A thought on the current state of things

It occurred to me* that maybe we wouldn't have all the problems like oil spills that could have been prevented, corporate scandals of all ilks, and tampered medications for kids if we hadn't been so focused as parents on drumming into our children's heads that they should never "tattle" on other kids.


*as I was reading NurtureShock by Po Bronson and Ashley Merriman, which is an outstanding and fascinating book that's switched my thinking in a bunch of ways. Want to read it, too, and then we can talk about it on June 11?

65 thoughts on “A thought on the current state of things”

  1. actually, a friend of mine commented that she had been telling her kids not to tattle, but in light of the Yeardley Love murder, maybe she should tell her kids that hitting is not okay, but also playing with a person that hits is not good either. She said it was a good teaching moment for her. I thought that was really interesting. Yes, annoying in the short term, but maybe a good lesson for our kids. That they can tell us when others hurt them.

  2. I only have one child, so I haven’t had to deal with tattling issues myself.How would it work if one allowed the child to tattle, but one merely listened, and then discussed with the tattler how she/he might deal with the situation herself/himself? One would have the general principle that one would never act oneself on the tattled news (unless of course it was something really serious).

  3. I think that’s an oversimplification. Or maybe the parental rule was oversimplified. It’s not that I never want to hear what’s going on, it’s that, unless it’s an emergency, I want my kids to try to work it out on their own first, which accords with the program at school (ignore, move away, ask politely, ask firmly, give a warning, tell an adult).I think parents also need to work on developing their kids’ own sense of ethics, a la Hedra’s “Safe, respectful, kind,” although we do “Safe, respectful, fair.”

  4. I have heard a distinction between tattling and telling an adult that someone is in danger. If another kid is goofing off, but in a way that puts no one in danger, then running to a grownup is tattling. But that is different than getting help from an adult if the other kid could hurt themselves or someone else.Reporting safety violations on the job (or danger in relationships) is definitely not tattling. But some kids probably don’t understand the difference.
    This reminds me of the secret vs. surprise distinction, that I probably read about in a thread right here. No adult should ask a kid to keep a secret from their parents. But planning a surprise, which by definition everyone will know about later, is fine.

  5. I’m with @Madeleine on this one. Couldn’t have said it better myself. And also agree with those who posted that teaching the kids how to deal with situations themselves is key as well. Not that I imagine this is an easy road. But something to strive for, for sure.I am curious to read the book, though.

  6. Hmmm…. I like what Slim says about teaching our kids how to work things out for themselves… but there are a lot of gray areas here. It would be interesting to really delve into the distinction between “tattling” and “speaking truth to power.” I think the word tattling implies something small and petty that a kid should maybe learn to handle on their own. Speaking truth to power, though, is more in line with things like, oh, major environmental disasters and financial meltdowns. But how to we teach our kids the difference? Interesting.

  7. I think my friend’s comment was that she was trying to teach her kids to work it out for themselves, but that’s what Yeardley Love was doing. Sometimes it is hard, no matter how old you are, to know when you need someone else’s help or when to tell someone else.

  8. I like what @rudyinparis said. Tattling to me is telling on a small thing with the intent to get that other child in trouble, ie he had a jellybean before dinner. And I think as patents it is important that our children trust us enough to be able to come to us with big issues, but I’m thinking further down the line, when they’re a bit older I guess. I’m not quite at the tattling stage so I don’t have very formed opinions on the matter.I do, however, have the opinion that I LOVED Nurture Shock and would love to have a discussion on it!

  9. This is a really interesting question.The whiny tone of voice that comes with tattling is difficult to work with. And my kids have been known to tell on the dog.
    However, it’s worth some sort of triage – is this something that they should be able to work it out themselves? Do they need ideas on how to handle it? Is it a safety or major rules violation that requires escalation? Is it that the kids are bored and have started to pick on eachother for fun?

  10. There is no tattling only reporting what is going on. Sometimes we report to the wrong person (aka go work it out with the other kid) but it is never wrong to report. I love Madeleine’s secret vs. surprise distinction. It makes so much sense.There are a lot of things we tell our kids that does not hold up to EVERY situation. Even relatively easy ones like don’t hit or don’t stand on the table. (We do in fact want them to fight back if somebody is trying to hurt them, and I regularly stand on the table to switch light bulbs). What is needed are kids who are allowed and trained to think for themselves and not to obey and comply.

