Everything has been such a downer lately I'm forcing myself to write about something other than the drama of my life. Here's my parenting thought of the day.
First...my disclaimer...this isn't going to work on every kid or in every situation. (Does any parenting tip?!) But it does work sometimes. And it almost always makes my kids stop and think just a little.
All you need is more than one kid and eventually you're going to have to deal with tattling. Technically I handle it differently with each set of kids I've got in the house. Dude and Dolly are only 3 & 4 and even though they've been in my home for a year (and yes...today is our one year "anniversary") they are still English language learners. I have to keep all of my directions and redirections very simple or they are completely lost. And because I've got monitors in the house so I can pretty much hear them all the time, I usually know what "really" happened in situation. Typically I will look at the tattler between those two and tell them, "You are a big kid. I'm sure you can use your words and work this out." I don't have to do much more than that. Of course, if they are hitting each other or it isn't a safe situation I'll deal with things a little more seriously. But by and large, I ignore their tattling.
To help all my bigger kids with some tattling perimeters, we have three rules for when it is OK to tattle. They almost always need help remembering these. But if a kid comes running in to me because someone used a swear word, I can usually deflate things quickly by reminding them when it's OK to involve me:
1. Is a person being hurt?
2. Is property being damaged?
3. Is someone breaking a law? (I had to add this when my cherubs thought it would be a good idea to raid the change in the console of my truck.)
If a child answers "no" to each of these questions, I redirect them to use their words and work it out.
But still, we will have those times when a kid is so swelled up with the need to tattle that even though they answered "no" to each question above, they are practically bursting with the need to go on and on about what happened. I don't know about your kids, but mine don't possess the ability to be quiet at all when they are like this. So rather than continue to tell them to be quiet, or ignore them completely, I give them permission to tell me anything they want -- they just can't use their sibling's name as they tell the story.
This almost always trips them up. They stop fighting with me because I'm giving them permission to talk. So as we go along I keep focusing on the positive, "Yes. Please tell me what happened. I want to know all about it. Just don't use your brother's name. Tell me about YOU."
Often, they will get so frustrated or stumped that they will just give up. But because I'm continuing to give them permission to talk to me about the problem, they don't see it as a power struggle with me so that side of things is deflated. Sometimes they are able to reframe the problem, "I'm mad because I lost the game" (instead of, "Bart was cheating" - which may or may not have been true, but isn't worth fist fighting over), or "I don't want to have to share my toys". Things like that. But if the offending sibling was just being rotten, there isn't much the tattler can do about it and when they are put in a place where they can't say that person's name, they can't say much. Anything they do say is an "I" statement that I can usually validate.
My sister has used this on her three year old. I'm not sure if she would call it successful or not...but it certainly is hilarious. Marching down the hall to his mom, Roonie will start in with the tattling. My Genius Sister will redirect Roonie by telling him that he can say anything he wants, he just can't say Manny's name. She said her little guy will almost blow up like a balloon with frustration. Then, when Roonie eventually concedes and realizes that he can't say anything without saying his Manny's name, he'll walk away. But...as he's walking away, he HAS to get out the whole story (brother's name and all) as quickly as he possibly can. All in all though, when my sister responds, "I don't care", the issue is solved.
Tattling isn't much fun. And the heart issue is usually bigger than what they are tattling about. How do you handle it in your house?