Children who tell tales are a universal pain. Children bullying is a universal problem. And I believe they are, often, linked.
Two children bring their mothers (fathers/teachers who ever) a problem, one adult says, “Stop telling tales; go and sort it out yourself.” Second adult stops what they are doing, completely focusses on the child – they may go and help sort out the problem, they may not (more about this later). Which child is more likely to tell another tale?
It may surprise some of you: but the first child is far more likely to re-offend and become a habitual tale teller. Why? Simply, because telling tales is not about telling tales. It’s about connecting to an important adult. It’s checking in. It’s one way children use their round-about way of making sure we are as there for them as we claim to be. Children are very, very rarely direct in communicating their needs.
The second problem with telling children to “sort it out themselves” is that, if there is problem, inevitably, sorting it out means the dominant child getting their own way; or hurting the less dominant child. Also, I believe most inter-personal dominance isn’t in-your face-beat-you-up bullying, but a more subtle use of power. The choice of the adult not to intervene gives the dominant child non-verbal permission to go right ahead, and dominate.
Which neatly leads to the third problem: if the child is being bullied, or on the verge of being bullied – adults not helping…doesn’t help. (For a great way they can help check out: http://www.education.unisa.edu.au/bullying/concern.html )
Now, I’ve been a teacher on playground duty. I KNOW how much of a pain those tale-telling children can be. Especially those with a Butterfly temperament – who just keep coming back. But, here’s the thing, when we joined our boys’ school community I met a group of people who actually stopped and listened to what I had to say. I could see in their eyes and body language that they had stopped thinking their own thoughts and were listening to whatever important information I had to impart. Now think about it. How often do you actually encounter people who do that? It completely threw me. I suddenly became aware of how much noise I make…without actually communicating anything.
So, if you encounter a tell-tale, give this a go. Stop everything, even your thoughts, completely focus all your attention on the tale-teller. Ask questions. Ask more questions. Ask until they’ve run out of information. (BUT DON’T try to solve the problem.) Then just stand beside them. One of two things will happen…they’ll stop talking and go away, ergo it was a need for connection, not a need for intervention. Or, you will realise that something needs to be done. Then, intervene. I’ll bet the tale-telling tampers off. (A child who is distraught and cannot speak is not telling tales…they need a Boring Cuddle. Quick Way to Stop Children Fussing.
If your child has a problem at school, which you suspect is either tale-telling or bullying, do the same. But also write what they say down in a notebook, and record the date. This means that your child is listened to, and you also have evidence if you have to ask teachers to step in. Of course, give them a hug too.
Children who are surrounded by adults who truly listen to them, feel connected, and people who feel connected are self-assured enough to deal with most issues. Children who are self-assured, don’t tell tales: but the do come to us when they need help. Isn’t that one of the key aims of parenthood?
Bully Proof your Children also deals with bullying.
(Should you find this article useful, Koha is accepted, $1 is fine. The button is under my blog-roll. )