Why Kids Tattle-tale and What You Can Do About It

Why Kids Tattle-tale and What You Can Do About It

Is your kid a pint-sized "Complain King" or "Complain Queen" who constantly tattles to you about his siblings and friends? Find out why they are like this and what exactly you can do about it!

Does your child often come running up to you to whine about how his friend snatched a toy away from him or reports to you about how his younger sibling is not eating her vegetables?

Your little "Complain King" might get on your nerves at times so you probably want to know why he's such a little snitch (and hopefully put an end to the tattle-tales!).

Here are the reasons to help you understand why your tiny tattle-tale feels the need to rat out on those around him and what you can do to help cut down on all the complaints!

Why kids tattle

Your child does not choose to pow tow just for fun! There are a few possible reasons as to why he does this, such as:

1. To gain favour with parents or caregivers

kids tattle tale tell complain children behaviour

In order to win your praises and affection, your kid might (figuratively) throw someone else under the bus, just to make himself appear to be the better one.

Jerry Wyckoff, a child psychologist in Prairie Village, USA, and the author of Discipline Without Shouting or Spanking explains, "Tattling allows a child to one-up another child, to gain favour in the eyes of her parent or teacher."

2. They understand right from wrong

kids tattle tale tell complain children behaviour

Children need some rules to help maintain order and also keep them away from harm. Being able to follow rules, guidelines and instructions also helps with their cognitive and moral development.

If your kid sees someone else breaking the rules, he may feel compelled to tell someone with authority due to his own understanding of right and wrong -- not because he's just being kaypoh!

3. Attention-seeking

kids tattle tale tell complain children behaviour

If your child has not been getting enough one-on-one time with you, he may use this opportunity to get your attention and listen to him as he snitches about how his cousin ate some candy without sharing.

Remember to spend quality time with your little one and listen to him when he really does need you, otherwise, he will just end up whining and tattling on others just for you to finally pay him some attention.

4. Older kids are just watching out for the younger ones

kids tattle tale tell complain children behaviour

Older children might feel responsible for watching over the younger kids and therefore think they need to report any important updates to you.

Don't get frustrated at your child for just doing (what he think is) his "duty", because you must admit that it's pretty sweet of him to care about the welfare of the little ones!

5. They have been given too many rules

kids tattle tale tell complain children behaviour

Maybe your child has been given a lot of rules so when he sees someone else breaking one, it makes him feel a sense of injustice, since he is not allowed to do the same.

Rules may be good for kids, but too many might make him feel stifled and restricted, especially if those around him are getting away with everything.

What you can do to help:

Now that you know why your little one likes to tattle on others, here's what you can do about it:

1. Listen to your child

kids tattle tale tell complain children behaviour

As much as you want to ignore all these little complaints, it is important that you actually listen to what your child is telling you in case they really are alerting you about a dangerous situation (such as their sibling dashing across the road and narrowly dodging oncoming traffic!).

The more your kid's tattle-tales fall on deaf ears, the more whiny he might become and the more persistent he might be in trying to get your attention.

2. Teach them the difference between tattling and telling

kids tattle tale tell complain children behaviour

Although it is good that your child feels comfortable enough to confide in you and tell you his problems, you should teach him not to tattle on someone about a trivial matter, like how his friend's chair is positioned too close to his.

But what's worth telling an adult would be something like if his friend's chair is too close to some steps and he could possibly fall down and injure himself.

3. Encourage them to problem-solve on their own

kids tattle tale tell complain children behaviour

Your child could be coming to you to help with the situation he's in, so you can encourage him to try and resolve this issue on his own before he approaches you.

If he's trying to watch his favourite cartoon on TV but his brother is blocking his view, instead of whining to you about it, he should just (nicely) ask his brother to move out of the way or sit down so he can see the screen.

4. Talk to them about fairness and justice

kids tattle tale tell complain children behaviour

If your little one has been told he can't have any dessert until he's finished eating his dinner, yet he sees his friend happily digging into an ice cream sundae even though there's still some rice left on his plate, he might feel the need to express his frustration by tattling to you about it.

Tell him that you understand why he feels it's unfair, but also let him know why he needs to follow this particular rule and that different family have different rules -- maybe his friend might feel that your kid gets away with certain things that he's not allowed to!

5. Remind him not to tattle

kids tattle tale tell complain children behaviour

Simply tell your child not to be a tattle-tale and remind him that it's not nice to snitch on someone about every little thing.

Point out to him that his friends might get annoyed at him for tattling to you about every move they make that isn't actually worth alerting an adult about, so he needs to pick his battles and learn how to cool it with the complaints.


Is your child a Complain King or Complain Queen? What do you do to stop the tattling? Share your tips with other parents by leaving a comment below!


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Any views or opinions expressed in this article are personal and belong solely to the author; and do not represent those of theAsianparent or its clients.
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