  11. It occurs to me that a main difference between tattling and speaking truth to power could be that when a person (a child) tattles, they have nothing to lose. I.e, like Nej mentions, they get to watch another child get punished. Presumably this other child has no power over them, or they wouldn’t be tattling, now would they? Speaking truth to power, however, implies risk. You stand to lose something—your job, your reputation, friends. Thy’s right–this involves teaching our children not to mindlessly “obey and comply”.

  12. I’ve only read excerpts of Nurture Shock, but would love a reason to read it completely, as it’s extremely interesting and often counter-intuitive.However, I don’t think I buy the rationale that man-made disasters or corruption is from parents telling kids not to tattle. I just don’t think that that sort of training from your parents when you are a child would cause an adult not to report what are obviously serious safety or fraud concerns to the proper authorities. At some point, your moral compass exists independently of what your parents told you. That information will help inform your adult moral compass, of course, but at some point independent thinking must come into play, otherwise I would be doing a much better job eating my veggies and keeping my room clean.

  13. I really like @HappyMama’s and @Thy’s thoughts on this.I’ll never forget a conversation I had with my MIL last year. She was a guest music teacher in a pre-school class, and she said that one boy kept coming up to her and telling on all the other kids who weren’t sitting or listening. She told me she said to the boy, “Nobody likes a tattle tale!” First, I was stunned and dismayed at the wording she used, so I took a minute to reply. I finally stuttered out something like, “I’ll bet the teacher is upset about that” or something along those lines.
    My intent was that the teacher probably was getting information about what was going on in the class from this kid, and therefore telling him to stop “tattling” on others would be missed by the teacher. She took it as in the teacher was probably upset that the kid kept tattling and that she did the teacher a favor.
    I would rather hear what’s going on and give my kids the tools to deal with the situations, working with me until they are able to figure out what to do on their own). I also want them to feel comfortable “reporting” (I like that term!) what is going on to people in authority, which starts with them feeling comfortable telling me when the dog comes in the kitchen during meals and when the baby is picking up a toy he shouldn’t play with.
    I do think that my MIL’s culture of no “tattling” promotes an environment where people get away with things they shouldn’t, because it can be hard for kids AND adults to figure out when they should tell and when they shouldn’t. I believe being open about what is going on and not keeping “secrets” (vs. surprises) and reporting what is going on would (hopefully) cut down on abuse in all forms as well as misuse of power by those in authority.
    I keep hearing great things about Nurture Shock. I think I’ll have to buy that one next!

  14. For years I’ve heard and reinforced the rule:It’s tattling if it’s ONLY going to get someone INTO trouble.
    It’s telling if it’s going to get someone OUT of trouble (even if they might also get into trouble).
    But really I think corporate ethics is much more complex.

  15. ooh, Shandra, that’s good! my girls at 3 and almost-5 have a hard time distinguishing between tattling and telling, and that’s a great way to explain it succinctly. thanks!

  16. As a kid, I never really understood the no tattling rule–perhaps because as an only child, my schooling in it was sporadic. The “nobody likes a tattle tale” response from an adult always seemed grossly unfair to me and designed to support peer pressure complicity in bad behavior, as well as hypocritical because in other instances, we would get in trouble for NOT being willing to tell the adult who had done the particular bad thing. I guess as an adult, I still don’t understand the moral workings of the no tattling rule especially well.

  17. I really enjoyed reading Nuture Shock (up until I was excited to read the next couple of chapters but then realized the rest of the book was footnotes and references and the book was over).As for the tattling – some of it has to be just on the person. I work in the financial world and I still can’t imagine what goes through the mind of someone like Madoff or the others that are so unbelievably corrupt. How can they look at some one, including friends and family, and outright mislead the way they do. That is a lie to the ulimate extreme and not sure what compells a person to go down that path. In some of those situations, people have questioned but the lier is sooo good at promoting their lie, that the person questionning is dismissed.

