Tattling Vs Reporting

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Tattling is second nature to my 4-and-a-half-year-old right now. He tattles on his sister, on the parent he’s not with, the dog…you name it, my little man tattles.  Although I know this is totally normal for kiddos to do, I realized it may be time to write a blog about teaching kids the difference between tattling vs reporting – and implement it at our home home, stat.

tattling vs reporting

Now, to be fair, my son doesn’t think he’s tattling. He’s just “sharing.”  And amidst some of his tattles, he really is “sharing” important information.

So I started thinking about how to best extract the necessary information from him, when it comes to safety issues or important tidbits, in his rambling of tattles and chatter.

Here We Go…

First, I sat down and asked him: “Do you know what it means to tattle?”

I figured this was a great place to start.  Because I could ask him not to tattle a 100 times a day, but unless he really knew what it was, it would go right over his head.

He answered, “Talking mommy?  About a lot of stuff?”

Well, sort of. Okay, “problem 1” identified.  Define tattling for my kid.

I explained it this way:

Tattling is when you tell on someone who is doing something that maybe you don’t like or agree with…but isn’t hurting anyone or anything.  You are telling the information to get someone in trouble. 

Reporting is when you give an adult information – like mommy, daddy, or your teacher – that will help someone or keep someone safe.  

He mulled that one over.  I think we will have to reinforce this concept a lot during this process.

Tattling Vs Reporting Charts

I’ve seen some “Tattling vs Reporting” charts for kids…and one of my friends actually has a poster up in her house, defining the two.

It was time for me to pick a chart I liked.

And after searching around, I decided to try this one I found on Pinterest, via the website Lessons4Now.  I found this very simple, very easy to make T-chart on their site that explains the differences pretty simply.


My little man and I studied this chart together, and I read it to him.  Then, we talked about examples…

Me: “So if your sister walks out the front door without an adult, and you tell me, is that tattling or reporting?”

Him:  “Reporting!”

Me:  “If daddy cooks you peas for dinner, instead of giving you applesauce, is that tattling or reporting?”

Him:  “Definitely reporting, mommy!  I don’t like peas anymore.”

Okay, so we have some more work on this – lol. But I’m going to keep having these discussions with him, and ask him to tell me the differences between tattling and reporting….and if you have a little tattler, I encourage you to do the same.

I also printed this chart out, pasted it on heavy card stock, and taped it up in the playroom.  (It’s good reinforcement for my 1st grader, too).

Who knows….I may even throw in a reward chart for the first week or two, as extra incentive for him to correctly differentiate between the two!

How do you handle tattling with your children?  Any tips or tricks to share?


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  1. 1
    jen says:

    I think this is such a good lesson to teach! When volunteering in my kids classrooms I am always in awe of the number of times kids are tattling on each other to their teachers. So, teaching them the difference between tattling and reporting is not only good for saving your sanity at home but I am sure their teachers also thank you!!! Great post!!!

  2. 2
    Christy says:

    Thank you!! And good point, Jen! This is a skill definitely needed at school…especially with the younger kiddos 😉 Fingers crossed my little guy starts better understanding the two…for sanity’s sake!

  3. 3
    Leanne Strong says:

    I made a poster about this. I drew a football (cuz football is big in my country) on the top, and wrote “Which team are you rooting for?” Below that I wrote, “Reports or Tattletales.”

    Under the Reports, I wrote stuff like someone might get hurt, it’s important, I’ve tried everything I know to solve the problem, but nothing seems to work, someone is bullying me, keep someone out of trouble. I also gave examples like, “Jadyn is poking people with her pencil. I’m afraid she might poke someone too hard, and they might bleed.” “Fred was showing some inappropriate pictures on his computer on the bus this morning.” “Cody keeps teasing me. I’ve told him many times to stop, but he just keeps getting worse.”

    For the Tattletales I wrote stuff like it’s no big deal, trying to get someone in trouble, nobody is going to get hurt, I can solve the problem on my own. I gave examples like, “John cut in line.” “Erin took the orange popsicle away from me.” “Melody is using my iPad and I didn’t tell her she could use it.”

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