All posts by Julie

This is what irks me about back to school season

School is just starting on our district, and I’m very happy to not be participating. But even when my son did go to school, the following issue bothered me.

Why is it so well accepted that parents can’t wait to be rid of their kids?

When school's in parents win

Why isn’t it okay to want our kids around? Even when my son went to school, I missed him. I like him, and like spending time with him.  I know there are parents who do miss their kids at school, and aren’t cheering that school has started.  But there are just so many who are literally cheering that they are finally rid of their kids again.

Then there’s this horrendous handout given to a friend’s children at meet the teacher night.

So not only are we supposed to be thrilled they are gone from our homes, but we should also giggle at their back – to – school anxiety? Why would teachers or parents find this handout humorous? Because who cares what our kids are feeling?  We felt this anxiety, too, as kids, and now we’re glad our kids have to feel it, too?  That whole, “my kids should have the same painful experiences I had to endure” thing?

When School’s in Parents Win

Frankly, the chip bag in the picture above just makes me glad my kids can’t read yet. How depressing for our kids to be reading everywhere around them how glad their parents are to be rid of them again.  Why do we have to be so disrespectful toward children?  If we’re truly glad for our kids to be back in school, why can’t we focus on the good things we think our children are gaining and experiecing there?  Is it because many parents don’t truly care about what happens at school as long as their kids are gone all day?  Is it because it’s “cool” to complain about our kids, and makes us feel like part of the group? Or because we aren’t really sure what our kids are experiencing at school?

How about you?  Are you bothered by the back to school cheering?


This is why bodily autonomy at school matters

One day my son chose (very purposefully, I might add) not to wear a coat on a day that was sunny and in the 40s. We walk to school, so there is no way this choice could be construed as forgetting or a mistake. They had recess that day, which they don’t every day. My son’s teacher forced him to wear a school coat on recess. Even though he refused, in tears, and told her that I would say he didn’t have to (which is true). There is nothing in the school handbook that says coats are required at a certain temperature. The teacher also forced a boy who wore a sweatshirt as a jacket that day to wear a school coat. The sweatshirt instead of a coat was also clearly a decision okay’d by the parent, to my way of looking.

So my question is, without a rule to say that a coat was a requirement for recess that day, why did his teacher feel it necessary to force a coat onto his body? Couldn’t she have easily said, “I’ll take a coat out in case you change your mind.” Or she could have listened to him, and if he was cold, he would have learned to take a coat next time. It was not a situation where he was in any danger. She also told him he’d get sick from the cold, to which he replied to me, “does she really not know that’s not how it works?”

What’s the big deal over a coat?

A long time ago, I decided that learning to make decisions was one of the most important skills I wanted my children to learn. I am not a great decision-maker. It’s a skill learned just like any other. Kids need a chance to make decisions and have control over their bodies so they are well prepared as they get older.

My kids decide if they will wear coats. My 6-year old checks the temperature, and then goes out of the front porch to help himself decide. And if it is really cold, I’ll throw his coat in the car or our bag as a back-up in case he changes his mind. We all change our minds sometimes, right? Even adults regularly change their minds. And this is an easy decision to let him make, with very low risk. He is learning to listen to his body and trust himself. He is learning to make decisions and to know that his body is his to take care of.

Forced food

The coat incident was preceded by an instance where the teacher forced him to eat canned pumpkin even though he said no. How can forcing food on anyone ever be okay? We don’t force food on our kids at home, because we want them to listen to their bodies. We offer a range of foods and model eating healthy foods. My daughter would have thrown up if forced to eat something against her will, so I guess the teacher was lucky that didn’t happen.

“Your body is mine to control”

And since day one at school, the kids have been forced to hold hands and shake hands at a hello song. They are required to “hug themselves and hold a bubble” any time they are walking in the hall. This means they are to wrap their arms around themselves and puff out their cheeks. If you don’t do those things, the entire line stops and you are corrected, even if you are quiet and keeping your hands to yourself.




