Help Me! Tara C! Part 2 – Tattling and Lying

help me tara c

by Tara Concelman of Home First Behavior

Happy first Tuesday of the month! If you missed our first session – go back and catch up on why I am here, our ground rules and how this work!

I am opening my question and answer time tonight by answering two questions that I did not get to last month:


Question 1. Tattling

Hi Tara! I have two questions, about sharing and tattling. I have two girls, ages 3 1/2 and 5 1/2. They are really great about sharing with their friends, but not so great about sharing with each other. We hear the word minea LOT in our house and we always correct and say no, it is ours. But it seems as though every time one of them has a specific toy, the other one has to have it and accuses the first sister of not sharing. And then freaks out. We have tried taking away the toy and putting it in time-out, but it doesnt seem to work. Then there is the tattling. Its worse with my 5 1/2 year old, but the 3 1/2 year old now does it too. We have told them that unless one hurting themselves or others that we dont want to hear about it. Weve talked about how tattling will make people not like them or want to play with them. Weve talked about using kind and positive words. But the tattling is almost constant. Any suggestions?


Tattling, just like sibling rivalry will drive us to distraction! And we adults are oh so tempted to use many, many words with our little ones to explain to them just how problematic their tattling is and how we would like it to stop. But to our dismay tattling continues and we talk “till were blue in the face”. So here is the rub: talking till we are blue is exactly what keeps tattling WORKING! Because it is an attention based behavior. The child comes from some other space in the house to seek you out and speak to you. You turn and look at them and explain how ludicrous the tattle tale is………OR, sometimes even worse, you avenge the tattler by turning to the tattled……reacting in gentle or not so gentle ways, to the reported problem child and their reported egregious behavior; successfully avenging the tattler!


Unfortunately, all of the aforementioned reactions INCREASE the probability that tattling will continue in the future! UGH!


What to do? As stated last month in the post about sibling rivalry, make a plan. Lay out the plan clearly with your children at a neutral non-tattling time.


Here is one idea of a plan:


  1. Define tattling: “any time one child reports on the actual or perceived wrong doing of another child in order to get him in trouble or to get their way.”
  2. Explain the difference between tattling and reporting. (Reporting is to save someone from harm). Reporting can be helping. Any behavior that is life threatening or self endangering may be REPORTED. Attend to the reported victim without a lot of attention to the reporter.
  3. All tattling will be ignored. You will not hear or look at the tattler. You will (without looking at the tattler) state. “That is tattling”. Look at your watch. Tell them they will have 30 seconds to stop talking or go to time out for 10 minutes.
  4. If the tattler continues speaking after 30 seconds. Say only, “Times up-time out”.
  5. Take them calmly to a dull time out space (tattler’s chair, time-out mat) for 3-5 minutes depending on their age. Ignore protestation. (You can add a minute for each argument up to 15 then they lose digital privileges for 24 hours). Or, they will have to perform a chore for the offended party. (Use a timer and start the time over if they are still emotional or talking. Time out ends when quiet at the bell ring.)
  6. If a real injury has occurred. Attend to the injured without a lot of fanfare. Then, put both parties in time out for fighting/aggression or whatever. Because sibling aggression is usually a reaction to a perceived offense. Time out for both is effective.
  7. Finally, you can hold a do-over after the time out has occurred.


After everyone has calmed down, and NOT in the middle of the emotional crisis, do-overs are a very effective discipline procedure and an excellent teaching method at the same time. You can affirm a do-over with the words: “There you go! You know how to be kind to your sister!”


Question 2: Lying


Tips for getting to the motivation for the lie? And best consequence?


Short and simple: Most lying occurs for escape and avoidance. But it can be a primal response to a particular form of parental questioning.


Here are some tips about lying.


