It’s Not All Mary Poppins

It’s all in your head. Sometimes.

1119963_meditation___“Mary, Anna took my paper!”
“Mary, Tyler is playing with the boots!”
“Mary, Emily bumped me!”
“Mary, Noah is trying to eat my plum!”

It’s a gentle whine, not a cry of outrage. Whatever the tone of voice, however, the content bears witness to the unfortunate fact:

Timmy has entered The Tattling Time. One of my all-time least favourite toddler passages.


It is inexpressibly tedious to be dragged into each and every teeny conflict, to be expected to mediate and chastise, my role to stand behind the tattler and put the other guy in her place.


I am no one’s hired bully-boy, little man.

My response is well-practiced, and in fact these three deal with their squabbles pretty well. In the case of the purloined paper, given that Timmy’s picture was directly in front of Timmy, and Anna’s in front of her, it seems this one had been resolved, too. Before he even spoke to me.

So, really, there was no need for my input at all. This is possibly the most exasperating manifestation of The Tattling Time: The Totally Pointless Tattle.

Bleah, bleah, bleah.

“Anna took your paper?”
“And you told her to give it back?”
“And then Anna gave it back?”
“Did you say ‘sorry’ when you gave it back, Anna?”
“So, there you go! You used your words, and Anna listened, and it’s all fixed now. You fixed the problem all by yourselves! Good job!” We all three beam at each other, we maybe even clap our hands and do a small happy dance, so pleased are we with ‘our’ handling of this small crisis.

There. We’ve rehearsed the protocol, we’ve reinforced their appropriate behaviour, we’ve arrived at an emotionally satisfactory ending, all without me being drawn into the Enforcer role. It’s what I do, every time. It’s an effective response, and will, in time, help to reduce the incidence of tattling.

I have tried also adding, “…so you don’t need to tell me at all!” Picture my hopeful smile, eyebrows raised, head nodding. “You can do it, kid! Have the problem, address the problem, and solve the problem, all without dragging Mary in as your Enforcer.

That has been less effective. In fact, I would go so far as to say it was 100% ineffective.

I am sooooo tired of the Totally Pointless Tattle. So very, very tired. But Timmy is driven to tell me these things. Driven, I tell you.

And therein lay the solution to my problem. Entirely within my control, too.

This morning? This morning I made a decision. I would perform a conscious and deliberate attitude shift. No longer will these exchanges be examples of the Totally Pointless Tattle. Now they are simply “Information Sharing.”

To-dah! With a simple switch of mental gears, Timmy is not begging for my punitive intervention. He is not expecting me to don the brass knuckles. No, he is merely telling me what just happened, keeping me apprised of their little exchanges.

And me, I am rehearsing and reinforcing good behaviour and appropriate responses.

He’s saying what he was saying before. I’m saying what I was saying before. It’s all exactly the same as before, and yet, amazingly, about 84% less irritating.

Mind over attitude, baybeee! Mind over attitude. Ohmmmmm…

December 18, 2008 - Posted by | behavioural stuff, socializing, whining | , , , , , , , ,


  1. “I am no one’s hired bully-boy, little man.”



    Comment by Bridgett | December 18, 2008 | Reply

  2. Yes, so incredibly true … both the change in your interpretation leading to the absence of irritation, and also in his need to have someone acknowledge that he handled it himself in the Big Boy Good Job Way.

    Longtime lurker, but it sounds like you’ve got a good group right now.

    “Big Boy Good Job Way.” I like that! You’re right. I do have a good group right now.

    Comment by pelican | December 18, 2008 | Reply

  3. lol, you are so diplomatic, the exchanges with the older kids here tend to be

    “tattle, tattle, tattle” (them)

    “Whats it got to do with me?” (me)


    “Well then , go and talk to the person it has something to do with!”

    Less diplomatic, perhaps, but it gets the point across and keeps you from being the hired gun all the time.

    Comment by jenny | December 19, 2008 | Reply

  4. Fabulous post—thank you! I teach PreK. We have a few whiners and cry-ers this year in class…their progress has been one of two steps forward, one back. May I copy this post for our teacher board? I need a reminder to reframe the situation! 🙂

    So, they are “emotionally available” and have “superlative senses”….right?!

    Comment by Cmommy | December 20, 2008 | Reply

  5. […] is not an example of Information Sharing. This is just plain old tattling. And it’s whiny tattling, at that. The kind that makes you […]

    Pingback by Just do it! Or not. « It’s Not All Mary Poppins | December 22, 2008 | Reply

  6. […] have strategies for tattling, of course. Strategies which will work, in time, so long as I have the persistence (which I do) and the […]

    Pingback by Tattling Strategy « It’s Not All Mary Poppins | February 19, 2013 | Reply

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