Tattling is one of the those really interesting parenting conundrums. As parents we need information and when little Suzy is more than willing to give it, we can begin to subsidize something very terrible (See Parenting is economics of sorts).
If you encourage Suzy in any way, you will get more tattling. That may be cute when she is 2 or 3, but it will be a raging fire of destruction when she is spreading tales at 20 or 30. I see, on a regular basis, the damage left by well-intentioned people “sharing” information they should not have. That starts in your home when they are little. That is the time and the place to deal with it. Grownups that struggle with gossip were well rewarded for it in their homes when they were children. You don’t want your children to turn into adults like that. Consider:
Proverbs 26:20 (NKJV) Where there is no wood, the fire goes out;
And where there is no talebearer, strife ceases.
There are many ways in which we subtly encourage tattling. When Johnny takes Suzy’s toy, do you reward Suzy after she has complained by retrieving the toy or making Johnny give it back?
Now you may be asking yourself what to do in those situations otherwise. That is where the wisdom comes in. Children are never too young to learn to do things correctly. If they are old enough to tell you about it, they are old enough to work it out together. If Suzy is having difficulty with Johnny, she should first attempt to work it out with him. If she has worked it out, that should be the end of the matter and it should not be brought up again by Suzy.
If she cannot work it out, then she may come to the parent. The parent’s response should not be to “fix it,” but to help the children fix it themselves. Ask the children questions and use the answers to guide the conversation to proper behavior (I will address sharing issues in another post). The children likely already know what they should have done, but reminders are always useful.
If you want you children to grow into gossip free adults, teach them now, when they are little that nothing good ever comes from talebearing.