If your child is a tattletale, don’t worry; it may not be such a bad thing. We tend to discourage our kids from being tattletales because it can cause conflicts between siblings, friends, and even teachers.

As kids get older, a tattling friend can be damaging to a friendship and cause trust issues. So, what do you do? Do you shut your kids down right away when you feel a tattle coming, or do you open that line of communication and allow them to tattle? “It’s important to NOT shut down your child, as tattling is communication and a bridge to problem solving,” says psychologist Tamara Soles.

The word “tattletale” has such a negative connotation. We associate it with “snitch”, “rat”, “mole”, “informer”—all damaging words. But think about it, tattling is usually harmless. “She brushed her hair with my brush! He ate all the cookies! He farted on me! She’s picking her nose”. Many children will tattle not with the intention of getting someone in trouble, but because they are thriving on the predictability of rules and limits, and they are troubled by someone breaking the rules.

If your child is tattling, use that opportunity to teach them problem solving by guiding them through a difficult situation. If your child is older and they are coming to you about a friend who is shoplifting, being bullied, taking drugs, or engaging in underage drinking, that is no longer tattling, it’s telling. You want your child to speak up if someone might be in danger. A child that has been repeatedly told, “I don’t want to hear it. Stop the tattle. Don’t be such a snitch!” may close up and hold that information to themselves. I’ve been guilty of this; I have told my sons those exact words.

A child will tattle just to be noticed, or for revenge…maybe their friend tattled on them first. Others will do it because it gives them a sense of power to put someone else in line. Whatever the case may be, it’s important to get to the root of where it’s all coming from.

We know that a successful relationship is built from good communication and trust. This is true for relationships between spouses, siblings, friends, coworkers, etc.

As annoying as it may be to have your child run up to you during the day with a silly tattle, try to listen to them. I will be trying along with you. My patience often gets tested when kids tattle, but I will be more open to it moving forward. I will try to understand that this little person trusts me enough to come to me with their issue, and that they are simply trying to communicate with me. I should be thankful for that.