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How To Cut Down on Tattling

How To Cut Down on Tattling

When I was a kid, I remember my mom constantly encouraging us kids to work out disagreements between ourselves. Of course there were plenty of times when we just couldn’t see eye-to-eye with a sibling, or we were so emotional that a friend couldn’t reason with us and we needed an adult to help, but many other times, the little petty disagreements or someone picking on us could be resolved without involving an adult.


My mom had 2 rules.

Rule number 1: “Talk sweet.”

Rule number 2: “Go and tell”…an adult (and to be used only if rule number one didn’t work).

If we came running to her with our little problem without having applied these two rules in the correct order, then we would be reminded of them and might be asked if we would like to “try again.”

She made it clear that if we had taken the right steps and tried to work it out first, she would be all ears to help and only the guilty party would be in trouble. But if we came running to her before trying to work it out, or bullied another person (or as she called it “taking matters into your own hands”), then both of us might be in trouble. This dramatically cut down on tattling and highly encouraged us to work things out on our own, or at least attempt to first.

There were of course exceptions to this rule, like if there was an emergency and someone was going to get hurt, or if a mess was being made, then we didn’t have to follow these steps and could step in and help or run for an adult immediately.

As a parent myself now, we’ve used these two rules with our kids. I believe that not only do our kids benefit from them right now as they learn to work through problems with others while still young, but I believe these rules will likely help them later in life too when problems arise. And this doesn’t mean we expect our kids to always agree with each other or never express when they’re upset. Anger and disagreements can be healthy and need to be expressed, but we do want them to be thoughtful, responsible, self-aware and self-controlled when problems arise.

We had a laugh the other day when our boys had a little squabble. They weren’t handling the situation well by themselves, so I stepped in and asked Israel what rule number one was and if he’d used it. Sam piped up before Israel could answer, “talk sweet!”

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  1. Cathy

    I like this! Was it hard getting along with siblings for you coming from a big family?

  2. Emily

    Thank you so much for sharing these tips! I am trying to implement this in our own home right now.

  3. Sam

    For the size of your family growing up, your house always seemed peaceful and kind. I love your mom’s soft spoken voice I love that you are teaching your children the same principles. Good for you!

  4. Anna

    This makes so much sense, Jill! What are some things you do to help your kids develop the skills to work things out on their own?

    • Derick & Jill

      We are constantly telling them “use your words” and we encourage them to think about how it makes the other person feel and choose an emotion word to describe their own feelings and the feelings of the other person. Of course when they’re little, it’s a lot harder for them to figure it out, but it is encouraging to see them develop better skills as they practice more.

  5. No Millsaps

    Great advice! I raised two active boys (wouldn’t have wanted them any other way) and they fought like cats and dogs lol but they always stood up for each other if anyone else gave one a hard time. Boys are so awesome and have such sweethearts. You’re being a good caring mom, letting them express themselves and giving them the space to be individuals.

  6. Casondra

    This is excellent Jill. How would you encourage a 12 year old and 4 year old to not tattle ? The same? I’m trying to figure this out.

    • Derick & Jill

      Hey girl! Yeah, I’d say these rules could definitely work for them too.

  7. Becky

    I was the rotten kid who would deliberately coerce my little brother into some sort of trouble and then run and tell on him! Oops…

    • Derick & Jill

      Haha Sounds familiar. Gotta dig for the whole story. And of course we were told, if someone tells you to do something bad, you don’t join in, you run and tell an adult immediately.

  8. Tiffany

    hello! New here! Would you mind elaborting on the “go and tell” part??

    • Derick & Jill

      Basically, if we couldn’t work it out then we’d take it to an adult and they’d help resolve it.


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