  1. Never put your child in lying defense mode by asking a question you know the answer to. This is the biggest reported form of “lying”, trying to hide guilt. Simply state what you know: “You used the ipad with out asking. You have lost your next iPad privilege. You may earn the next one by being obedient and kind.”
  2. When you ask a question about something you know: “Did you use the ipad without asking?”sets your children up to lie. And you are at a loss to defend. You resort to emotional coercion to make them admit. Stating the wrong doing and the consequence is always better then asking!
  3. If you don’t know WHO used the ipad without permission: don’t ask, discipline all potential suspects with the logical consequence. The truth may come out later. Then you can bless the the confession with acceptance and attention. No big deal if everyone loses a privilege, lot’s of good lessons there.
  4. If they lie about innocuous make believe sorts of things. State the truth with low fanfare, or, say: “You think so?”Move on. The truth will prove itself. No need to make a big deal. This form of lying is attention based and arguing gives a great deal of attention!


Now, your turn! Fire away in comments section below!

You can go ahead and start putting your questions down now and I will get to them on first come, first served basis between 8-10 pm EST tonight! Come back to chat with me!

Connect with Tara at Home First Behavior

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  1. Do you have any advice for getting on the same page with your spouse? As I have become more calm with my kids, I am noticing how emotionally reactive my husband is with them…and how much that does NOT work! Do any of your tips for dealing with kids tantrums work for adults, too? 😉

  2. Love this!!! We struggled a while back with my oldest who was lying to avoid punishment/consequences. When we stopped asking him (aka setting him up for failure) it really made discipline easier and more effective. We also worked on memorizing Bible verses that focused on lying and truth. We taped them up around his room and on his school binder as a reminder. A couple of weeks ago, he came to me, tearful and remorseful, saying that he had disobeyed and downloaded books (6, by the way!) without permission on the Kindle. Such a difference from a child who would have lied about this 6 months ago! And this was such a great opportunity for us to show him grace and explore with him the remorse he felt for doing wrong and how he choose to be truthful rather than hide from his sin. No child is perfect, and this is still something we work on, but I am seeing the Holy Spirit at work in him, teaching him, and helping him to grow!

  3. Good evening!

    Excellent example Emily! It is so true. If we let the consequences do the disciplining, we can use our words to lovingly instruct throughout the day in positive ways. We don’t need to argue to prove the truth!

    It really is a great rule to establish: “Never question your child about a behavior you already know the answer to.” Instead, state what you know. Set up a consequence that makes sense according to the infraction. And let the consequence do the talking!

  4. Tara – always get to mine last. Along the same discussion as sibling issues – how do you handle the constant competition and rivalry among siblings? Mine are both girls and often into the same things (ballet, etc). This year, I purposely split them into two diff activities so they would have to cheer for each other and watch each other – be ok with watching the other “get good” at something the other one isn’t doing that season. What are some healthy ways I can teach them to support each other vs always wondering who is better or in better favor with mom/dad etc. I see immediate sad face on one kid when I’m praising the other.

  5. Hi Courtney,
    I can touch on yours now. You are taking good steps by letting them do different things and teaching them to cheer the other.

    Here are some other suggestions: try to keep all your praise lower key…..what I mean is that when you notice their success use labeling praise rather then exclamatory praise. Here is what it might look like if one of your daughters draws you a pretty picture. Instead of exclaiming, “Oh my goodness! What a great picture! You are a little artist!” You might try, “Wow, you drew a flower! You used pretty colors!” You are stating what is nice in a happy voice. It isn’t over the top, it is just affirming. That doesn’t make others around feel less of an artist because you didn’t notice theirs. If you see a crestfallen face, try not to address it more then, making a similar statement to the other child, “Oh, I see and you used blue on your puppy. That is creative!” Same sing-song positive voice, minus exclamatory’s.

    I think sometimes our over exclaiming can be the culprit. We can praise too much.

    But, it is important to not let the pouty face bring about a response from you. You can simply redirect her thoughts to the other person, “What do you like about your sisters drawing?” When she states anything positive. You can say something affirming, like, “You’re right! I hadn’t noticed that!” Then you can give good attention to saying nice things.

    Does that make sense, Courtney?

    1. Absolutely – helps a ton. I definitely get caught both ways – letting that comment get my attention. Making me praise her out of guilt. Then, also getting mad that she isn’t just being happy her sis is doing something well. I like this approach. Very helpful.

  6. Tara-
    I’m having so much trouble with my four year old having self control. She is very impulsive. She is the sweetest child but for no reason will just wack her sister with a toy or swing a bag she’s holding and intentionally nail someone. It’s so strange because I don’t see anger or anything. I’ve tried many things and just don’t know what to do.

