroom jobs for you," said the teacher. The tattling persisted. "You will sit all by yourself now," the teacher decided.
Still, there was more tattling. "Now you will not talk to your friends," the teacher insisted.
The little girl broke down in tears. She never intended for any of these things to happen. On the contrary, that was the last thing she wished to happen.
This little girl was me. I was a tattler. I got into trouble for it -- lots of trouble that specific year.
The truth of the matter though is that I was misunderstood. To this day I wish someone would have taken the time to help me through my struggles. All I needed was a caring, understanding adult -- not punishment and isolation.
I wasn't trying to get people in trouble.
I wasn't trying to drive adults crazy.
I thought I was doing what I was supposed to do.
My friend and I were talking about tattling on one occasion, and when I heard her talk about tattling, I realized that she understood the deeper roots to a child who tattles. I wish that I had found a teacher as understanding and empathetic as her back then. Unfortunately, there were some teachers who completely misunderstood my tattling, and I have some very painful memories because of it.
As an adult, I can look back on my words, and now I see what I was truly saying. You see, children say things, but mean something else. They just don't have the language to truly convey what is on their hearts.
When I was talking to the teacher, this is what I was really saying:
I am looking for consistency.
I think that I am doing the right thing.
I am trying to be helpful.
I need help problem solving with another child.
Children who are tattling are communicating. They are careful observers, and it is these little ones who are most aware of our consistencies, and sometimes they are questioning them.
Many times they are following classroom rules and pointing out when this is not being followed by everyone.
If a child thinks that you probably overlooked the action of someone else, this is another time they will bring it to an adult's attention.
Children may not have the experience or words to work out a confrontation or disagreement with a peer. They need words and encouragement to work through this peer to peer.
Tattling looks a little different for each child. Take a deeper look though, and you can find the hidden message behind their intentions.