The teacher assigned seats even when the kids are sitting on the carpet in front of the smart board. She marked their spots with tape on the floor, until they can be completely quiet.

Why does it matter?

The issue is twofold. First, bodily autonomy is an important issue. Article after article tells us why it is important to fight rape culture, to fight against normalizing other people being in charge of your body. We are teaching kids that no doesn’t really mean no when the authority figures in their lives don’t accept no as an answer.

Bodily autonomy is about kids learning decision making skills. It is important for kids to learn to listen to their own bodies, minds, and comfort levels. Kids learning to speak up for themselves is an important skill, and if they are willing to speak up, especially to an adult authority figure, it is important that they are heard. Consent always matters, even when adults like to pretend it doesn’t.

Secondly, why the tight control? It really comes down to a lack of trust for children, which is the saddest thing of all.

Please don’t tease (the children)

We spend a lot of time around adults whose main attempt to connect with my kids is by teasing them.  My kids don’t like teasing. They are very good at standing up for themselves, and stating they want the teasing to stop.  They’re routinely ignored, which is a separate issue, I suppose.

When my kids pleas are ignored, they often lash out.  They hit the person who thinks holding them is funny, or they melt down over the person laughing at their expense.  And these are the same people who then focus on the child’s behavior as being incorrect.  When the behavior is a direct response to the adult’s actions. (No, I don’t think it’s okay for my kids to hit.  But I do realize why they are doing so in this instance.)

I think many people learn teasing by being teased by adults as kids, and think that’s just what you do.  They see it as good-natured fun.  I was raised with lots of teasing.   But hearing it now just makes me cringe, and truly feel for the kids at whom it is aimed.

So what instead?

I know it doesn’t have to be this way.  Adults pop up randomly that right away know how to connect with kids. They do it through play, or through taking an interest in talking to my children, or in being willing to do what my kids ask them, like joining in on an activity.

So what makes the difference?  I don’t really know.  I never liked teasing.  My highly sensitive nature doesn’t jive with teasing.  So I don’t choose to tease kids.  I also have kids who hate it, so that is a reminder as well.  But what is it about those special people that connect with them?  Do they just still like to play themselves, so they find it easier to move into play?  Maybe.  Do they just like kids?  Maybe.  Whatever the reason, I really should tell each of these people just how much I appreciate what they do, and just how much my children really like them.

Because kids like being liked, just like the rest of us.  And they know you like them when you attempt to connect in a way that reaches them. An attempt to connect in a way that works for you and not the child in your life is not really an attempt to connect.  It’s just a lesson to the child that you don’t really like them well enough to learn what they do and don’t like.


Great events for children that parents ruin Why don't we trust kids?

We went to a wonderful children’s event recently.  It was a jazz concert in a topiary park, surrounded by topiary statues, a pond with ducks, walking paths, and wildflowers. It was adjacent to the downtown library, and representatives from the art museum had a project set up after the music.

The art project was set up well.  The table was spread with choices, including foil sheets, tissue paper in many colors, pipe cleaners, googly eyes, puffy balls, magic nuudles, glue, markers, and colored tape.  Kids could choose anything they wanted and the only direction given was that they were making “plants from another planet.”  I’m sure that there was some reason for that theme, but they didn’t explain further.  And my kids got to work.

Until…

My kids got to work until a mother and her preschool aged child sat down with us.  She said to her daughter, “you’re supposed to make a flower from another planet.”  And she went on to tell her daughter each step to take to make a tissue paper flower.  She made every decision.  At one point, she said, “this flower looks really sad.  Let’s make it look better.”  And she added another layer to the flower while her daughter watched.

Other kids starting following suit.  One girl, obviously distressed, turned to her grownup and said, “it’s supposed to be a flower!”  My kids hesitated, but I reiterated that they could make whatever they wanted and they kept creating.

children's process art
My children’s finished artwork

Why even go?

Why do we take over for our kids, even in these situations that are specifically designed for children?  Why can’t we trust them and let them create?  Obviously, it’s not understanding process vs product art, but it’s so much more than that.  Why can most adults not let kids have even the smallest amount of control over their own lives?

