By TMoM Team Member Dennette Bailey

As a preschool teacher I am thankful for the relationships I develop with families. In time they trust me to assist them with issues that may arise with their children, and I do my best to help them. On occasion their children might do something that the parent has a concern about, and a parent might ask for my advice. Unfortunately, in their excitement sometimes parents arrive and announce this issue to me without realizing their child feels like they are being tattled on.

Tattle Tales in Preschool Aren’t Always the Kids!

The most recent was a parent that arrived and announced that their child had mistreated another child at the park over the weekend. “Tell Mrs. Bailey what you did,” the parent said. The child looked at me with shame. The parents proceeded to say why they were unhappy with the child’s behavior.

As a teacher I certainly do not want to inadvertently shame or make the parents feel like I am disciplining them. However, I have learned that it is imperative that I immediately address parent “tattling”. This is important as the child is here with me for the rest of the day and if not handled correctly it potentially leads to the child acting out.

Supporting the Preschooler

This has happened so often that I have developed a strategy wherein I tell the parent that during the day I am happy to talk to the child about it. I can then tell the child to find a friend or pick a manipulative to begin their day, this kindly redirect the parent away from the topic.

Later in the day when all the children have direction for their activities I will then talk with the child. First, I ask the child if they were ok with their parents telling me what they did. On this day, the child said no he did not want me to know what he did. The reason children may not want me to know about their behavior is because at school they are always esteemed and told how proud I am of them. We talk about making mistakes and that no matter what they do Mrs. Bailey still loves them.

This is a classroom norm, but I do not go home with them. It is normal, even for adults, to be embarrassed if we are known by a group to have one characteristic and then someone exposes us for what seems to be another. For me, the key is acknowledging that children have feelings too.

Supporting the Parents

Even still, I must show support for the parent while making the child feel better. So, I told this child, your parent is telling me what happened because they want me to help you. Your parents love you and want the best for you. I will tell your parent not to tell me things that might make you feel embarrassed if you want me to, but if I tell you something to help you maybe you could think about giving your parent a chance to ask Mrs. Bailey to help you since we both want you to be your best person.

Then, I asked the child if they wanted to tell me what happened. The child told me, and I gave the child some strategies to manage that situation better next time. I told the child about a time I needed help when I was a child so that the child would know that their teacher needed help sometimes too.

Follow Up is Key

Later in the day I sent the parents a message telling them that their child was very receptive to the strategies I gave them. I shared those strategies with the parents as well. I expressed to the parent that the child felt embarrassed by them revealing It to me but that the child agreed to talk with the parent next time about whether they would share incidents with the teacher.

In this manner, I am not telling the parents what to do. Instead, I am showing them that their child is a thinker and that simply discussing with the child who they might share issues with opens a dialogue that could assist in the child’s improved behavior. Moreover, such dialogue offers the child a sense of trust, and confidence in their ability to solve their problems.

Children Have Feelings Too

Parents might view their sharing of information regarding their children in front of them as not a big deal, but I want to impress upon parents to remember that your child is a thinking person, even when they do the wrong thing. They have feelings and they get embarrassed just like adults. It is not that we are asking permission from our children to be their parents. It is that we are demonstrating to our children that we acknowledge their feelings, and we have high expectations in their abilities to recognize right and wrong and solve problems.

We want to get our children to the point where they can do the right thing and make the right decisions without needing us to solve the problem or direct them. In this manner we are encouraging their development and their appreciation for respect because they have also felt respected – at least more times than not.

Tattle Tales

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