  18. I’m with emnyc–I never understood the “no tattling” thing either. Now, as a parent, having heard others explain that the idea is to get kids to try to handle things on their own, I sort of see the point, but I still think the fine distinctions between tattling and telling are often too subtle for most kids, even older ones. I was bullied for months in seventh grade and never told an adult in part because I feared being a tattletale.Taken to extremes, you get the whole don’t-snitch-to-the-cops culture, too.

  19. I think teaching a child how to know when to try to handle something on her own and when to report the problem to someone with more power/authority is really hard, but that like many really hard things, it is worth trying to do it right.I am still working on where I’ll draw the line for my girls. I don’t think I will ever expect them to be able to handle physical aggression on their own. After all, I don’t expect myself to be able to handle physical aggression on my own- I’d call the cops!
    But I do think that learning how to handle differences of opinion and learning how to work through uncomfortable situations without needing an authority figure to step in a resolve everything is valuable. We are expected to do this in our work life, and people who are good at this usually do really well.
    I like the distinction about things that put someone in danger being “reportable”, but then you have to teach the kids what might put someone in danger. Mean words may not seem dangerous, but the bullying cases show that they clearly can be.
    Like I said, this is hard.
    I guess I’m taking a gradual approach. Right now, my oldest is only three, and she probably reports anything that happens that is “against the rules.” I’m fine with that. We’ve started talking to her about how to respond when another kid calls her a name or something. (The favorite name at our day care is “poo poo baby”, which is SO hard to take seriously. But I digress.) But right now, I’m at the stage of giving her ideas for other things to try, not discouraging her from talking to an adult.

  20. My husband is a grade 1 teacher so he would tell you that tattling is so annoying! Just yesterday he came home saying that if he experienced another day like that one he would quit! It’s the “he’s not listening to me when I buddy read with him”, “he keeps telling me to read louder when I am reading” that causes him to lose his mind. He does make the distinction that if someone is in danger or is going to hurt someone else then it is important to alert someone. But the day to day whining about how someone is causing someone else to feel drives him nuts. He encourages kids to look at how they are feeling in response to the other child and to think about it and that that feeling isn’t necessarily something that he needs to know about. Sort of a self check.Every single day I cannot believe that he teaches 25 grade 1ers with such enthusiasm and calmness. I KNOW that I couldn’t do it!!!

  21. I doubt that destructive secrecy in the workplace is related to childhood protocols. Whether or not tattling should be discouraged in children is an entirely different problem then encouraging ownership of mistakes.The problem isn’t that someone didn’t tattle on whoever messed up. The problem is that whoever messed up (be it at the rig itself or as part of the manufacturing process of the various security features failed) felt they had to hide the problem to protect their jobs and egos.

  22. After reading what @B’s mom said, I’m wondering how much of it is the tone that bothers us so much, in addition to the kids needing to learn how to deal with issues on their own when appropriate. Just this morning, I was trying to explain to my 3 yo how to just tell me or ask me something, instead of whining for it.@Rob Drimmie – Good point. Ownership of mistakes is definitely a skill that is important to teach kids, and even more important to encourage in adults!

  23. I checked out “NurtureShock” from the library on my lunch break. Along with the Baby Whisperer’s Toddler book and a Baby Signs book, because … HELP! my baby is now a toddler and I don’t know what to do!

  24. Fear. Greed. Avoiding compromise. Avoiding sacrifice.vs.
    Being empowered. Listening to intuition. Having a moral compass.
    Teaching the latter may help overcome the former.

  25. “tattling”: What you do when you want to get someone else in trouble.”reporting”: What you do to keep someone you care about (or yourself) safe.
    Kids absolutely know the difference, from a very early age (I’m talking 3-4 years old)
    Tattling is exhausting. My usual response to that is, “What could you have done/said to help xyz make a better choice?” which frustrates the tattler because their goal of getting xyz in trouble has been thwarted and they must think about how they could have helped instead – SO LAME!
    When someone reports something, my first question is, “Do you want to be a part of solving this problem, or are you wishing to turn it over to me?” Sometimes reporters do NOT want to be involved, they want you to know something not safe/kind has happened and they wish to remain anonymous. Other times, they want to be a part of the solution. But reporters usually want to make sure their feelings or the feelings of someone else are protected, and usually want an adult to help solve, or solve independently.

