Telling tales: what your child is really saying

Supportive ear: make it clear you are there to listen, but tease out the tale-telling to find the truth behind the story.

Tale-telling needs to be handled carefully especially if its root is rivalry.

WHEN your preschooler comes telling tales, you need to stop and listen with a question in your mind.

You need to discover what’s behind the tale-telling, advises parent coach, Marian Byrne, who advises to establish yourself as a listening parent.

“If you respond ‘ah, don’t be telling tales’, the child’s more likely to continue with the behaviour. Alternatively, they’ll see it as the parent not being there to help them.”

Your child may tell tales to boost self-esteem —– a big prompt for tale-telling is sibling rivalry, trying to get one up on the other by winning parental attention or by getting the other in trouble, says Byrne.

Sometimes, the sibling is engaging in behaviour that the tale-teller can’t handle — perhaps he can’t assert himself because the other is bigger or has a powerful personality.

Tale-telling is part and parcel of what young children do — particularly pre-schoolers. But, while ensuring they feel safe coming to you for help – you also need to steer them away from telling tales.

“If the root is rivalry, help the child distinguish between something that’s impacting on them and to do with them and something that isn’t. If you feel they’re trying to get the other child in trouble, find ways to help them get on better. In a game, put the two on the same team so they’re working together rather than against each other,” says Byrne.

She also recommends asking the tale-teller to draw or write what has happened.

“This gives a parent the space to see what’s going on. And if the child is making something up, it’s much harder to keep this up if they have to write about it. If it isn’t really important to them, they won’t bother. If they take the time to write or draw it, chances are it’s a valid upset.”

By punishing or reprimanding the other child, you risk reinforcing the tale-telling. You also risk handling the situation in an unjust way — the tale-teller may well have exaggerated the ‘offence’.

Tale-telling, says Byrne, provides an opportunity to teach your child important life skills, especially how to handle life’s battles.

TIPS

¦ Let your child know it’s alright to tell if a sibling or playmate is doing something dangerous.

¦ Explain you’re happy to hear anything about himself — but not tales about others.

¦ Teach him to stand up for himself verbally — ‘Can I have a go now? I don’t like when you push me — I’m going to play with Jack instead’.

¦ If sibling rivalry is the cause, get both doing an activity together


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