Creating art has so many benefits.   Creating allows children to explore their creativity and is a wonderful sensory activity.  It develops fine motor skills, creativity and confidence.  I love this quote shared by the Artful Parent.

“Art has the role in education of helping children become like themselves instead of more like everyone else.”  –Sydney Gurewitz  Clemens

That is, if parents let it.  The parent in this story missed out on enjoying her child create something unique and wonderful, and the child missed out on the opportunity to make decisions and be in control of herself and her project.  How do we expect our children to gain these skills if we never let them practice?

 


Surrendering to Delight Driven Learning Homeschooling rabbit holes and the places they take us

I’ve just finished watching Michael Jackson’s “This Is It” with my 7-year old.  It continues a rabbit hole we’ve gone down since we started homeschooling this year.

We pulled my son from school mid-year, and have mostly spent our time deschooling.  He’s always learning, and we’ve followed his lead on topics of interest just like we have always done.  His cousin introduced him to the song Thriller a year ago, which he loved, but his interest faded.  Then a couple months ago he saw a children’s movie preview that included the song, “Bad,” by Michael Jackson.  And we were off.

What we’ve done

We’ve listened to so much music.  He’s watched videos and has spent hours practicing dance moves.  We have read biographies. We’ve studied the map to see where Michael was born and where he’s lived throughout his life.  He’s drawn portraits of Michael.  Most recently, he directed his sister and cousin in recreating several music videos that he recorded, and he’s been working on designing himself a costume.

Michael Jackson portrait, homeschooling rabbit hole
Michael Jackson, portrait in colored pencils, artist, age 7

Some activities he has spent time doing on his own, and some we have done together at his request.  That’s the beauty of not being at school.  He can involve us, and we’re all enjoying his learning.

Delight driven learning

I know it may seem like a strange subject to a lot of people.  But it has involved so much learning.  It has encompassed music, art, reading, movement and dance, story telling, and so much more.  He’s seen how music is made, what goes into music and concert production. We’ve checked out the map to see all the places around the world Michael Jackson has lived.  And it’s also allowed us to discuss some difficult topics such as death, drugs, abuse, publicity, and fame (all in developmentally appropriate ways, of course).

My son loved this biography of Michael Jackson.  We’ve started reading some of the other books in this series, and we’re both really enjoying them as well.  (Affiliate link)

Summer is here and where are all the kids?

It’s summer here.  School is out.  And it’s a ghost town.

Where is everyone?  The streets and yards are quieter than they are even during the school year.   I know there are plenty of people on vacation, since I’ve been seeing their vacation photos on social media.  And my kids and I just returned from visiting family for a week.  But we’ve been home a week, and have seen kids on our street once.  Once!

After school when the weather is nice there are often kids out playing, riding bikes, and running up and down the street.  Is everyone at the pool?  Or are they all at day camps?  We can’t even find friends to make plans with.  It feels super lonely and I start to get anxious that they’re avoiding me.  I’m not one to have FOMO, but I’m finding that the lack of seeing any families home during the day is making me feel like we’re really missing something.

kids on beach, respectful parenting
On our trip to visit family, where my kids had a cousin to play with

My kids don’t want to do camps, or anything structured, really.  They want to play, and swim, and watch tv, and go creeking, and go fishing.  And I do my best to honor that.  I’m not up for working on our separation anxiety all summer.  For my kids and for me, summer gives us a much needed break from that ever present situation.

I guess I really need to step up and get into planning mode.  If I don’t line up outings with friends, my kids don’t have anyone to play with except each other.  They really need to see some other people.  But planning is easier said than done.  Most everyone has their schedules full of lessons, camps, and other structured activities, and they aren’t even available to make plans to head to the creek or the pool.

I know there are parents out there who would love their kids to have unstructured time and aren’t able due to work schedules.  And I know many camps give kids lots of time for free play and summer fun.  My husband and I work opposite hours for childcare reasons, and so I do know a lot of people home during the day with  kids, because it’s when I’m home with kids.  And all our usual people are missing.