  26. That really makes me think! I like the concept. I think that idea can be helpful to bullying as well. Who do we thing we’re kidding when we or the kids don’t tell? Stuff happens in this world, not everyone is ethical or kind, that stuff needs to be addressed, needs to tattled! Whole other topic!I believe that staying of out things, not telling, allows stuff to get worse. I’m not saying mind everyone else’s business. I am saying tell the truth when you know it needs to be told. Did anyone see the whistle blower on the oil spill on 60 Minutes last week?
    Okay, I am an idealist, that’s my story and I’m sticking to it! Here’s another one for you.
    I just did my online TV show where we pondered what it would be like if we taught, really taught our children conflict resolution.
    If parents enacted a conflict free zone when the siblings were fighting and helped to facilitate the resolving of things, how would these types of children grow up?
    Since they would have grown up knowing that resolution and fixing things between people was possible would they also grow up to take action and be part of fixing what’s broken in the world, more so than previous generations?
    Does Po address that subject too? I think I need to read the book!
    Thanks for reminding me!

  27. I am a teacher, and I do the same thing with my students as I do with my kids at home. If someone is coming to me with a minor complaint or “tattle”. I turn it back immediately. For example, Kim says “Paul is touching me with his toe.” – I say “Paul, Kim needs to talk to you”. I sometimes offer to listen while they talk, but I don’t get involved. Works really well.

  28. I LOVED that book. I checked it out because I have a 3-year-old and thought the developmental toddler stuff would be useful (and it definitely was). However, I work in a high school, and the chapter on teen rebellion was fascinating to me. We’ve been passing it around the school.

  29. I think there is usually a greater conflict behind tattling, and I usually try to deal with that rather than the behavior that created the tattling.I find that if I ask the tattler why they think the other kid did what they did, what they should happen to the transgressor and why, using a lot of open ended questions, I can usually uncover the real source of grievance and then I can support both children in taking responsibility for their behavior, and recreating their connection to one another.
    To use the jellybean before dinner example, if the real issue behind the tattling is that the child with the jellybean is teasing the other child who doesn’t have a jellybean or if the jellybeanless one feels jealous of the jellybean, then we can all talk together about teasing, doing something you know you aren’t supposed to do, ways you could feel good without wishing someone else ill, what you could do with your disappointment, what you could do to when you see someone wanting what you have, etc.
    We don’t have much tattling in our house, but we also have almost no punishing. My children are extremely well-behaved. n my bad days, I decide that this is related to my excellent strategies, but on my good days I remember that it mainly luck. 🙂
    Barbara Coloroso says tattling is about getting someone in trouble, telling is about getting someone out of trouble.

  30. I agree with emmynyc and electriclady that I have never understood the tattling rule. I feel a little clear about it now, but I’m not sure I buy into it. I think anon 6:50 has it right that there is generally something that needs to be addressed in the situation. And, as a child who had to care for my younger siblings, the idea that I was supposed to know when to tell and when not to, and navigate all the differing loyalties on my own makes me crazy!The other day, my nine year old was saying she didn’t know the difference, and I told her that I had always had trouble with the concept myself, and maybe she should talk to someone less challenged in this area, like maybe her dad. My kids are far enough apart (9 and 2) that they don’t tattle on each other yet (much). And it doesn’t seem to be much of an issue at school. We may have to revisit it later, however, and I hope my husband has some good perspective!

  31. Me too on the no-tattling rule. I never understood it. It’s my general sense that if a kid has the social and/or emotional skills to cope with a conflict on her own, she will do it. If she tattles it’s an indication that *something* is too much to handle at that point. It may not be the *something* she thinks it is, but like @anon at 6:50, I think somebody must genuinely need help.I love @regimino’s response, “Paul, Kim needs to talk to you” and I will put that into my repertoire immediately. I usually say something like “Did you tell Amy how that felt to you?” or “What could you do to work that out together?” Frequently (though by no means always!) this response elicits a quick turnaround to problem-solving mode.
    Having been mercilessly bullied in school and also as an adult, I am all about teaching kids that they CAN and SHOULD ask for help from grownups – whether that help comes in the form of direct intervention, suggestions, or a listening ear depends on the situation.

