Telling or “Tattle Telling”… Is There a Difference? – on NBC’s Parent Toolkit

A parent wrote to the Parent Toolkit team asking them about her challenge in understanding how best to support her five-year-old. This parent poses important questions about how to react to a young child “telling” on the mistakes of other children but her question also involves helping her child deal with exclusion and hurtful behaviors and her role with and support of her child’s teacher and the school’s rules. Check it out!

Good Afternoon,

I am a parent of a 5-year-old boy. I wanted to ask the advice of the panel in regards to “tattle telling”. My son’s school has taught him that he is not supposed to tattle tell and that “there is a difference between tattle telling and telling”. My son has been through some bad experiences (having snacks taken away by other students, being excluded, and now had a child pee on his shoe). My son continues to hold the belief that he should not tattle tell because he will get people in trouble and will then not have any friends. I am concerned that this has opened the door to my son being bullied.

My question is should children his age be taught the “difference between tattle telling and telling”? And is there truly a difference at this age?

Thank you,


My Response:

First of all, your child is right on schedule developmentally. “Tattle-telling” is a hallmark of the preschool and kindergarten age child attempting to develop self-regulation. Though the adult caregiver or teacher understandably does not want to be approached with every problem that arises in a classroom, the child is expressing his developmental need to understand and uphold the rules. This process takes time and lots of practice exercising his burgeoning self-control skills. Children first learn about the rules by enforcing them in others. Only then can they internalize and apply those rules to themselves. So take this experience as evidence that your child is working hard on learning the rules of school, a critical readiness factor for the elementary years. Read the full response on the Parent Toolkit site including specific ideas on what parents can do.


2 Comments on “Telling or “Tattle Telling”… Is There a Difference? – on NBC’s Parent Toolkit”

Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: