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Is it telling or tattling?

Our house has been quite full recently. Two of Audrey’s cousins have been coming over and staying with us a lot lately. They are age eight and six. It definitely changes the dynamics in our house when they come over. One of the big issues we have been wrestling with is telling or tattling.

Multiple times a day I hear, “Mom, Ethan did this… Aunt, Audrey did that…” and so many times I do not want to take action to solve whatever complaint I am hearing. So we have really been discussing what the differences are between telling and tattling. Here are our definitions:

  • Telling – you tell on someone when they are at risk of harming themselves, others, or property.
  • Tattling – you are tattling on someone when they do something you do not like and you do not know how else to deal with it. You are tattling when you are just trying to get them into trouble.

Telling is okay and we, being the authority figures, need to know about these instances to keep everyone safe. When it is tattling, we all need to take a break and discuss conflict management and how to resolve our differences. Our game plan now is when the kids come to us tattling, we first ask them, “Are you telling or tattling?”  If they are telling then we need to know who or what is getting hurt. If they cannot answer that part of the question then they get one chance to return to the play area and try to work things out without us getting involved. If we have to get involved then there are consequences; either they lose the toy or game they are playing with, or they all have to separate and play be themselves, or they have to take a moment of time out.

How do you handle disputes at your house?

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