I remember feeling the same way last summer.  It makes me feel like I really haven’t met my people yet, and that gets into a lot of complicated issues about who I am and who my kids are that are a  bit much for this post.  But I’m still lonely.

My daughter says she hates school

It happened again recently. A well-meaning family friend looked at my six-year-old daughter and asked THE QUESTION: “Do you like school?”

My daughter looked over her shoulder at me and I could see the concern in her eyes. With her look, she was asking me, Is this someone we can trust? Should I tell the truth? Or do I say what I think most adults want to hear?

I looked at my daughter and said, “You can answer her question honestly. You’re allowed to make up your own mind about school.”

Still uncertain, she looked back at the family friend, shrugged her shoulders and said, “I don’t know. It’s okay.” This tepid response is a stark contrast to her first days of kindergarten and earlier in her first grade year when she would loudly exclaim, “I hate school! I never learn anything there! They never let you move! They never let you get messy! You can’t talk unless you raise your hand and the teacher calls on you!” Based upon her more neutral response, I can see that she is learning that adults want kids to like school.

The family friend turned her eyes from my daughter’s face to mine with a look that read, “Your kid doesn’t love school?!” I could see the anxiety in her expression. What will happen to this small child if she does not learn to love school? Is she headed into a life of delinquency? Will this girl ever find success in the workplace? Ever know the ease of financial stability? Ever recognize her academic potential? What will become of a child who does not love school? After all, the vast majority of us have been raised to believe that education is the pathway to success, the great equalizer that allows all of us a chance at the American dream.

The conversation went on with the friend prodding, “Well, do you like your teacher, at least?”

“She’s okay,” my child responded. Yet again, the family friend looked at me with eyes growing wide.

“Your teacher is just okay?” she said, the concern growing in her voice.

On that day, with that particular person, I left the friend’s concern hanging in the air between us. I let my daughter run off and find her sister to resume their play. I didn’t try to smooth over the rough edges of that conversation. I’m learning that it’s okay for my daughter’s truth to make others uncomfortable. I don’t need to silence her or justify her feelings in the hope that adults will see her or her school in a particular way. After all, it is possible that a school environment that does work for many kids does not work for my daughter. Additionally, I have realized that her dissatisfaction with school does not mean that there is something wrong or broken about her.

Strong words and the meaning behind them

When my daughter started kindergarten and began her litany about why she hated school, I listened to her reasons and didn’t pay much attention to the initial part of her statement: I hate school. In our home, we often hear strong words from our kids that are meant to communicate their big emotions about a situation. Sometimes those words have been, “I hate you, Mom!” Given that I try my best to react to those moments by listening to the feelings behind the words (though sometimes the words do sting and I fall short of my goal to let it roll off my back), I didn’t think much of my daughter’s word choice. Instead, I paid attention to the words that came next and heard her asking for a different type of educational environment than she was given.

  • “I never learn anything” became “I am not being challenged or learning about the topics that most interest me.”
  • “They never let you move” became “I need more opportunities to use my body during the school day.”
  • “They never let you get messy” became “I have sensory needs that are not being met. I feel controlled when I am given creative tasks and outdoor recess time because of the focus placed on remaining clean.”
  • “You can’t talk unless the teacher calls on you” became “I have ideas about the subjects we are learning that I am not able to communicate. I want to be able to talk about the things I’m learning.”

Given that I interpreted my daughter’s rant about her educational environment in this way, I was taken aback when my mother-in-law said this past summer that she was “deeply disappointed and concerned” that my daughter hated school. Until that moment, I was living in a world in which I believed my child was bringing forward intelligent critiques of the school system and advocating for her needs. Sure, her communication was a little rough around the edges, but for being only five and six years old, I thought she was doing a stellar job.

My mother-in-law’s comment sent me back to my own childhood with well-meaning grown-ups staring down at me and asking THE QUESTION: “Do you like school?”

