Tuesday, February 8, 2011

How do I stop tattling in my classroom?

Ms. Dorothy,
What do I do with tattle-tales in my classroom?  It's just never-ending and exhausting.  
- Teacher

It is important to establish with your class that there are some things that they should tell about. Without that, turning away "tattlers" could be a real risk. 

Students should know that anytime they feel that terrible pit in their stomach, it means the fear is real and they should alert an adult.

They should also know that most of the time, they have the power to resolve the situation themselves. 

Take the time to build a routine and some procedures for students to peacefully resolve conflicts. Using a regular place and a ritual that takes some of the heat out of situations is helpful. Practice language patterns like "I messages" that supply your students with the tools to talk about what is upsetting them.  Brainstorm solutions with your students, and act out scenarios so they can see a model of what it looks like to work through a problem.

Sometimes it helps to turn the whole situation on it's ear and invite the tattler to consider the offender's feelings. Wondering, with a child, how many bad feelings someone must have to think that taking someone else's good feelings will help, can be a powerful perspective changer.


  1. My mom told me that in her child growth and development class she learned that sometimes children just want the "tatlle" to be acknowledged ...is this true? Can you get by with just saying, "okay, thanks for telling me" or is that just not enough?

  2. Hi Jenny! Yes, sometimes children do want their comment acknowledged. A couple of teachers I work with have a stuffed puppet that they send children to. Saying "oh, go tell the tattle monkey" gives vent to that impulse, but doesn't risk praising the behavior. Saying "thanks" might be more encouragement than you intended.