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Teach Your Child to Communicate Without Tattling

Tips To Stop Your Preschooler From Tattle-tailing

"Mommy! John called me a dum-my!"

Sound familiar?

While helping preschoolers negotiate relationships with their siblings and peers comes with the parenting territory, it's easy to become tired of tattle-taling and finger pointing, especially if your child's constantly doing it to get your attention.

Anthony Wolf, author of "Mom, Jason's Breathing on Me: The Solution to Sibling Bickering," cautions parents against ever listening to tattle-taling, unless something harmful is going on between children.

Wolf's advice is to show the child sympathy without validating his complaint. A good response to "John called me a dum-my" is "Oh. Do you need a hug?" followed by a warm embrace.

Experts say that it's important for children to learn the difference between tattling and reporting a dangerous situation. While you should discourage children from tattling (which is done usually just to get others in trouble, to get attention, or to be vindictive), you should teach them to communicate openly, especially if someone's in danger. A hard balancing act? Yes, but that comes with the parenting territory, too.

Safety Note


To protect children from sexual and other abuse, experts advise parents to teach children that when another adult in their life, even someone they're close to, says, "This is just between us," or "Don't tell your parents," or "I'll kill you if you tell," the child needs to share that information right away. Parents should reassure children that they won't get angry with them if they tell a "bad" secret.

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