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Is there anything more frustrating than a tattling child?

We all have that one child that likes to come and tattle on every tiny thing they can.

Keep in mind this isn’t a fun part of parenting, but this shows why it’s important to teach tattling vs telling to children.

Why do kids tattle? How do we teach them the difference between tattling and telling?

image via Shutterstock

Before we continue it is important to acknowledge that sometimes children tattle on others because of a need of their own.

A child may tattle all the time because they are lacking attention and this is one way they know they will be heard.

They may also tattle because they have a low self-esteem and they crave attention.

As a parent, if you feel your child is tattling because they need attention, talk to them and let them know of other ways they can come to you when they feel they need some one on one time.



Tattling is a fine line when it comes to kids.

You want kids to tell you what’s going on, but you don’t want them to focus on telling you every “tiny” thing that’s going on.

When it comes down to it, tattling is when your child wants to get someone else in trouble.

Explain to kids that tattling probably isn’t helping a situation.

Tattling usually boils down to something that’s not important and involves some sort of control.

(Ask your child: Are you wanting to get someone in trouble? This is often tattling)


I’ve noticed that one of the best ways to keep kids from tattling is to teach them about telling.

Telling isn’t about tattling.

Telling is actually telling something of importance.

When someone is hurt, telling is important.

When adult intervention is needed, telling is important.

Of course, telling is also important when the problem cannot wait to be solved and needs urgent attention now.

(Ask your child: Are you wanting to help someone? This is often telling)


One of the best ways you can teach kids the difference between tattling and telling is to give them examples.

For example, a brother or sister is being silly and your child comes to tell you.

That is tattling.

An example of telling would be when someone is hurt and your child is coming to tell you urgently.

tattling vs telling

image via shutterstock

When it comes to tattling vs telling, how do you explain the difference to your child?

You may also like this post on RAISING RESPECTFUL CHILDREN:


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Thursday 23rd of June 2016

I ask "Did that hurt you or someone else? Did it hurt your feelings? Is something dangerous happening?"If not, then I say "It's not very kind to want your friend to get into trouble"

Leanne Stronh

Sunday 10th of July 2022

@Sorcha, I am with you on most of these things. However, if someone's feelings are hurt, but nobody is physically injured, or in any physical danger, then I would encourage them to first tell the person who hurt their feelings, "I really don't like it when people (call me names, tease me about ______, blow raspberries at me, etc.), so please don't do it again." However, if the person who hurt their feelings continues exhibiting said behavior, that is when the child needs to go to an adult about the situation.


Tuesday 14th of June 2016

This is a great article; love the explanation of differences. Thanks!