  32. Although I think the “no tattling” rule is problematic (and like others who’ve already commented, I never understood it really as a kid), I disagree that is the root of corporate misconduct or deeper social ills among adults. What’s really to blame are institional cultures that place profit ahead of everything else, individual greed, the all-too-human urge to put one’s one self-interest above the common good.As a general rule, I’m loathe to buy into sweeping hypotheses about the long-term social ramifications of how we raise our children. Not that there isn’t cause and effect — there certainly is in there somewhere! — but the supporting evidence is never cut and dried, and it is easy to veer into blaming parents (mothers particularly) and teachers for all that is wrong with society.
    But I’m all for rethinking the “no tattling” rule. It sounds like the kind of thing where some non-violent communication techniques would be the way to go, to get kids really thinking about when and how and why to report to power, and otherwise conflict resolve without blame… but my son is only two and a half, and isn’t in a day care setting, so what the heck do I know?

  33. In my observations of the students I have worked with for over 15 years, the students who tattle do so for a very specific reason – the most common ones are:-to seize some power over someone they feel has power over them
    -to retaliate against a perceived injustice
    -to gain some favor with an adult, usually to compensate for emotional needs they themselves might be harboring.
    For example, if Jenny tattles on Gloria about talking on the rug, Jenny is most likely feeling that Gloria has been mean to her in the past and wishes to “get back at” her (power), or that Gloria ALWAYS seems to get away with stuff, while Jenny NEVER seems to get away with anything and always gets caught (injustice), or that Jenny wants to gain favor with the teacher, to feel *she* is the teacher’s helper/friend/confidante etc. (compensation in relationships)
    It’s usually never *just* about getting someone in trouble, though there is a very powerful rush that some kids get in doing so if they meet the above criteria. Children are inherently kind, and only through continuous bullying, perceived injustices caused by other kids or adults, or emotional voids in their own life, do they feel the need to get another child into trouble. I think the above posters are correct – tattling *just* for the sake of getting someone into trouble is a pretty shallow definition, and I think the people who struggle with the no tattling rule understand that the purpose for tattling can be much deeper and should be addressed rather than just saying “don’t tattle, that’s our rule.”

  34. I’m in for the June 11th “Nurture Shock” book discussion!I’m facilitating a discussion of the book “The Immortal life of Henrietta Lacks” by Rebecca Skloot on my blog on July 1st- if anyone is interested, we’ll see you there. @Caramama had also recently mentioned on her excellent blog the idea of doing a “blog book club,” which I’d definitely be up for, too!
    Not that I get a lot of reading done with 2 kids under 3 who don’t sleep through…. 🙂

  35. I enjoyed Nurture Shock at first. Then I had to quit reading it. I got tired of “Well, you THINK that this is what is going to make your kid a genius/criminal, but REALLY it’s THIS that will make your kid a genius/criminal.” The book has some good insights, but honestly, I am already type A enough– I think my kids will be more helped by me learning how not to obsess over them becoming whatever ideal/nightmare I have in my head.I guess I just got hit by a wave of parenting-book-burnout right in the middle of Nurture Shock. I’ve read so many, I’m finally tanked up. It all boils down to a few simple principles: love and accept them for who they are, but teach them how to delay gratification and respect boundaries; don’t be too permissive, don’t be too strict; respect your kids, but make sure they respect you and your rules, too, by establishing consequences and being consistent; spend time with them, read to them, play with them and also make sure they know how to do those things on their own and have plenty of time to do it. Let them fail sometimes, show them that you fail sometimes, and teach them the value of teamwork and asking for help. Validate their feelings even if you can’t validate their actions. Finally, make sure they know how to do laundry, cook a meal and manage money before they leave for college.
    That’s kind of the sum total of about a zillion parenting books I’ve read. I’m just going to take that and try not to obsess too much over the details (although obsessing over the details is what I’m all about…still, it’s a good goal).

  36. BTW, I think that the current state of things is less about tattling and more about people refusing to admit when they are wrong or have failed (making failure taboo is something PB and AM talk about in Nurture Shock).

