Saturday, January 24, 2015

Today's Tattletale Is Tomorrow's Gossip

Dear Tazi:

My nine year old daughter has developed the terrible habit of snitching on others. I am embarrassed to say that the girl could put Cindy Brady to shame! Whenever she sees someone doing something they should not be doing, she tells on them. At school she will report whatever she sees to the school bus monitor, the teacher, the playground monitor, or whoever else is in charge. At home, she has ratted me out to my husband for cheating on my diet and has told me that she has caught my husband doing unsightly things like picking his nose, scratching his privates, and other things that men do when they think nobody is looking.

I realize that my little girl thinks she is doing the right thing by reporting bad behavior, so I do not want to discourage her, yet I would like her to temper her reports with consideration for others. She is developing a reputation for being a tattletale and it is affecting her friendships with other children. Am I wrong in thinking that something should be done to teach my daughter to take a step back from the constant monitoring and telling of other people’s behaviors? I would hate to give her the impression that bad behavior is acceptable, while at the same time feel that her constant tattling is bad behavior in and of itself.

Hearing Too Many Tales

 Dear Hearing Too Many Tales:

There is a difference between taking an interest in a person’s life and trying to find out the gossip on them. At nine year’s old your daughter is a little too young to gossip, but in essence this is what she is doing – gossiping about those she observes. I believe this may be why you feel uncomfortable with her extensive updates regarding what is going on around her. Today’s tattletale is tomorrow’s gossip, the person who tells tales about others – which tells people not to trust that person.

I suggest you sit your daughter down and talk to her about appropriate telling and inappropriate telling. Explain to her that while it is appropriate to tell on someone if they are hurting someone or hurting themselves it is not appropriate to disrespect someone’s privacy. Teach your daughter that the idea of “see something, say something” should only apply if the situation is – or could lead to – danger or someone getting badly hurt. Mommy cheating on her diet or Daddy picking his nose is not something that is going to lead to physical danger or emotional abuse, and news of such should be kept to herself. Witnessing a child bully or beat up another child most definitely deserves a tattle.

What do you mean I am "an annoying little nit" when I tattle?
Encourage proper behavior by enlisting your daughter’s teachers and school aides to work with you in short-circuiting her tattles. As she approaches you (or one of them) with “news”, hold your hand up, palm outward, in the “STOP” signal and ask her if what she has to say has to do with someone hurting someone else or possibly hurting themselves. If she says yes, hear her out and decide if her news does in fact warrant adult intervention. If it does, thank her for bringing the situation to your attention. If it does not, explain this to her and explain (in terms she can understand) why it is a tattle, and why it is wrong to tattle. Before too long, she will learn the difference between imparting important information – and the praise it brings – and tattling, and the disapproval she receives for it.

While it may be difficult at first to break your daughter of her habit (because at first everything will be urgent news) in the long run you will be doing her a huge favor. Unless she is corrected now, he tattles will surely morph into gossip and rumor-mongering.


Ask Tazi! is ghostwritten by a human with a Bachelors of Arts in Communications. Tazi-Kat is not really a talking feline.

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