None of our kids would do well in prison. They would all be in protective custody for being SNITCHES! ‘Guard! Bubba stole my shank and he won’t give it back! Guard! Guido put his finger in my gruel again!’ I mean, seriously, does it really matter that Hannah, buckled peacefully and harmlessly in her seat in our van, is breathing too hard for Abby’s sentimentalities? Does it matter that Nathaniel touches Hannah’s nose at the breakfast table, even if he’s being annoying on purpose? Or that Grace, our 18 month old, dared pick up and play with one of Nathaniel’s toys, even if it’s a LEGO airplane and she’s taking it apart and leaving the pieces scattered across the house? Or that Abby is using Grace’s new toy as a bludgeon on Nathaniel’s head? Well OK maybe, depending on how soft the toy is, but the point is kids tattle on each other a TON, and often for the most ridiculous things!
Here’s what we WANT to say – “STOP IT, JUST STOP! Unless the incident involves FIRE or spilled blood measuring at LEAST a pint there will be no tattling, whatsoever, for any reason!”
But, being or at least trying to be marginally responsible parents, we don’t. (Besides, LEGOS aren’t good on vacuum cleaners and they HURT when you step on them with bare feet!) Instead we try and play referee and peace maker as best we can, despite the fact that no Nobel nomination will be forthcoming for our efforts. Sad, really – after dealing with these kiddos the Middle-East would be a cinch!
So how do parents get their kids to tattle less and work things out more? It’s truly a fine line because we want them to tell us the important things but work out the small quarrels and issues within their realm (which vary according to age). The problem is, often they don’t know the difference. If anyone has any suggestions, please share! For us, it seems to be an everyday teaching process. If a child comes to us with something they could have worked out themselves, often we will send them back to do just that, work it out. If they tell us something important we thank them and explain why what they told us was a good thing. If they come with an argument they can’t work out (with no clear right or wrong), we just separate them for awhile (hey, there’s always two other siblings to play with – take your pick!).
It’s an ongoing, tiring, seemingly never-ending process, but it will end. While we’ll always look to the days when our kids were small with fondness, this is one part of child-rearing that neither of us will miss!