Tattlefit! You may not be familiar with this word. Actually, I am pretty sure you aren’t. Why? Well, I just made it up. A tattlefit is the art of throwing a temper tantrum, or fit while simultaneously tattling on your brother or sister. Josiah has this down to an art form. Usually these take place when Grace, our two-year old, is doing something he would like to do but knows he shouldn’t. It usually involves screaming, tears, high-pitched squeals, and jumping up and down. Sometime, if we are lucky, we get to see that weird quivering thing only young kids can do. I am sure you can visualize how these all go together. Yep, that is a tattlefit!
These pose two significant problems. The first is obvious. Fits of any type are not generally tolerated and certainly not appropriate. Josiah knows this and he knows his behavior is wrong. The second problem is that Grace’s behavior was also wrong. The true dilemma is how to discipline the two-year old without encouraging the behavior, tattlefit, of the three-year old. To be honest my wife and I haven’t exactly figured this one out . . . yet. So far we have come up with the following three options. We bounce between them depending on the severity of the tattlefit and the initial behavior.
- Josiah gets in trouble for throwing a fit. We take the time to explain that he chose to responded poorly and role-play how he should have responded. He also usually gets the, “You don’t have to tell us every time your sister does something wrong,” speech. Grace gets a free pass on the behavior because we really don’t want to teach her that tattlefits are okay. This is usually only when the behavior is minor. After all, we wouldn’t have even known about it without Josiah’s tattlefit.
- Josiah is responded to the same as above. Grace is told to stop her behavior but is not disciplined until she repeats it a second time. Oddly enough, she usually does and receives the appropriate discipline. This is an attempt to teach Josiah that tattling on his sister will not automatically get her in trouble. She does that well enough on her own.
- Josiah is still responded to as above (See the trend here?). Grace is also disciplined for her behavior. This usually happens only when Grace’s behavior is hurtful to someone or if it is a “problem” behavior we have been battling. Usually in this scenario, Josiah is told that we needed to know what Grace was doing (assuming the behavior could be dangerous) but a tattlefit was not the way to let us know. Fortunately this option is rarely needed.
There is certainly a fine line between ignoring, responding appropriately to, and reinforcing this very bad habit. There are times we want our kids to tell us what their siblings are doing. These are usually limited to times when they are about to hurt themselves or hurt others. Otherwise we really don’t want them to narrate every bad behavior that takes place. Besides, we have eyes in the back of our heads (at least Kim does) and we see most of it anyway. Now if we could just get them into the habit of telling when their siblings do something nice!
I am curious how you deal with tattlefits. I am hoping we are not the only parents that have kids with this talent. If yours do too, I would love to hear your solutions. I am sure others would as well.