the tattle tally, explained

Several people have asked me to explain the Tattle Tally.  Before I share the details of this elaborate scheme, let me say this: Prior to having kids, I remember hearing moms correct their children for tattling, and I always thought, what’s the big deal?  I mean, don’t you want your kid to come and tell you if someone else is doing something wrong?

(Cue maniacal laughing of experienced parents everywhere).

My kids started dabbling with the tattle routine when they started preschool, but when Kembe came home, it really got out of hand. As it turns out, tattling is a universal language.  And that grating, sing-song tune that we used as kids?  They still use it.  Everywhere.  Even in Haiti. 

You know the one:


(Impressed?  Don’t ever let anyone tell you that an Associate’s Degree in Vocal Performance does not come in handy in real-life situations.  Like when you want to notate your child’s tattling song.  Or . . .  um . . . well, I guess this is the only situation thus far.)

As I was saying, once Kembe came home the sibling rivalry amped up, as did the tattling.  My kids were tattling on each other all day, over large and small stuff.  It was grating and annoying, and I finally saw why parents found it so undesirable. Because in addition to it interrupting my family time blog-reading, I could see that it was sowing a spirit of gloating and competition between my kids.  Hence, the Tattle Tally was born.


It's very complicated.  Here are the steps:

1) If a kid tattles, they get an X. (Or a tally. You might forget which one you use mid-week but it doesn't matter because the kids can't read).
2) If they don't tattle all day, they get a jelly-bean at night.

That's it. Except that, the effectiveness of #2 is contingent on the fact that you deprive them of anything sweet during every other hour of the day. 

As simple as it is, this has really changed the dynamic in our home.  The first week was rough, but they HATED seeing an X go by their name, and the nights when only one prerson got a jellybean were very impactful.  And man, these kids love jellybeans.  I have to say that now, they rarely tattle.  We've explained that certain things are "tattling situations", because I do want them to feel free to come to me if something inappropriate is going on.  But for the most part, they are working things out and learning to talk about their feelings.  Music to this music-major-turned-therapist's ears.



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