    Also, I will tell the same child no when she’s asking for something and then she will keep repeating the question over and over so persistently. I have two other kids and it’s especially frustrating when I’m driving and can’t put her in her room or somewhere away from me. When she is at home she does pretty well putting her hand on my shoulder to wait until I have time to address her question instead of interrupting me. The persistence and impulse control are big road blocks right now. Help please. 😉

    By the way the arguing advice from last time totally worked!!!

    Thanks so much for your help!

  7. I have four children ages 8,6,4 and 2. I am looking for some type of reward chart idea where they can all work together to earn one common goal. Do you think this works? I was thinking if they all had to work together they would feel like a team. If you have any tips on ways to keep up with positive behavior I would love to hear.

  8. Ashley,

    Thanks for the feedback that the arguing plan worked. I love hearing positives too. 😉

    You may notice a theme among my responses. Whatever behavior we parents attend to in our children will get more frequent. That even means the annoying behavior and our mad, emotional, responses. Because even though mad and emotional is unpleasant, it is still attention. And the law holds: it will continue if not increase in frequency.

    Try this trick:
    First, make sure the answers you give your children are concrete. Sometimes, “later”, “maybe”, “perhaps” are not believable because they are nebulous. The child needs some form of concrete clarification. So, the first step is to make sure you are concrete in your answers. Instead of “later”, try: “I will answer in an hour.” Or , that will happen on Sept 12 at 4pm.

    If there isn’t a clear, or concrete answer make one. “Honey, I will talk to you about that at 3pm, but not now.”

    Second, once you state that you will not discuss something, stick to it. Do not look, grimace, make eye contact, groan, sigh, or gasp. Go neutral. Get ultra focused on what ever else you are doing. Sometimes (more like always) we need a replacement behavior to change our ways. So, this is the trick: have an index card, or count out loud or in your head, and count how many times she asks the question after you have given your concrete final answer. Really count the number of times she asks. Go write it down on your index card. You can even mouth the numbers to stay ultra focused. The first several times that you literally do not respond. She will ask many, many times. She might even have an all out tantrum. (Enact a tantrum plan at this time.)

    Third, if she says anything else that is not related to the repeat question, stop what you are doing turn to her in full face contact and respond as if she didn’t say the other 50 questions. The only way ignoring a behavior works is if you attend a positive opposite of the ignored behavior.

    Keep a running journal, even better: graph the question count. It is really fun. Counting the questions will be fun rather then exasperating. When she is 22 it will be fun to talk about how many times she could ask a question.

  9. Now, about impulsivity. Stop-Redirect-Reinforce.

    Apply the attention law. Stop the inappropriate behavior, give her an appropriate behavior to DO instead, then affirm and attend to the appropriate behavior.

    It looks like this: She bops her brother on the head. You see the bop. Tell her to stop, look at you. or hold her arm, and tell her to look at you. Give her a pleasant face, and ask her to tell you how she is to treat her brother. She will tell you an answer. Any appropriate answer is good. You can also tell her and have her repeat if she can’t come up with one. (Kindly, nicely, softly…) Or, ask her how she is to hold her stuffed animal, (She will show you.) You say: “That is right, kindly. That is how I expect you to treat your brother.”

    Or, simply stopping her and redirecting her to another activity. Stop. Redirect. Reinforce.

    That is your mantra. Impulsivity like you describe is likely to disappear, if you take away your attention and reactivity from the problem behavior and place it on the replacement behavior.

    The other likely scenario is that there is a lot of hullabaloo from siblings that is stimulating. Watch and see. Try to eliminate the hullabaloo and get her quickly to an appropriate behavior.

  10. So, to summarize tonight:

    What you attend to as a parent matters. You have that much of an impact on your children. Attend with labeling words to appropriate behavior! Redirect problem behavior to appropriate with low level of attention and then attend to the appropriate behavior.

    Model, model, model kindness and self control….

    Most of all Momma’s and Daddy’s, God designed you for this purpose. Trust Him, be positive and grateful, and He will show you the way.

    Until next month!

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