If you’re a kid who’s looking to misbehave, I recommend you don’t do it around my kid. Or at least not when you’re around my kid and an adult with the authority to punish you. Because if my 6-year-old daughter sees what you’re doing, she’s going to tell on you, and guess what? I’m 100 percent OK with that.
In fact, I think tattletales have gotten a bum rap. Sure, I don’t love it when my daughter tells me about every small infraction her brother has committed against her 20 times a day. It’s not that I don’t care that he kicked her; I’m just fairly certain she kicked him back, making the whole exchange even in my book.
But I’d rather she tell on him — and every other person, young or old, who injures her physically or emotionally — than lock it inside, shouldering that burden all alone. Today, maybe it’s a kid who teases her for not being great at some game they play in gym, and she decides not to tattle. Tomorrow, the same kid could push her on the playground, and maybe she decides she doesn’t want to tell an adult about that either. Guess how that teaches her to react when she’s in a room with the 2037 version of Harvey Weinstein and he does something truly horrific to her?
Maybe that’s a stretch, but if you’re a woman, you know that maybe it actually isn’t. When we tell our kids — especially our daughters — not to be a tattletale, we’re also telling them it’s OK when someone hurts them, that they should just accept that it’s a part of life and move on. And yes, a lot of times, when the injury is small or insignificant, that’s probably true. But a lot of other times? It’s absolutely not, and I want my daughter to know it’s OK, no, necessary, to speak up every single time she’s in one of those situations.
Just last month, she came to me and told me that one of the little boys in her grade was “bullying” her. I put bullying in quotation marks because recently, a school-wide antibullying curriculum was introduced, and because she’s 6, she now thinks anyone looking at her with a stink-eye in the hallway is bullying her.
Upon further investigation, I learned that this little boy had made fun of her multiple times for her less-than-stellar shoe-tying skills, and shockingly to me, she had not yet told her teacher about it, because she’d never been present when the teasing occurred. “Are you embarrassed or scared to tell your teacher?” I asked her. She said she wasn’t, and the next day, she went and tattled on that kid, and guess what happened?
My daughter’s teacher talked to the boy’s teacher, who then explained to him that he was hurting my kid’s feelings and why it wasn’t OK to tease her about something she was still learning to do. He apologized to my daughter, he offered to help her get better at tying her shoes, and they’ve been great friends ever since. Two caring, responsible adults stepped in and nipped a problem in the bud, and both children learned a lesson from it.
If she hadn’t tattled? Well, that kid would probably still be making fun of her. So, please, think twice before you teach your own children that they shouldn’t be tattletales. Tattling may be annoying, but not speaking up when someone hurts you? That’s a much greater offense.