  37. One last thing- ha!I was reading some of the posts, haven’t read them all, so if this has already been mentioned forgive me.
    Sometimes, especially at age 3 or 3.5 children “tattle” because they want you to know that they know the rules. They come to you and tattle as if to say, “See I’ve been listening. I saw it done wrong, and I’m coming to tattle so you know that I understand the right way.” Asking a child if that’s what they’re doing, announcing the right way, by calling attention to the wrong way, is a good way to begin the conversation. You can even compliment them on knowing the rules.
    Also I really feel for the dad who’s a teacher. When I taught preschool it was exhausting! There was always someone who tattled. I had my kids work with me to create a classroom “community.” We had “community meetings” so the kids could set up rules that everyone in our community could live by. It really cut down on the tattling. Works well in families too.

  38. My son’s social skills teacher told their class last year (kindergarten) how to determine tattling vs. telling; tattling is when telling benefits you; telling benefits others. As in, if someone’s hitting someone else, that’s telling, and that’s ok. I thought that was a pretty advanced idea for their age but they seemed to catch on. How does that idea jibe with the book?

  39. @BlueBirdMama, I am totally bookmarking your comment for the next time I need some sensible, non-alarmist parenting advice! Like you, I am feeling very gun-shy about parenting books these days, which seem to serve the sole purpose of making parents feel inadequate. Your distillation, however, is both reassuring and helpful. Thank you!

  40. Loved NurtureShock and will put the discussion on my calendar. Great idea, Moxie!I have an only, so haven’t had to deal with tattling too much. DS is very much in the “I’m proving I understand the rules” camp, so starting the conversation there has helped a lot.

  41. @Julie’s explanation of why kids tattle, @Sharon’s addition of “knowing the rules” and @BlueBirdMama’s breakdown of parenting books have all blown my mind! You guys are awesome!

  42. Speaking for myself, this definition of tattling only deepens my confusion and, frankly, my annoyance with the no tattling rule: “tattling is when telling benefits you; telling benefits others. As in, if someone’s hitting someone else, that’s telling, and that’s ok.” Does that mean that telling if someone’s hitting you is not ok? Why isn’t that ok? If adults really care about the rules, why do they not care if they are being broken and I am being harmed as a result? Why is “not tattling” seen as a higher imperative for the adult in question than “punishing someone who has hit me”? But I found Julie’s discussion very helpful and it had a lot of resonance for me as to the issues actually involved.

  43. Amelia, I take it to the next level. If a child is hitting you and you tell me, you are helping yourself, but you are also helping the other child Deep down, children don’t want to be people that hit. They just need help creating better solutions to handle their feelings. So in this case you are helping two people with one act of telling – a win/win.

  44. The thing they point out in Nuture Shock, if I remember correctly, is that kids only tattle 1 out of 14 times on average. They do “work it out” on their own a lot and they do keep it to themselves a lot, but they also need to check in and can reach a breaking point. Even before reading the book I’ve been wary of “no tattling” remarks…seems like an odd message to send. I wish to hell that I’d tattled on some of my teenage friends, who were practically begging for their parents to step in….

  45. I’m putting BlueBirdMama’s summary up on my fridge.As for the tattling thing, I would just want to make sure that my kids don’t think that it is their responsibility to fix every relationship problem they see around them. That was the way my mom was raised and it has done her little good. When there’s danger involved, that’s one thing, but if it’s just a discussion about the “rules of the game,” a little sympathy surely can’t hurt.

  46. Julie, @May 20, 12:27, I loved your explanation of the tattlers motivation, but I’d also love to hear your various responses to these kids. ALso @Sharon, I like the idea of saying to a tattler, “so and so, I’m glad you were listening and learned the rules, maybe so and so will learn them soon, too”…My 4 year old tells me when someone has been hurting her at school, and I always say, “did you ask the teacher for help?” And She says no, BECAUSE this teacher made it perfectly clear to parents and kids that they must solve their own disputes, which frankly, my 3 and now 4 year old only child needs to learn with guidance. 3 days in the first week she came home with a head full of sand, and would not ask for help, or was denied help. Finally I spoke to the teacher, and she said, “oh, I didn’t realize that was happening, I’ll have to keep a closer eye on that”.
    This year she will be attending a Progressive Education preschool which uses the Collaborative Problem Solving method. I will continue to instruct her to ask for help from adults if their is hurting or a dispute.
    When her friends at home tattle on her, I either address it, or explain to the “tattler” that maybe her friend needs a minute by herself, or that if my daughter does not share after a few minutes, when nicely asked, I will certainly help her take turns.
    Love the online book club/discussion idea, hope to get a chance to read Nurture Shock in time!

