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Attention or Detention?

When a Child Tattles....


Behavior Description

This child likes to 'tell on' everyone. He/she's a chronic tattletale and will be caught up in some of the following phrases: 'Erin won't let me play.............Jason is copying my work..................Kim budded in front of me in line.........Ben took Evan's snack............

Every classroom seems to have tattletales but some children become chronic and telling on others is a frequent occurrence. This child often uses tattling as a form of threatening other children. For instance: 'I'll tell on you if you don't let me play with you.'


The child who tattletales is usually seeking attention, this child needs to know the difference between appropriate 'telling on somebody' and when it isn't appropriate to tell. Tattletales do so as it gives them a sense of power. Try and determine what the child's needs are that makes him/her want to seek attention in this fashion. Usually a tattletale has a self-esteem issue, when they tattle, somebody listens and they are gaining the attention they seek which often makes them feel important.


Dealing with a tattletale can be tricky. Usually the tattle tale is aware of the routines and rules to be followed and tells on a child that isn't following them. This gives them the opportunity to 'look good' so to speak. It is important to listen to the tattletale, but equally so, the child needs to try and solve the problem on their own. Prompt the child as to how they could resolve the issue.

A one to one with the tattletale is also a helpful method. Remember - acknowledge that the child knows the rules/procedures but that there's a better method of dealing than becoming a tattletale. Always remind the child that there is a place for tattling and it is when a child is in danger or in trouble, for older children it could mean being involved in something illegal.

If the child is a tattle tale because it give him/her a sense of power, you could give him leadership opportunities to help deal with the tattling, focus on the child's strengths and downplay the weaknesses.

Teach the child through role playing, the value of knowing when to tattle and how to solve their own problems instead of tattling. This will take time and will require you to put some scenarios together for practice.

Children should understand the hurtful consequences of tattling and whenever possible, they should apologize for inappropirate tattling.

Children need to be part of the solution and or consequences. Always ask them how they could have resolved the issue instead of tattling.

Avoid lectures and quick irrational decisions. E.g., if you tattle again, you'll be grounded for a year! or you'll have 6 detentions"

Sometimes a tattletale always seems to 'tell on' the same child. In this case, encourage the child to find something positive to say about the child.

Tattling results in the loss of friends and can result in arguments and fights. Tattling shouldn't be rewarded but the problem cannot be ignored. Teach the child about good and bad judgement calls and to know the difference between the two. Never forget that ALL children need to know you care about them and that they can contribute in a positive way. It took the child a long time to become a master of tattling, be consistent, patient and understand that change will take time.

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