The Difference Between Tattling and Reporting

February 12th, 2013 posted by Susan Fitzell, M. Ed.

The Difference Between Tattling and ReportingTeachers and caregivers hear from children everyday how little Johnny did this or how Sally did that. But are they just tattling, or are they really offering important information? Teaching kids the difference between tattling and reporting is essential to group harmony. Here are some things to consider.

1. Explain that when tattling, students are trying to get someone into trouble, but when reporting, they are trying to get someone out of trouble. Try role-playing different scenarios to help students distinguish between the two ideas.

2. If you believe a student is tattling for attention, explain to the student that there are better ways to get your attention and give them some examples.

3. If an issue such as bullying is reported, look into the situation and try to observe the problem yourself. Taking the word of one student over another, without any other facts, can cause problems in the classroom.

4. Do not punish a student that has been tattled on without seeing the incident first hand. Not only will this encourage the tattler to continue telling on others and not simply report serious problems, it may even encourage the victim to begin tattling on others as well.

5. Teach children ways to deal with conflict on their own instead of automatically coming to a teacher or other adult for help. Encourage students to talk their out problems and share their feelings with each other, but teach them, also, that if someone is physically hurt or being harshly bullied, an adult should be brought into the situation through reporting.

6. If students do come to you with a problem that they can easily solve on their own, do not solve it for them. Tell them that you believe they could work their own issues out, and perhaps even have them sit at a “discussion table” or a quiet area of the room where they can calmly discuss their conflict with supervision.

7. Ask the children to follow these steps if they feel they are being bullied: First, ignore the behavior and avoid the person. If that does not work, try to talk with the bully. If that is not helpful say, “Leave me alone!” If the behavior does not stop, report it to the teacher.

8. Use an old telephone minus the cord, stuffed animal, or picture of a president. If a child has something to tell you that sounds like tattling, have them talk into the phone, tell a stuffed animal or the president what happened.

9. Set up a “complaint box” in your classroom. When a student comes to you to tattle, tell them that you are teaching right now, but that they can write down their name and their complaint on a piece of paper and put it in the box. Then, set aside a time to read and discuss the complaints with the student, if necessary.

10. Hold class meetings to discuss conflicts and other classroom matters. If a student tries to tattle on another student, ask them if it can wait until the class meeting. By helping students to realize that what they have to say is not an emergency, they will realize they were tattling rather than reporting, and will most likely forget or move on before the meeting is held.

11. In some classrooms, students are not allowed to report for someone else; the child who is telling needs to be the one with the problem. If a child is being constantly bullied, it is often difficult for him or her to tell an adult. If you sense that this is the case, pay attention to the child`s feelings, communicate understanding and take steps to remedy the situation.

12. Stress the importance of treating each other with respect. If there is teasing, bullying, or tattling on others, hold a class meeting. Let the students know that insulting others will not be tolerated. Encourage your students to discuss the things that are bothering them. Then take steps to solve conflicts as a class.

Student learning time increases when children understand the difference between tattling and reporting. Yet, children’s observations can help teachers know what is happening when they are not present or when their attention is elsewhere. Allowing students an opportunity to share their serious concerns is a necessary component of a positive school environment. 

Susan Fitzell, M. Ed. (1 Posts)

Susan Fitzell, M. Ed. is a nationally recognized speaker and author of several educational resource books. She has over two decades of experience with differentiated instruction, teaching youth with special needs, students with behavioral and anger management issues, and students who experience bullying. Susan's company, AIMHI Educational Programs, focuses on building caring school communities.

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