  47. There’s also a degree of personality involved. I have one child of four who is a reporter. She just needs a witness. She’ll run in and tell me what the cat is doing, what the other kids are doing, etc., etc. Good, bad, indifferent, interesting, whatever, she just likes to be able to frame it verbally for someone else. “Thanks for letting me know” is about all she needs most of the time.I help her understand the difference between reporting “such and such happened” (I swear she’d make a great journalist), and reporting to authority “something happened for which we do not have a solution given the current conditions, can you please come help?” It only takes separating them in my head and responding accordingly for her to get the idea. She’s quite satisfied with ‘that’s interesting, thanks for letting me know’ if it is just reporting on events. She’s also quite satisfied with me coming in and finding out what was going on if it was unsafe/disrespectful/unkind, and working out a solution (modeling) or being there while they work out a solution, or helping come up with ideas for solutions (coaching).
    I find there’s very little ‘tattling’ in the sense of ‘trying to get someone else in trouble’ once they get the idea that there are different reasons for ‘telling’. … though when it happens, almost always it is a way of saying ‘I did something wrong, I don’t feel good’ – because typically, they tattle with that tone of ‘please get him in trouble’ when *they* instigated, not when it was a pure accident or unintentional issue. Usually if it was accidental, they just run and solve the problem. If they were instigating, they’re already past their coping skills with the situation, and are now to the ‘getting a reaction any way I can’ level.
    And I love Po. Haven’t read the book yet (read the articles and blog), but expect to learn stuff.

  48. (in the above, I mean with my kids – only four personalities there, so YMMV! My kids don’t ‘tattle’ much unless they were involved in creating the problem…)I also found it valuable to recognize that kids typically have tried many ways to resolve a problem on their own before going to an adult for help. They’re constantly doing social triage, and sometimes it just gets away from them.
    As for corporate stupidity, there’s a lot of systemic issue here, but I think one of the more important ones is the tendency for people to cut themselves moral/ethical ‘slack’ in one area if they believe they are highly moral/ethical in another.

  49. When my girls were five and three, we had a friend’s children (three and two) over to play. Five minutes after telling the three year olds something I had said many times along the lines of “You should tell your friend he is not suppose to do that, not come tattle-tailing to get him in trouble. Handle it yourself.” my five year old came to tattle. The two year old boy was chasing the girls with a stick which is what they were trying to tell me in the first place. We decided that if it is a safety issue you should always tell an adult.

  50. tattling to me = whining about things that don’t matter. If someone is being hurt, that’s another thing. So no … I stand by “no tattling” …

  51. I thought Nurture Shock was a really interesting read. My co-blogger and I really got into some of the chapters when we were reviewing it. I do have to say that the Race chapter was one that really stood out to me as the white mama of two half-Filipino kids but some of it has backfired a little on me! After reading the book I dived into talking about race with my 3.5 yo a bit – pointing out who else is Filipino in her family, etc. And then one day at daycare my fabulous daycare lady pulled me aside to tell me that my daughter was telling other kids they couldn’t play with her because they were “too dark”! OMG! I know it came from my conversations with her. Luckily I was armed with an understanding from the book that to children it’s the same as shirt color, etc – they’re just categorizing. However, we did have to have a discussion about how it’s not right to exclude people – especially if it’s by skin color! ARG! Apparently my desire to add the “but everybody is equal” disclaimer to every race conversation was still needed. 🙁

  52. This article hits close to home. It is true that most parents teach their kids not to tattle. I was just in a situation with my college room-mate who was partying every night. I was not sure if I should report er or not because I was always told not to tattle and I was afraid of confrontation. I have decided to hire a moving company http://www.ssmovers.com My Mother helped me find a new apartment off campus.

  53. Love this post, and totally agree with you on all the pnitos. I’m pretty sensitive to criticism myself, and at the least I’ve learned to take it professionally (#4) and do my fuming later when I’m alone. I love #2, and I must say I live by it at work! I need to do better with #5 though.

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