The Difficulties of Being a Tattletale

In my last post I explained how my neighbor was using his kid to accuse me of getting him in trouble. It became pretty clear while Addie was hyperventilating as she lectured me on being a tattletale that Addie may not understand when people should be tattletales. On the one hand, Addie should not be tattling every time her sister pulls her hair. On the other hand, Addie should tattle every time the neighborhood boys throw a softball at her head to get her to go home.

A few days ago I came home from work to find Addie pouting on the stairs. Vivi was standing at the top of the stairs holding onto the gate that keeps her from tumbling down the stairs.

Addie:  Dad, Vivi slammed the gate on me and pulled my hair.

Me:  But she’s a baby.

Addie:  She did it on purpose, I know it.

Me:  Quit pouting, she’s just a baby.

At that point, Addie hunched over even more on the stairs and tried to look as if that baby had just ruined her life. I reached over the gate and slid Vivi back and I began to open the gate. Immediately, Vivi grabbed the gate, stood up and slammed it shut on me. That baby had slammed the gate shut on purpose.

Those are the times when Addie shouldn’t be tattling. I worry, however, that what she is being taught by other parents and friends may prevent her from being a tattletale when she needs to be a tattletale. The day after the neighbor’s kid made his accusations, I asked Addie if she knew that there were times she needed to be a tattletale. She said yes, and I asked her when those times were. She explained to me that she should tell a teacher if someone does something to her at least three times and she has asked that person not do it after each occurrence.

That was not exactly the response I wanted, yet, that is probably the right answer under a lot of situations. I want Addie to understand that she does not have to endure being bullied three times before she can tell a teacher. Addie should not have to dread going to school or hanging out in the circle because other kids are acting like bullies. And, I certainly do not want her to endure inappropriate contact form an adult three times before she tells a teacher or me.

I struggled to explain to Addie when it was good to be a tattletale. This will definitely be a topic I will have to readdress with her in the future.

How would you explain it to your child?

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