Need Parenting Advice


So, I have a 8 year old. I am trying to teach him to stop being a tattle tale. I don’t want him NEVER to tell me anything though. Can you please help me explain to him when its okay. I am not doing a very good job. He is going into third grade.


In general,,,,,,,,,,sounds to me he is a perfectly normal child,,,,

Children and Drunks they say ,can never keep a secret,
He will grow out of it, by the time he is ten,he won’t be a tattle tale,
Enjoy this little boy while you can,because he will be a teen before you know it,
And then,:rolleyes: You will want your little man back,
You could try and explain that it’s inappropriate to tattle tale ,but he just won’t understand,

When one of my kids would come to me bearing “tales”, I’d explain that it was my job to be the ‘official’ (they were very into sports from a young age) and their job to be the players.

Thus, it was up to me to see the “penalty” and call the fouls.

HOWEVER - just like when playing in a game - if there was someone injured or about to be hurt by something that was going on, they must tell!!! (In a game, they’d holler for to the ref or coach - here they tell me or their teacher.)

Also if something was about to be broken beyond use - they must tell (just as they’d tell if a player was poking holes in the ball in a game).

It usually took a few tries, but they quickly caught onto the two exceptions (danger or harm to people / danger or harm to items). When they’d tattle about so-and-so playing with someone’s whatever, I’d gently remind them of the two exceptions and explain that the playing without permission met neither criteria and to continue my sports metaphor was like the other team playing keep away with the ball.

Of course, with five kids in the house, there was always plenty of situations to practice the rules of telling (or not). :smiley:

“Are you telling to get them into trouble, or are you telling to protect others or yourself?”

It depends on why he tattles.

  1. To get other people in trouble? (He’ll tattle on people you punish, and want to see them “get theirs”.)
  2. To get some feeling of superiority? (He’ll tell many people, and he’ll have a low view of the rule-breakers.)
  3. To relieve anxiety over rules being broken? (He’ll seem mostly concerned that something bad is going to happen because the rule is broken.)

He may have all of these reasons, or even other reasons, but each reason has a different remedy.

Case #1 is probably the most common and the most perplexing, because of course you put your rules and your consequences in for a reason. Siblings can provoke each other into rule-breaking as part of their little wars, and will cut off their noses to spite their faces. You are stuck being Solomon. Take Solomon’s lead, look deeply into the situation, and use your imagination when coming up with consequences.

Case #2 is obnoxious, even if he only gossips to you. You need to teach him to be discrete, kind, and as charitable as he can when he needs to report someone else, and it is OK to impose consequences when he doesn’t.

Case #3 requires helping him think through the weighing of the harm done by failing to report vs. the harm done to his relationships by reporting. This is something you can talk to his teacher about, but remind him that the Church has private confession because it is sometimes more charitable to ignore the faults and offenses of others. He might be taught the mercy in overlooking the offenses of others. If he has a “greater rule” arguing in favor of not reporting a clear wrong, that might lower his anxiety.

For an 8 year old, I’d say that if he is constantly concerned about other people failing to do what they ought to all of the time, he’s never going to have any peace. People make mistakes, and he needs to learn to expect it and love them, anyway. Correct only when a) he has to and b) correcting them in this case is his job. This the idea (for you, not your 8 year old–you need to translate!).

One of the first things to learn if you want to be a contemplative is how to mind your own business. Nothing is more suspicious, in a man who seems holy, than an impatient desire to reform other men. A serious obstacle to recollection is the mania for directing those you have not been appointed to direct, reforming those you have not been asked to reform, correcting those over whom you have no jurisdiction. How can you do these things and keep your mind at rest? Renounce this futile concern with other men’s affairs! Pay as little attention as you can to the faults of other people, and none at all to their natural defects and eccentricities. --Thomas Merton, New Seeds of Contemplation

As Xantippe suggested, it is good to ask “what good will come from it if I tell or correct?”


A 5 year old I babysit loves, loves, loves to tattle. I use a short form of this with him - “Tell me if there is blood or something is broken.” It doesn’t get into the “could this cause harm” aspect, but usually I hear him say, “Guys quit doing that it’s dangerous!” first. :rolleyes:

Yeah, a 5-year-old is less of an abstract thinker than an 8-year-old and will probably need a more vivid rule.

What you mention is an important issue–aside from eliminating the annoyance for you of excessive tattletelling, you want the child to learn to make at least a effort to iron things out with peers before turning to mom, dad or the babysitter. (Unless it’s immediate deadly peril.)

My son is the oldest and is a straight A student. On 3 % of our State scores higher then him. HE IS a rule follower. What I am trying to figure out is how to explain when to tell and when to MYOB.

If he’s very bright (sounds like it) and can do that kind of abstract thinking, you can ask him to think it through like this:

“If I don’t tell, what will happen?”

If someone is going to get hurt or something will get broken/damaged -> tell.

If not -> don’t tell.

I am an oldest child and I remember feeling like it was unfair that those less scrupulous than I broke the rules and never got caught or (seemingly) had consequences. (My parents were both youngest children and did not seem particularly sympathetic to my plight. :p) I like what EasterJoy said about confession. It’s not your son’s job to police others, even if he’s doing it out of good intention. It’s God’s job. He needs to focus on himself. It’s too much work otherwise!

He can probably begin to understand Jesus’s words: “Why do you look at the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye?” Matthew 7:3

DISCLAIMER: The views and opinions expressed in these forums do not necessarily reflect those of Catholic Answers. For official apologetics resources please visit