It is very common for children to tattle especially in the younger grades. For a teacher or an adult tattling can drive you "to the nut farm" as I like to say.  

By Shelby Moore


Shelby Moore is a kindergarten teacher at an inner-city school in Houston and was recently awarded as one of the East Region's Campus Teachers of the Year.

Does your kindergartner tattle?

It's very common for children to tattle, especially in the younger grades. For a teacher or an adult, tattling can drive you "to the nut farm" as I like to say. At home it may be easier to control because you probably only have a few kids at home, but can you imagine it times 20? This is what a lot of teachers and administrators are dealing with when it comes to behavioral issues in the elementary grades. Time consuming tattling-related issues often zap classroom energy and thwart teaching opportunities.

Since bullying has been in the forefront of the media recently, I think it's necessary to teach our children the difference between tattling and reporting. Teaching our children the difference between the two will help adults pinpoint who is really being the bully in the classroom, as well as staying on topic with the daily learning objectives. Sometimes we are inidated with so many "he said, she said" comments it's hard what to believe what is true if we didn't see what actually went on.

Just as we teach our children about Stranger Danger and Mr. Yuk, I think it is equally important that we begin to teach our children how to report a problem and not just tattle. Kids that tattle are often called "tattletales." After they have tattled so many times they almost become like the boy who cried wolf and lose their credibility. We do not want this to happen--one day your child might really need to be heard! 

So, what can we do to help teach our children the difference between the bothersome tattling and the necessary reporting?

Start young and start the discussion at home. Teach your child the differences between tattling and reporting. In my classroom, we define tattling as: telling on a classmate to get him or her in trouble, even though the other person didn't hurt you in any way. For example, a student sees another student running in the classroom and says to the teacher, "Teacher, Billy was running!" Reporting, on the other hand, is telling an adult because you have been hurt by someone else either physically, emotionally, or both. An example of reporting would be: "Teacher, Billy pushed me down on the playground and called me names." Reporting is good and tattling is bothersome.

It's also important to teach kids that words can hurt. In my class we call them "put downs" and they are to be reported to an adult/teacher immeadiatly if they receive a "put down" from another student. It should be discussed and understood by  children that hurtful words are just as bad as hurtful hands on someone.