Paying too much attention to children when they tell on others can be like a wild fire that is difficult to stop. Here are a few suggestions that teachers have shared with me over the past several years. (You will definitely smile as you read some of them!) There are lots of choices, so pick and adapt the one that works best for your personality, the age of your students, and your school.
A good place to start is to have a discussion about things that are an emergency and things that they think are important. Make a list on the board of “emergencies” (when someone gets hurt or sick, when someone is in danger, etc.) and “concerns” (someone calls you a name, someone gives you a mean look, etc.) Role play different scenarios or use a puppet to demonstrate what children should do. Choose one of these alternatives for children when they need to express a concern.
*Get a spiral notebook and write “Things the Teacher Needs to Know” on the cover. When children start to tattle hand them the book and say, “Write it all down. And don’t leave out a thing!”
*Pick up some old tax forms at the library. When children start to tattle hand them a form and tell them to fill it out and then bring it back to you.
*Put an old cell phone on your desk. When children start to complain tell them to put it on your phone. Explain that you’ll listen to your messages later.
*Put a picture of the President (or your principal) on your wall. Send them to the President to tell their complaints because “he’s much more important than I am!”
*Take a shoebox and cut a slit in the cover. Write “suggestion box” on it and place it on a shelf with a notepad and a pencil. Discuss how children can write or draw pictures of their suggestions and place them in the box. Be sure to use the box to prompt class problem solving at least once a week.
*Use a stuffed animal to listen to complaints. Explain that (Tattle Teddy, Tell Me All - Allie the Alligator, or whatever you want to call the animal) is always sitting on the shelf waiting to listen to them.
*Giant Ear – Download a picture of an ear from the internet and enlarge it. Tape it to a wall and send children to the ear to whisper their concerns.
*Oreo – When children want to tattle they hold open both hands. They must say two nice things about the person before they tell you the negative.
*Lunch Bag – Open a lunch bag and put it on your desk. When children start to tattle tell them to “put it in the bag.” (Yes, they will actually go to the bag and talk in it!)