Most children try telling tales as a way of making they look good at the expense of a sibling or a playmate. It usually begins around the age of four or five, when youngsters are developing a pride in their knowledge of the rules and are eager to show grown-ups how well they have learned them. By simply refusing to play along telltales, you can generally persuade your little one to discard this tactic as a form of gaining attention.
In dealing with telltales, you will want to shape your child’s behavior selectively. You do not want him to come running with a tale to woe about every tiny things another youngster has said or done. In such case it is better for him to work it out on his own among his peers. On the other hand, you certainly want him to come to you when confronted with the situation in which someone could get hurt or something valuable could be broken. Your goal is to help him see the difference between these circumstances and to discourage the former while rewarding the latter.
Explain to him that you are generally not interested in hearing him complain about his playmates and would prefer that they work out their differences themselves. When he learns that he gains nothing from telling tales, he will most likely abandon it. At the same time, you should tell him quite specially that you want him to come to you when things seem dangerous to him-when someone is playing with matches, for example, or climbing up high on a ladder. When your youngster comes to you with such reports be sure to praise him for his help and his caring.
Avoid setting up situations in which you are tacitly endorsing telling tales. Do not ask an older child to tell you when a younger one is doing something that he ought not to do, however, practical that might seem. It will encourage the older child to use telling as a weapon to control the younger child. And do not encourage the younger child to come to you when older ones are mean to him. If any serious trouble arises, you can be sure that you will hear about it.