I had no ideas for Wednesday posts, so here’s one that I apparently started back in 2019 but never polished up or posted!
Agaishanlife discusses the idea of tattling here.
Back when we were growing up, there was a very strong non-NARC culture because we would get punished if we ever “tattled”.
Thankfully, that has changed. “Tell someone” and “Use your words” are now “in” so we have thankfully not had to deal with our children being admonished for “tattling”. Back at the wonderful daycare that went out of business, they’d use telling a teacher as a way to model for the children to work out their differences with teacher facilitation until they were able to do it on their own without teacher facilitation. So basically, if a kid told on another kid, the teacher would be like, “X took your toy without asking? Did you ask if you could have your toy back?” and if the kid hadn’t then, the teacher would tell them to ask for their toy back. And if they had, then the teacher might go to the other kid and moderate a discussion about playing with the toy. K-4 there’s less of that, but they also don’t punish children for telling things.
I really don’t think that kids are capable of understanding the differences between telling about something important and the kind of “tattling” where teachers used to think that kids were trying “to get other kids in trouble”. I genuinely think little kids cannot separate the idea of trying to get someone in trouble just telling an adult when something is wrong. They do not generally know which rules are important or why (maybe with the exception of a few major things like biting/hitting). It seems really arbitrary to a kid when they’re punished for reporting some things but not others. [Back in 2019] I do not think my 7 year old is at a point where zie would really understand the difference, and zie is pretty socially ept for a 7 year old.
There are so many things in retrospect I should have told adults but never did because I’d been told not to tattle. Because I’d been used to being punished for telling when I was in preschool so as I got older I assumed I was on my own. I always thought so long as I wasn’t being physically harmed I had to keep it to myself. I could have avoided a lot of bullying, including really misogynist stuff as late as 8th grade if I had realized adults would support me instead of punishing me. This all stems from my being punished for tattling as a 3 year old (and later reinforcement, no doubt).
I don’t think we should even use the words tattle or snitch. We should encourage kids to protect themselves by letting an adult know if they’re being harmed. We should encourage kids to let an adult know if something dangerous is happening. I don’t think the other stuff needs to be addressed at all– it’s just confusing for the kid.
[One] morning [in 2019] zie told me that I wasn’t supposed to be eating breakfast in the living room. (This is true– nobody is supposed to be eating in the living room.) Zie wasn’t trying to get me in trouble with myself. Yet, when zie says the same thing about hir sibling I might think zie was trying to get DC1 in trouble. (And of course, if I accidentally spill something in the living room, I’m also the one who has to clean it up and also the one who has to pay for any replacements.)
Really I think often they want to know what the limits of the rules are. They want things to be fair. They want to be able to do things that other kids are doing. There are a lot of reasons they “tell” on people that aren’t just about getting kids in trouble that could be misinterpreted by adults as such.
Did you get punished for telling adults about problems as a little kid?