sibling rivalry

(I just randomly found this image online. Remember the Get Along Gang?!)

My daughter is 4. My son will be 2 in two weeks. And we have come into the new season of TATTLING! At first, Lydia would just tell me things Asa was doing–“He’s putting a rock in his mouth!” or “Asa has scissors!”. But now it’s every. single. thing. She says, “Asa just touched my book!” or “He is pushing his foot on me!” or “Asa took my doll!!”. And as much as I want her to keep me updated on if Asa is about to put his finger in the electric socket, I do not need a running commentary on his every move.

I remember reading something (maybe from Have a New Kid by Friday?) about parents staying out of sibling squabbles. It seems a little backwards because we want to lead our kids in the way they should respond to each other. But the idea was that it’s not just about teaching kids how to respond, it’s teaching them to figure out on their own how to respond. A sibling squabble allows kids to interact with each other—it’s THEIR problem. They don’t need to run to Mama and let her sort out all the problems–kids need to solve problems for themselves.

As a former substitute teacher (ok, only for a few months, but still, it does teach you a few things about kids), I remember one of the main things that got on my nerves struck me was that kids could do nothing without asking the teacher to fix it. “He’s on the slide!” or “She took my pencil!” or “I was sitting there first!” One of the teachers I worked with had a picture of a turtle on her desk. When the kids came to tattle on one of their classmates she told them, “Tell the Tattle Turtle.” She wouldn’t even listen to their complaint. It was not her problem–those kids were waaaay old enough to solve a simple problem like moving to the other side of the playground, or choosing a new place to sit.

How do you empower kids to solve their own problems? How do you curb the tattletale syndrome while helping kids resolve their own quarrels?

Leave a comment, I’d love to hear your suggestions!


  1. Oh! I work in the schools and this is such a hard thing to deal with…. This past spring I read “Loving Your Kids on Purpose” by Danny Silk and WOW it brought such a new approach to how you can address kids in these situations–granted, it’s not for every kid and you have to approach them differently, but I love the questions he suggestions asking kids when they come to you…here are a few:
    “What are you going to do about that?”–I use this one all the time!
    “How’s that working for you?”
    “Do you want help?”

  2. Instead of tattling I encourage my kids to help each other make a better choice. So when one girls tells me what the other one is doing….I say “Are you helping her make her best choice?”
    I think the oldest child, especially when it is a girl, usually becomes a little Mommy for a while. They can be so helpful but there is always another side of that too.

  3. Oh, this is running rampant at our house, too! I got a book and a checklist from Doorposts called “The Brother Offended Checklist” – it provides Scripture for steps that each child should go through (the “offended” aka the tattler and the offender) – It’s great, but not put into practice yet at our house (I think it will be fabulous when Elias can read it all himself). Most of the time, I do the same things as mentioned about – tell him I don’t want to hear it, that he needs to try to fix the problem himself first, and then if he continues to tattle, he sits in time out.

  4. We have three little girls (8, 6, and 4) and the tattling easily goes crazy. I let them tell me (I want them to know that they can talk to me about anything, any time) but I very rarely actually get involved. I usually ask questions like “how does that make you feel?”, “is anybody going to suffer grievous bodily harm?” (they’ve learned what that snide remark means now, lol) “what can YOU do about that?” or even “go talk to her!”. WHen they realize I’m not coming to “the rescue” they stop coming to tattle. Sometimes they come to vent still, but that’s okay by me. I just refuse to become involved unless someone or something will be irrevocably damaged without parental intervention. But that’s not tattling — that’s safety.

  5. Yes, tattling is so hard!

    However, I think it is important to also teach our children the difference between a tattle and telling something that is going on that is really important the teacher knows. My little sister in law (she was in kindergarten at the time) had her skirt pulled down at the playground by a boy. But she was afraid to tell the teacher because she didn’t want to tattle.

    So, I agree with you! But I do think it’s important to let the kids know the difference 🙂

  6. Ooo, these are good ideas. (And yes, totally LOVED the Get Along Gang!) I’ve been noticing over the past few weeks that the tattling is getting more frequent and I’m glad for some new phrases to add to my repertoire (had to spell check that one). Janelle, I’m absolutely adding “grievous bodily harm” to my vocabulary.

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