Greystone House Montessori Schools Houston, Texas. Child care Montessori provider in Champions, The Woodlands, Spring Texas Greystone House Montessori Schools Houston
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THE TAKE ON TATTLING
The U.S. Department of Education has a report on how to implement programs to reduce violence in our schools. It’s a good plan, and at the crux of the plan are children, parents, teachers, and administrators all taking personal responsibility to do what they can. For students, a part of that is “telling”. In our preschool arena, it may be called tattling. As children grow older, they learn all the nuances of when and how to ‘tell’. They learn how to push parents’ buttons with ‘she hit me’ and ‘he took my toy’. Later they learn to say ‘teacher is mean’ or ‘he touched me’, delicately omitting the rest of the story that he had to stay after school because he didn’t complete his assignment, or she was touched by insinuated invitation.

All our lives we struggle with issues of what and when to report. It’s only a matter of different issues with our children. A useful definition is that tattling is telling to get someone in trouble. Reporting is telling when you need help to prevent harm or damage. At the school we find that children frequently will tell to check what your response is. They’ll say ‘Susie is climbing on top of the playhouse’ or ‘Johnny’s taking water to the sandbox’. The unasked question is ‘Can I do it, too?’ As a rule, our reaction will be ‘Why are you telling me?’ or ‘What would you like for me to do about it?’ This lets the child have the benefit of the adult’s perspective without being belittled for ‘tattling’.

Children need to understand that they should report problems. In the middle and high school years, it can help their friends and protect themselves. At the preschool level, they learn to do it in a safe way. When we as adults accept the telling in a non-punitive and unemotional way, our children learn that the adult can be their partner in making judgments or in making things better.

If adults are punitive or threatening, children will retreat, and we get really negative situations. For example, when a child perceives that the parent will attack the ‘wrongdoer’ and reward the tattling child, the child may begin to concoct stories, either total fabrications or leaving out important details. The ‘reward’ can even be extra attention. If an adult is threatening, as in ‘Did you break the bowl?’ the child may become defensive and say whatever she perceives will get her back into good standing. Past punishments for unacceptable behavior can be enough to cause a child to not tell when he should.

Our whole society is developing a ‘blame’ mentality, where everything becomes somebody’s fault. A refreshing aspect of the Department of Education’s action guide is the approach that we can all take an active part in preventing violence – and by extension other social ills. For our little ones, we can begin by being role models who identify problems, set a course of action, and act to make things better.

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