I can still recall the look of approval and relief on their faces whenever I would say, “Yes.” In the beginning, I did like school. At some point, that changed, but my answer always remained positive. After all, I got good grades. I behaved at school. I had friends. What did I have to complain about? And, there was always that pressure from grown-ups to affirm that the current educational structure worked for me. Responding in the negative would have conjured up a kid who refused to complete her assignments or was frequently sent to the principal’s office. That wasn’t me. (I say that with no judgment toward anyone who didn’t do their schoolwork or who frequented the principal’s office, or has a child who fits those behaviors now. I say that just to communicate the judgments and misperceptions people have about kids who don’t like school. That’s all.)

My daughter can dislike school and be a model student who is above grade level in some subject areas. Just because a child plays by the rules of the classroom environment does not mean that the environment is a positive one for that child. Additionally, we look to see if a child can perform certain classroom expectations, like sitting still with their legs “crisscross applesauce” and their hands in their lap, but we rarely ask, “Is this the best way for this particular child to learn?” Sometimes we believe that all is well with the child and the environment when the child can jump through the academic and environmental hurdles placed in front of them. However, this is not always the case. Sometimes even the children who seem to be performing well are screaming, “I hate school” on the inside. As the adults in their lives, I hope we take the time to listen beyond our own beliefs and biases about school to hear the kind of environment our children are telling us they need.

Michelle is a former college administrator turned stay-at-home mom in central Ohio. She is grateful for the opportunity to learn and grow as a person and a mom alongside her five and six-year-old daughters. Michelle attempts to knit, crochet, practice yoga, and read fiction in the midst of mothering.

Why do we shove our “shoulds” at our children?

At my daughter’s preschool this week, there was a little boy upset at drop-off, and crying because his dad was leaving.  One of the teachers was comforting him and his dad left, but on the way out he said, “shouldn’t he be over that by now?”

Yes, we’re nearing the end of the school year.   The child in question just turned four.  So should he be over it?

Separation anxiety comes and goes in these situations.  Even kids who don’t experience any separation anxiety at the beginning of school sometimes have a hard time later in the year, especially after a break.  The teachers at our school tell parents this fact often.  I’m sure this dad knows.  But the “should” still slips out.

Why are we so concerned with should?

I think it all boils down to embarrassment and fear.  We as parents get embarrassed by our children’s behavior, or overwhelmed by their behavior or emotions ourselves.    But why?  Why do we feel that we can’t support our kids big emotions?  Possibly because most of us were taught as children that our big emotions were not okay, and were meant to be shut down, sucked in, and punished out of us.

But for those of us who choose to do things differently with our own children, or send them to preschools like ours where they do things differently and actually learn about social and emotional skills, it can be a hard thing to un-learn.  So while even though we know we should be supporting our kids big emotions, it’s so easy to get caught up in the fact that they “should” be over it.

What does fear have to do with it?

We are so afraid that if we let our children have their big emotions, that they will never be able to deal with them, or control them.  When in fact, the opposite is true.  It is by dealing with their big emotions as children, with empathy and understanding, that they will learn to be emotionally intelligent adults.  This push-down of developmentally inappropriate expectations is so prevalent in our society, and people don’t even notice or think twice.  Just because kids will have to do something when they are older is not a reason to start now.  Again, the opposite is often true.  If we push skills they aren’t ready for in the place of what should actually be developing, we’re actually stunting their growth.

And then there’s shame

“Why would you do that?  You should know better!”  I hear it often, adults thinking that if they tell the child himself that he “should” know better or do better that it will somehow help it be true.  But this is no more than hoping shame will improve behavior.  And no one learns best through shame. This is the worst form of the “should,” in my opinion.

Learning from the teachers

The teachers in my daughter’s preschool handle these big emotions so well.  They give the kids space for their feelings, don’t patronize, stay calm, and help the kids work through their feelings and the situation.   I feel lucky to be learning from such talented people that truly like and respect my children.  Educating ourselves as parents about what is developmentally appropriate is a great step. I’m far from perfect, but work at it every day.

