At four and a half, Sunshine is deep into the tattling phase. While I should be pleased (and am) that she is moving beyond her stop-and-wail-when-things-don't-go-her-way phase, the tattling phase presents it's own challenges. Helping my daughter understand that there is an appropriate time for telling important information, and times to ask for help handling a situation, but learning to discern that from tattling is going to be a challenge to be sure. She so loves the tattling.
I realized over the weekend that perhaps this is a good thing overall. The boys could use a little refresher course in what it means to tattle versus tell (or ask for help). Heck, I could, too. It all started with wanting to get some extra sleep.
What's the difference anyway?
Over the weekend, the kids were up before me. My husband was at work. I really wanted to doze. Sunshine really wanted breakfast. After asking her to ask her brothers for help - and her brothers refusing because they were absorbed in a computer game - Sunshine promptly came up to tell me. But did she tattle or did she tell? And what is the difference anyway?
A simple way to decide whether it's tattling or telling is to ask whether the intent was to get someone in trouble and/or to get one up on the tattle-ee. Telling is about safety and times when real help is needed. It can be more nuanced than that, it's true, but those are the basics.
Asking for help and working as a team
After concluding that Sunshine had elements of both in her actions, I talked to the kids about tattling versus telling, about helping versus hurting, and about how we as a family are a team. Sunshine needed help getting breakfast - but she did intend to get her brothers in trouble, too. She could have asked for help (again) from me rather than point the finger at the brothers first. The boys could have argued that it was my responsibility to get her (and them) fed, but I could have argued back that a pause in the game to get some cereal for their sister would have been a nice thing to do. Not to mention what they would have wanted someone to do for them.
We talked about the ways in which the boys have been tattling on one another a fair bit lately - and that I haven't been calling them on it. I need to change that - and recognize that they are getting better of tattling in subtler ways. Although perhaps what one is tattling on the other is information I'd like to know, I need to discourage the tattling aspect and figure out ways to get that information in a more appropriate manner.
We talked about the appropriate times to tell, and how to ask for help in a situation they are having trouble handling - and one in which they might be tempted to tattle. I have to remember when they come to me asking for help that I give them tools for managing such a situation, and don't just jump in and do it for them. When appropriate, anyway.
I'm under no delusions that this is going to be resolved right away. There will be tattling and there will be telling. And there likely will be no extra rest for me.