When it comes to safety, does your child understand the difference between tattling and reporting? Do you? If not, both of you should! It is very important that we teach our children the difference between these two actions, and you can initiate this process when they are as young as three years old. Tattling is when a child tells a grownup something just to get the other person in trouble. Reporting, on the other hand, is when a child tells (or reports) to a grownup anything that has to do with his or her safety or the safety of others. It is our responsibility as parents to teach our children the importance of reporting to a grownup.
Keep the Communication Open
When you simply tell a child to “stop tattling” without finding out if what he or she is sharing with you is about safety, you are teaching the child NOT to come to you with important information. You are breaking down the communication between yourself and the child. One of the most effective ways to keep our children safe is to have great communication – you want your children to come to you with important safety concerns, don’t you? So what can you do? When the child comes to you, you can ask, “Is this tattling or reporting?” If he or she is tattling, give a reminder that tattling wastes mommy’s time because it only seeks to get a person in trouble. However, if he or she is reporting a safety concern, you are there to listen! Say, “Great job reporting!”, “I am so glad you came to tell me”, or “You did the right thing by reporting.”
Imagine the Future
By encouraging your children at a young age to report when they are concerned about their safety or the safety of others, you are opening the door to effective communication. If your children get into this habit early, imagine the difference in your relationships with them as they enter the teenage years! Do you want to be the parent of a child that will call you if he or she or a friend is too drunk to drive? Your children will come to you for these things if you have taught them effective communication — they will know they can report anything safety-related to you without the fear of getting in trouble.
Don’t Take It Lightly
But imagine this scenario: If you continue to tell your children not to tattle, they will stop coming to you, afraid they’ll get into trouble or that you’ll be mad. They’re now 16 and their friend is too drunk to drive….what do you think they will do?? Get behind the wheel probably! Take the simple step to find out if your child is tattling or reporting — it can make the difference in communication with him or her for years to come. Being there for your child to discuss important safety issues without reproach or retaliation will encourage your child to make safe and smart choices as they grow up.
About the Authors
Cherie and Sally are two professional moms on a mission to help keep children safe. They are the creators of KidSafe- a personal safety education program for parents, teachers and children, which provides seminars and trainings to parents, teachers and Counselors, as well as an 8 week in school program for children ages 4 -12. Sally and Cherie are the authors of the children’s book, Jack Teaches His Friends to be KidSafe- their second book in a series they are writing- My Body is Special and Belongs to Me is due out August 2010. Their philosophy is to teach children personal safety life skills from a place of fun not fear, using role play, song, art books and discussion. For more info on KidSafe – go to http://www.kidsafefoundation.org/