When my daughter was 4-years old, she was in preschool with a little boy named “Carter”. One day after school my daughter said, “Mommy, I don’t like Carter.” When I asked why, she told me that every day at naptime he would repeatedly ask her to see her private parts – and many times he would lift up her dress and pull down her underwear. My daughter told me this had been happening for many weeks. When I said, “Honey, why didn’t you tell me or the teacher sooner?” she said, “But that would be tattling and I didn’t want to get in trouble.”
Sadly, the school discovered that Carter was being sexually abused and he was taking out this behavior on his young classmates.
I realized the reason I was always stern with my daughter about tattling is not because it’s a bad thing….it’s just simply annoying. And I know most parents try to eliminate anything that’s annoying. So after my daughter’s incident at her school, I changed my attitude about tattling and realized that it can be very important.
Here are 6 ways to turn the annoyance of tattling into something positive and educational:
- Think of the millions of children around the globe who have been sexually assaulted, bullied by a classmate or witness to a crime who didn’t tell their parents out of fear of being punished. It is so important that we always keep the lines of communication with our kids open and never punish them for anything they might share with you. Say to your kids often, “You can tell me anything.”
- Use tattling as a great learning/growing experience to help your kids learn how to stand up for themselves. When Billy comes running to you and says, “Mommy, Zach pushed me.” Instead of saying, “We don’t tattle!”, say, “Well, what should you do when someone does something you don’t like?” Billy: Stop it. I don’t like that. “Exactly. If it happens again tell Zach to stop.” (and then it’s fun to see your child’s confidence boost)
- I tell my kids, “The first time someone does or says something hurtful, learn to handle it yourself. If the person does it again, then go tell a teacher or parent.” Why? Because if a child is being a bully, he needs to be disciplined. The only way a child can be corrected is if an adult is made aware of their behavior.
- If you find a certain playmate is not playing well with your child, then simply stop playdates with this child. When I was a young mom I would schedule playdates with any child my daughter wanted to play with. But too often the playdate turned sour when my daughter was hit, scratched, bit or called “stupid” by the same 2-3 kids. I have learned that there are too many wonderful kids who play well with my children, why spend time with the ones who don’t?
- When you catch your kids sticking up for themselves without being coached by you, congratulate them! (“Billy, I just saw how you told Zach to stop when he just pushed you. Great job protecting yourself. High five.”
- When your kids share something personal with you, thank them for coming to you (as insignificant or annoying as the issue might be).