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3 Kinds of Tattling (And How to Deal)

When tattling takes over your household, it's hard not to get annoyed. But if you understand your snitch's motivation, you can curb the behavior, says George Scarlett, Ph.D., assistant professor of child development at Tufts University. Our translator shows you how:

Your kid says: "Liam won't share!"
What she means: "Help me." She's looking to you to resolve her disputes, but constantly inserting yourself into the fray is exhausting.
You say: "What can we say to Liam to help him share -- maybe we should suggest using the egg timer?" Encourage the kids to find a solution themselves.

Your kid says: "I just saw Sam sneaking cookies!"
What she means: "See, I know the rules." She's displaying her growing sense of right and wrong, says Scarlett.
You say: "I'm proud of you for understanding that this isn't acceptable. Now you can tell Sam that eating cookies before dinner isn't right." Her sibling won't appreciate it, but this will validate her judgment while keeping your involvement to a minimum.

Your kid says: "Kate threw her bottle on the floor again."
What she means: "I'm jealous." She may be feeling overlooked and needs some positive attention, says Scarlett.
You say: "Thanks for telling me. You're a good big sister. When Kate gets older, she'll know better, just like you."