 

How I use my planner to capture life’s memories with young kids

I am a visual person and need a paper calendar and planner.  I also use a wall calendar, but really love having a portable planer as well.  I do have a phone calendar app so that my husband and I can share a portable calendar, but honestly, neither of us is very good at updating it and we both tend to update our wall calendar.  It’s a system that works for us.  This post contains affiliate links.

What I use

I love this planner by Mary Engelbreit.  The pictures online just don’t do it justice.  It’s spiral-bound, and includes both month-at -a-glance and week-at-a glance sections.

I have always loved to see my whole month laid out in front of me.  Week-at-a-glance set-ups don’t work well for me.   But I still use the weekly planner portion of this calendar for another purpose!

monthly calendar page
Monthly pages that I use as my calendar, for appointments, activities, etc.

How I use the weekly portion

When my first-born was a baby, I wrote down everything about our daily lives in a journal.  Mostly, I was so sleep-deprived that I needed to remember when he nursed, and little things like that.  But as he got older I wrote down lots of milestones and funny things he said.  He loves when we look back through his book.  After my daughter was born I just didn’t write as much.  I was better at mentally keeping track of baby stuff, and didn’t write down as much.  So when my daughter was old enough to ask, I realized I didn’t write down near as much fun stuff to tell her about her babyhood.

weekly calendar pages
Weekly calendar pages that I use to write quick notes about things my kids did and said 🙂

Since the weekly pages are set up with a few lines per day, I decided it would be the perfect format to jot down something we did each day, or something my kids did or said that we’d like to remember.  This works well, as I try to keep it handy most of the time.  Except for when it ends up hidden under a pile of mail or school papers, of course.  It’s my minimalist practice in journaling.

I know there are lots of great planners out there with stickers and quotes, but I don’t feel like they’d add anything I’m not getting here.  Plus I love the art of Mary Engelbreit.  And while I used to love journaling, it’s just not going to happen these days.  So this set up, for me, is the best of both worlds.

“You’re tattling again!” A look at tattling from a child's perspective

Thanks to Michelle for this guest post about tattling!

“You’re tattling again,” my daughter tells me the teacher responded to her one afternoon. My daughter approached her first-grade teacher to inform her that a fellow classmate was opening supply cabinets.

“So, are we allowed to go into those cabinets?” my six-year-old questioned.

“No,” her teacher replied.

This is just one of many examples involving “tattling” that my daughter has brought home from her year and a half in public elementary school. For her, tattling is a new concept since it is not a phrase we use at home. When our two daughters come to us about another child’s behavior, we listen because our child has come to us with a concern. We don’t solve the problem for her. But, we do help her find language to address her concern with the other child.

In this situation, we might have responded with, “Thank you for noticing what’s happening in the classroom. I know that you can remind your classmates of our rules. Do you want me to stand near you this time while you let him know?”

Why do kids tell?

In this instance, my daughter’s immediate follow up question reveals her primary motive in coming to the teacher. She is asking, “Is that student doing something that is allowed? Am I allowed to go into those cabinets, too?” Her motive is not to cause the other child to have consequences or be punished. Rather, she sees something happening in the classroom that does not make sense to her and she is seeking out clarification from the authority figure in the room. How do I know this? Because I asked her and my daughter has a history of responding with honesty. There have been situations where she does want another child (usually her younger sister) to face negative repercussions and she is typically upfront about that desire.

My daughter attended a preschool focused on helping children stand up for their bodies, articulate their personal boundaries, and confront unwanted behavior from others. She is no stranger to saying, “No!”, “Stop!”, and “Respect my body!” She has also been raised in an environment both at home and in her preschool setting where adults have been her resources when others don’t listen to her boundary setting. Her first week of kindergarten involved a boy in her seating group calling her names and purposefully spitting in her face. My child did exactly what she had been raised to do. She repeatedly responded, “Stop spitting in my face! Don’t call me that!” When she got home, she told me about the incident and her reaction, and I felt reassured that she was able to look a new child in the eye and establish boundaries for how that person should treat her.

