Tattling between siblings is very common as a way for kids to gain attention and parental favor, to get revenge, as a form of manipulation, or as a power play. Tattling is a form of aggression, and it should be stopped.
- Let each child know that you expect her to be responsible only for her own behavior, and that you won't listen to tales about siblings.
- If your child tattles, label the behavior as tattling, and let her know you don't approve.
- Ignore it. Don't reward the aggressor by responding coolly, “We don't tattle in this family. Work it out.”
- Never scold a child whose behavior you haven't witnessed.
- A child who tattles frequently may need some help with interpersonal skills.
Speaking up about danger or speaking out against true injustice is not tattling. It is always okay to let you know if somebody is in danger of being hurt, or if somebody is being unsafe. Reassure your child that you are always available to help, and that she can always come to you if she's frightened.
No parent wants a tattletale child. Think back to your youth (those many eons ago)—remember the tattler in the group? In general, kids who tattle tend to be unpopular (it's a nasty pattern for a child to get into).
It's a Good Idea!
Here's an idea to help solve step-sibling rivalry and enhance togetherness at the same time: When there is a conflict or problem, have all the kids take responsibility for it. If they are annoyed enough at you, they'll ally themselves together. This will help build a sense of sibling-hood.
Help Rebalance the Power!
Power plays between siblings can be intense! You can help balance the power by giving attention to the kid who's been injured instead of the aggressor. If Linda is picking on Lucy, talk to Lucy. “Linda was pinching you, wasn't she? I bet you feel hurt by this.”
Sibling squabbles are normal and average. Step-sibling squabbles are too, but since the entire stepfamily relationship can be loaded with issues, there's often an added dimension of worry when step-siblings go at it with each other. As with other sibling conflicts, your primary job is to teach them how to resolve their problems themselves.
More on: Values and Responsibilities
Excerpted from The Complete Idiot's Guide to a Well-Behaved Child © 1999 by Ericka Lutz. All rights reserved including the right of reproduction in whole or in part in any form. Used by arrangement with Alpha Books, a member of Penguin Group (USA) Inc.
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