What are ‘Tales’? A tale by definition is a story that is recounted which is either real or imaginary. Historically, the irish are good at telling tales especially ones that ‘grow legs’ and lean more towards the imaginary and farther away from reality! 🙂
When you hear another parent say “Stop Telling Tales”, you know it’s not the first time the child has come running with a story (real or imaginary) about another child and it’s starting to grate on the nerves. I’ve often said to my boys after a time of bickering between them, “I don’t want to hear about it!” or “Sort it out yourselves!” Nothing wrong with expecting children to sort out their own issues now and again, it will encourage the development of their social and emotional skills. But what if they felt they could not come to you with a complaint or an issue with another child that they just cannot resolve without your assistance? From little squabbles to bigger social issues as they grow older, we need to let our children feel free to come to us with thoughts, worries and ‘tales’.
So, how do we get the balance right? How do we encourage our kids to feel they can come to us without it becoming a constant back and forth of tales that are getting taller and taller?
Always listen to what your child has to say. It really is our duty as parents to listen to our children. If we don’t, who will?? I’ve noticed that more listening equals less whinging (yes please!).
Just because you’re listening to their every word doesn’t necessarily mean you have to believe everything they say, they may be getting in there first before the other kid involved divulges what really happened. This brings us onto the next point to remember.. investigation.
Get to the bottom of the tale that is being told. You’ve listened, now to understand what’s actually going on. It may be a good idea to let your child get involved in the investigation with you so that they can learn to see a situation from another perspective. For example, if your little guy comes in crying about being hit by another kid, be sympathetic of his injuries (you’re listening!) and then ask him to come with you as you ask the other kid what happened and why. If there are other kids around, ask them too, without it feeling like a witch hunt for any child! Always stay positive and friendly as you pursue your investigations, after all these are just children playing and anything can happen when kids get together through no fault of anyone’s.
If you discover that this was indeed an accident, as it normally is, make sure your child understands this and accepts that the other kid does not have any vendetta towards him. If it wasn’t an accident, well, that’s a different story and what to do next will depend on your relationship with all involved. You may advise your child to stay clear if the other child is a complete stranger.
Whatever the outcome, your little fella has seen that you care enough to get to bottom of his discomfort (this reassurance will stand to him through to later years too). He will also learn, over time, to look critically at a situation and decide for himself if an action was taken in malice or unintentionally.
If the tale is that of another child doing something out of place or against the rules like using bad language, remind your child think of the effects this actually has on them (normally none at all!). Your child will hopefully learn not to get involved in someone else’s situation or bad decisions, the last thing you want to do is raise a gossip.
Take no shit:
Like ourselves, our children have days where they are not in the mood for anything or anyone. These days can get filled up with tale telling and bickering. Tell your child when enough is enough, (you’re only human and can only take so much!) When the tale telling is becoming constant, you need to let him know that you are taking no more nonsense (of course, this is after some investigation and you’ve come to the conclusion that it is mere whinging). Either take your little guy away from the situation or distract him with another activity or a snack. Food cures all when my guys are ‘at it’! Your child will learn that you recognize when he needs your help and will refrain from using tale telling as attention seeking.
In the future, whether it be near or years down the line, our children may need to tell an adult something important. If they feel safe and secure enough in our reaction, we will be their first port of call.
Let’s not give them the impression that we’re not listening or don’t believe them. Let’s help our children to feel heard and feel that we are there to help.
2 Comments Add yours
Hi Olga ~ I really like your common sense manner of dealing with ‘Telling Tales’. I think the ‘investigation’ element is crucial. If a child has taken to telling tales frequently, an unusual habit for him or her, we need to be certain that he or she is not trying to communicate something odd-seeming or peculiar, which is not right somehow, but the child does not have the vocabulary to express distress, or maybe doesn’t know if he or she should be feeling distressed. Mostly, children want to be accepted, and so might think that to be accepted, they must accept behaviour which at some level they know makes them feel unhappy or worried. We have to make room for the ‘hidden’ tale to emerge, letting children know that they can always tell us anything about anyone, and we shall listen and, if something needs to be done to fix a situation, we shall do it.
Yes, Iseult! We need to be ready for the hidden messages. Being seen to investigate is nearly more important than investigating in itself!!
Many thanks for your comment 🙂