Have you ever known a tattletale? You know, the kid in the class who always tells the teacher what everyone else is doing wrong? We have all known kids from our childhood who had the job of telling. I call it a job because many of my clients feel it is their duty to tell, and they take it quite seriously. I ask my clients the following questions. What do the other kids in the classroom think of this behavior? What do the kids say and do when you tell? What does the teacher say and do?
One of my clients, let’s call him Mark was very upset because his best friend at school said he hated him. He shared that his best friend was kicking another kid’s chair. Mark raised his hand and said, “Teacher, Billy is kicking Ralph’s chair.” Mark could not understand why his best friend was mad at him. After all, he was doing the wrong thing. Mark also told me that he was so upset, he could not focus on his work and his teacher got angry at him.
Children who have difficulty with pragmatic social language may not understand the inference or make the connection that their behavior affects how others treat them. Once Mark and I read and discussed rules, it made sense to him why his friend was angry. The first rule we used was “Think about how someone else feels” from my book “Social Rules for Kids.” It says “Not everyone feels or thinks the way I do. My actions affect whether someone will be my friend”. The rule also lists options of what to do the next time. Mark decided that the next time his friend did something wrong, he would ignore it. The next rule we used was “Don’t be a Tattle-tale. “ It says, “A tattle-tale is someone who always tells the teacher. It is someone who tells on other kids. I tell the teacher when…” I don’t tell the teacher when…” Mark felt better when he knew that he should tell the teacher when someone is getting hurt or bullied, but not tell when a peer is not following a class rule.
The nice thing about making social mistakes is that they can be fixed. We all have social mishaps. It is when we learn from them and make changes that we gain ease in the next social interaction. When kids are no longer “The Tattletale” their peers are more open to friendship.