It is a truth universally acknowledged, that no one likes a tattletale.
There is an exception to that rule, however; I must confess that in the last couple of months I have started to enjoy the tattling that goes on in the Glamore house.
It wasn’t always this way. In years past, I tried everything to rid myself of tattlers. At first I decided to ignore it, but tattling children tend to jump up and down and raise their voices in order to communicate the importance of the transgression that has occurred.
Later I used a hazy version of the biblical “eye for an eye” principle, and I’d pay attention to the tattler long enough to identify the offensive action, then I’d mumble, “Well, go slap him back,” or “Go stomp on his legos and see how he likes it,” and return to sorting the laundry.
At some point I realized that perhaps there might be better methods of stopping the tattlers in my house, so I consulted a touchy-feely parenting book which advised me to let the child express his feelings, then restate them so he’d know I was listening.
At first this strategy worked wonderfully with Finn and Drew. Finn would tell me something that his brothers had done, and I would say something like,”So Porter and Drew tore up your baseball cards. I bet that made you mad.” Finn would stare at me in disbelief, and ask, “What are you going to do to them?”
“Nothing,” I’d say firmly. “I think you can work this out yourselves.”
Finn would head back to his room, I’d turn back to the laundry, and then I would hear screams and shouts emanating from the back of the house. It was out of my hands.
Porter responded quite differently to this technique. He took my questions as an opportunity to unload his innermost sentiments on me, and the more I restated his feelings, the more emotions he conjured up. One day he came sniffling into my bathroom where I was waxing my mustache and said, “Drew won’t let me play with the train track.”
“That must make you sad,” I commented absentmindedly, smearing warm wax on my face.
“It does make me sad, Mom. It does,” he agreed. “It hurts my feelings really really bad.”
I closed my eyes and pulled off a strip of wax. “Okay, so I know you’re sad, Porter,” I said. “Now go work it out.”
He didn’t move. “When Drew doesn’t let me play with the train, it makes me mad, and it makes me want to cry,” he said mournfully. “It does, Mom.” He scrunched up his face and squeezed out a tear. “I’m feeling very sad, Mom. I am.” He looked up at me. “Can I cuddle with you?” he asked hopefully.
I grimaced. I still had a bunch of wax on my face and needed to start cooking dinner, but how could I refuse such a despondent plea? “Sure,” I answered. “Hop on the bed and I’ll be there in a minute.”
It took me a couple of days to realize the touchy-feely tattle cure wasn’t going to work for our house. Drew and Finn weren’t impressed with it. At dinner, Finn asked, “Mom, when I tell on my brothers, how come you just repeat what I said and don’t do anything about it?”
“Because I expect you to work it out with your brothers,” I responded.
“Well, that’s just weird,” he commented, twirling pieces of noodle around his fork. “I guess I just need to hit them harder.”
Meanwhile, Porter was turning every tattling event into an Oprah-fest and an excuse to snuggle, with the original sin completely forgotten. The extra hugging time was nice, but it was affecting my ability to get things done around the house.
In light of all this, I was thrilled to hear about a new invention the boys’ teachers are using in their classrooms. It’s called a “Tattle Box,” and when a student wants to tell on another student, he has to write down his complaint on a piece of paper and put it in the box, where the teacher can sort through them later. In many cases, once the teacher gets around to reading the papers, most of the kids have completely forgotten what they were mad about. All of my boys are old enough to write, so I decided to give the Tattle Box a try.
I approached it carefully. The boys covet office supplies, so I designated a bright orange pad of Post-Its as the “official” paper for the Tattle Box. I put a few pencils, the pencil sharpener and a shoebox with a hole cut in the top on a table in the den. I gathered the boys together and instructed them that from then on, I would only entertain tattles in written form. They had to be on the orange paper, and the paper had to be put into the box, and not waved in front of my face.
At first they tried to continue their old ways. Finn would run in the room and say, “Mom, you have got to tell Porter to quit–” and I would hold up my hand and say, “Are you telling on your brother? Write it down.” I pointed to the pad. He’d sigh and stomp over to the box and scrawl something on a piece of paper and shove it in the box. Most of his tattles were along the lines of “Porter and Drew are being stupid monkey butt poopys.”
Drew is a slow writer, so tattling became a laborious process for him. After a while, he began describing only the most egregious offenses, such as “Porter ose me $5.”
As expected, Porter has been the most enthusiastic about the new method of telling, and often he’ll spend the better part of an afternoon not only writing things about his brothers, but detailing life’s injustices as well. The box has many entries in Porter’s messy writing:
Drew hit me With his shuvl for no resin
Drew put his bacpac in the rong plas
Finn is ridding my bike and I wAs going to,!?
Finn crumlpd up My airplan on perpus
Drew got to have frend over and thats Not faar
and my personal favorite, My Makroni is not as cheezee as Drews
For now, at least, the tattling makes me laugh instead of cry.