Define tattling vs. telling. A good rule of thumb to use is that tattling involves trying to get someone into trouble while telling is trying to get someone out of trouble. Ask your child to think about which one she is trying to do before she runs to you with a big announcement.
Resist jumping in. Often, a tattler simply wants attention. Saying “Thank you for telling me” or “I’m glad you’re not doing that” makes him feel acknowledged and heard. Then keep an eye on the situation to see for yourself what’s going on.
Reflect and repeat. If she’s really worked up, try reflecting her emotion back to her. “You sound really upset.” Wait a bit and then repeat the problem to her. “I understand why you’re angry that your brother took your doll.” Resist the urge to scold or to point out that she also takes her brother’s toys sometimes.
Brainstorm a solution. Ask your child to come up with an idea for solving the problem. When she does, review the consequences: “Is that a smart plan? What do you think will happen if you destroy all of his toys?” Have her pick a solution that works. This teaches her to problem solve.
Reassure her. While tattling can be grating, children should never be afraid to ask for help because they’ve been told it’s wrong to tattle. Remind her to tell an adult if someone is in trouble or danger.
Source: Ruth Ettenberg Freeman, L.C.S.W., founder of positiveparentingct.com and co-founder of the Connecticut Parenting Education Network