A few years ago my daughter came home from preschool crying because she had a conflict with a friend. I asked her if she informed her teacher about it, and she replied, “When I told her about it, she asked me if I was being at tattletale. So I left.” As a mom, I was hurt for my daughter. As a therapist, I was angry because of how poorly this matter was handled. Even now, my hackles will rise at the mention of the word “Tattletale.”
The word simply does not solve settle any conflict. In fact, I would argue that it only makes it more hurtful on so many levels. First, it’s degrading because you are actually calling the person a name. Who knows what mental image the word tattletale conjures up for a preschooler, but I’d bet it isn’t positive one.
I think it may also leave a child feeling helpless and sets them up to fail. Kids cannot, nor should they, ignore when someone else is hurting them. When the person they come to for help responds by telling they are tattling, they walk away with the message that their problem is not important or worthy of being solved. Small children simply do not have the tools to solve interpersonal conflict or to stand up for themselves.
As a mom, I am all for helping kids learn to solve their own problems. Another preschool we attended was based on the Reggio Emilia Method which actually promotes the idea of adults not intruding;thereby allowing kids work out their issues themselves. However, the difference is when a child asks a grown up to help them they receive practical suggestions to actually find a resolution rather than being ignored.
And as a Mom, I had to learn the power of helping rather than preventing my daughter’s problem solving skills. One teacher graciously suggested that I offer possible verbal things to tell her friend when they were fighting over the same toy, ie “Why don’t we find something we both can play?” or “You can have this swing when I’m done.” When we give our children practical suggestions it empowers them, tells how important they are and builds a stronger connection.
No Mommy is perfect. Nor are teachers perfect. And I honestly believe that my daughter’s preschool teacher did not intend to cause more hurt. As moms and teachers, we are all in this together partnering to help our children. Yet, if we listen close enough, our kids end up becoming the greatest teachers of helping us see how we are showing up to them.
Please excuse me while I step off my soapbox…..