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Tales of a Tattle Tale

7 August, 2013 - Author: carolyn72 - No Comments

OK.  I’ve officially heard one tattle tale too many.

It’s that time of summer vacation when everyone is getting on everyone else’s nerves.  The days of brother and sisterly summer camaraderie are long gone, and the tattle taling days are here.

I have to say that, for the most part, my kids are pretty decent.  They get along fairly well, I seldom have to worry about them in the public eye, and they do what they’re told.  Mostly.  But, like all brothers and sisters, they get nit-picky when they’re in the same room for more than an hour.  And instead of using problem solving skills, all that irritation comes flowing out in a tirade of tattle tales:

“Mooooooo-ooom!  She’s sitting where I want to sit!”

“Mooooooo-ooom!  He is making weird noises and won’t stop!”

“Mooooooo-ooom!  I’m trying to read and can’t concentrate because they’re too noisy!”

Every family has its share of tattle tales, but it seems like the more kids there are,  the more whiny, nerve-grating complaints there are.  This year, it seemed to hit an all time high in this house.  Finally, I had it.  I found myself fantasizing of long solo road trips to no particular destination, of donning a disguise to convince the kids that I was just the Avon lady, and of becoming a Tibetan monk, happy to OM my days away in my zenny, peaceful world.  

My breaking point came when I sat down for what had to be the sixteenth time to check my email.  No sooner had I tenderly awakened my computer when a child burst into the room with–yep–a whiny windfall of tattles.  I held up a hand and said solemnly, “All complaints must be submitted in writing, effective immediately.  My ears are closed.”

My kid looked at me like I’d gone off the deep end.  I returned her gaze stoicly and pointed toward the kitchen.  “Note cards are in the drawer by the phone.  Write up your complaint and I’ll look at it later.”  The Complaint Box was born!

Our family’s Complaint Box is a no-frills box that I grabbed from the basement.  The 11-year-old Crammed Minivanner made a little label and stuck it on the front, apparently so no one confuses it with a ballot box or suggestion bin.  If someone feels the need to tattle tale, they write their sorrowful story on a card.  Then, they put their card in the box, where complaints gather until the evening.


Our Complaint Box is very simple, but it can be much more ornate. A great family project would be to paint and decorate a box from the craft store to house complaints. If your kids help to decorate it, they will be more likely to use it instead of tattle tale!

As part of our evening routine now, I take out the complaints, or tattle tales, and review them by myself first.  My goal is not only to cut down on the tattling that goes on, but also to take a look at the behaviors that are causing the kids to come running to me every five minutes.  I’m categorizing them, and keeping track of both the offenses and which child is doing them.  The categories that I’m using are verbal respect, physical respect, and rule following, since those tend to be the behaviors that are provoking the tattles.  Verbal respect covers mean remarks, poor choice of verbal response, bossing people around, making repeated noises with the intended purpose of bothering someone, and mocking.  Physical respect covers keeping hands, feet, and objects to oneself, taking care of possessions, and putting things away.  Rule following is adherence to family rules that we have, such as keeping the television at a reasonable volume, eating in the kitchen, and things like that.

The 6 year old Crammed Minivanner complains that his sister gave him the dreaded Silent Treatment.

The 6 year old Crammed Minivanner complains that his sister gave him the dreaded Silent Treatment. Instead of a tattle tale, he wrote it down and put it into the Complaint Box.

After looking at them alone and jotting down offenses, offenders, and categories, I call the kids and we talk about what’s in the box.  I try to generalize the complaints instead of singling out a child and an offense.  I might say, “I have a lot of complaints today about children mocking one another.  What do you think I mean by mocking?”  That opens a discussion about the behaviors and the reasons why others don’t like them, instead of simply getting someone in trouble.  We talk about how those behaviors make others feel, and I try to end with a statement about how we should all look out for that behavior the next day.

Since this is the first week of the Complaint Box, I am simply using it to manage my little tattle talers, and also to gain insight into the behaviors that are causing the other kids to tattle.  Next week, I am hoping to create personal behavior management plans that will target some of the behaviors that are driving the tattles.  Hopefully, this will be the tail end of tattle tales!

Categories: Being Responsible, Humor, Keeping the Peace, Paving the Way to Good Behavior - Tag: , , , , , , , ,

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