Why Kids Tattle and What To Do About It

She took my headband!
He touched my Legos!
She's using my iPod!
He won't stop bothering us!
She won't stop hitting us!
They spit on us! Eww!

Those are just a few of the "tattletales" I've heard from my daughter over the years. 

Common responses may sound like - 

Give it back!
Put down those Legos!
Leave it alone!
Stop harassing your sister!
That's not nice! 

But, what do kids learn when we respond with directives, demands, and judgment? 

They learn what we think about things, but not how to make better choices.

Tattling is developmentally typical in young children.

Young children are still piecing together how the world works. Like any behavior, tattling represents a need - possibly to be heard, acknowledged or validated. 

Children learn how to meet their needs by communicating through their behavior, and they rely on our responses and interactions for answers and information which provide quality feedback

They don't have the skills or experience to eloquently and effectively speak their minds or always handle conflict without help, so they come running to us.

When they come running, we can feel a surge of stress and frustration. We might feel the need to answer and decide for them.

No time for talking.
No time for understanding.
You broke the rules, here are the consequences.

That always sounds great in theory, but it's a strategy which shuts down connection and communication. 

If we deny kids the chance to practice skills or thoughtfully reflect on situations, we can't expect them to make better decisions.

If you're tired of playing judge and jury with your kids and need new ideas for peaceful conflict resolution, watch this TEACHable Moments video where I share why kids tattle and what you can do about it.


How you respond influences whether your kids learn to take more independent actions or whether they will rely on you to dictate the outcomes.

Do you respond in emotionally intelligent ways when your kids tattle? 

What works for you? Help another community member by sharing your ideas for resolving sibling or peer conflicts in the comments. 

Need more help managing your anger and getting your kids to listen? Click here to sign up for my FREE video series.

Talk soon,

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