Children looking for help

In other words, my child does not run to adults to solve her problems for her. But, she does need to be able to turn to the grownups in her environment when someone fails to listen to her boundary setting, when a situation is confusing, or when she is uncertain how to appropriately handle a conflict. As adults, we have access to many resources. We can seek help from family and friends. When conflicts escalate, we can call the police or other emergency personnel. We can choose to get help from a counselor, therapist, or professional mediator. If we are uncertain about a rule or law, we can search for information on our computers and phones. We can even drive ourselves to the library and find entire books filled with information and resources that can help us. Now imagine if you were five or six years old and navigating a new school classroom environment. What resources are at your disposal? Who can you turn to in times of conflict or confusion? Naturally, your teacher is the first person that comes to mind.

No tattling

After a year and a half of wading through a school culture that is drastically different than our home and preschool experiences, I can’t recall all of the times the term “tattling” has been on my daughter’s tongue as she got into the car after school. In fact, I struggled with finding just one or two examples to write about in this post. In the end, I decided that what is most important in all of the incidents that we have experienced is that my daughter is looking to her teacher for guidance and it is not being given. My child’s teachers have not been the resources she has needed when peer conflicts have arisen and classroom rules have been confusing. Instead, she has received a curt response to “stop tattling.” During our fall conference, her current teacher informed me that my daughter is “a little police officer.” After a conversation in which my husband and I tried to articulate our point of view about why we don’t use the term tattling in our household, the teacher continues to use that phrase with my daughter.

Tattling vs telling

Based upon a Google search of tattling in the classroom, our school’s approach does not seem to be isolated or unique. Teachers are charged with the responsibility of helping children distinguish between “tattling and telling.” Telling is intended to be something that violates the physical or emotional safety of another. Some teachers seem to group all of the concerns children express about their peers and possible violations of classroom rules into the category of “tattling”. I believe this distinction is nuanced and difficult for a kindergartner or first grader to understand. Additionally, grown-ups may have a difficult time understanding what constitutes a violation of a five or six-year-olds “emotional safety.” “She won’t play with me at recess unless I give her my marker,” might feel like a small incident to a parent or teacher. For a child, this might be a difficult and emotionally threatening situation that requires the help of an adult to navigate.

Using the term “tattling” communicates that a child’s concern is not worth adult attention. When my daughter has received this feedback from teachers, she has articulated that she feels corrected, scolded, and silenced. When we use this language, we are shaming our children for having a concern that feels too big to handle on their own. How can we expect them to turn to us throughout their lives as their challenges grow if we cannot take the time to listen and help them now? As a mother, I worry about the long term consequences of my child learning in an environment where her concerns are communicated to be invalid, unimportant, and extraneous to the learning environment. In fact, one website indicated that tattling takes away from “real learning,” but isn’t learning to respond to conflicts with our peers one of the hardest, ongoing lessons of our lives?

There are better approaches out there

During my research, I was happy to find this resource from Responsive Classroom that argues for a more nuanced approached to tattling. It is important to empower our children to resolve conflicts and establish boundaries with their peers. As parents and teachers, we do our children a disservice when we intervene and do this difficult work for them. When faced with a child who brings us a concern about a peer’s behavior, we can role model how to communicate with others and help our children find the words to articulate their needs.  If we fail to do this, we communicate harmful messages that can have a long term impact in silencing our children. When we dismiss their attempts at communicating a concern as mere attention seeking behavior or a general nuisance, we are creating an environment in which adults cannot be trusted to be the resources our children need.

Resources:

A balanced perspective from Responsive Classroom: https://www.responsiveclassroom.org/what-to-do-about-tattling/

Difference between tattling and telling: http://www.togetheragainstbullying.org/the-difference-between-telling-and-tattling

Managing tattling in the classroom: https://classroomcaboodle.com/teacher-resource/tattling-school/

Michelle is a former college administrator turned stay-at-home mom in central Ohio. She is grateful for the opportunity to learn and grow as a person and a mom alongside her five and six-year-old daughters. Michelle attempts to knit, crochet, practice yoga, and read fiction in the midst of mothering.