Question 081

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Dear Jane Nelsen

I am concerned with my daughter's kindergarten teacher saying, "I hear a tattle-teller" when the children bring their problems to her. I feel that this statement negatively labels appropriate behavior for five-year-old children. I would prefer she first listen to the problem, consider offering the children appropriate suggestions, and encourage them to work out the problem themselves if possible.

I discussed my concerns with the school principal. She admits to hearing this statement, but totally disagrees that the children may interpret this statement negatively. If a child in this class was abused--perhaps sexually--I believe they would not bring this issue to the attention of their teacher.


I would greatly appreciate your opinion in this matter. If possible, please reply immediately as I would like to include your comments when discussing this matter with the teacher.

Sincerely, Jennifer

Hi Jennifer, 


I agree with you. I know that I would feel very embarrassed if I was called a tattle- teller after bringing a concern to a teacher. Children this age do not know how to solve problems (but they can learn--as discussed later.) Adults who expect them not to bring their problems to them are expecting children to have skills they have not yet learned--and to think like adults.

One of the main purposes of Positive Discipline in the Classroom is to help children learn important life skills, such as problem-solving, through class meetings. I can understand the frustration of teachers not wanting to have to solve every little problem (especially the ones they see as petty). We encourage teachers to see every problem as an opportunity for learning. Teachers still don't have to solve every problem. They can teach students to put their problems on a class-meeting agenda and can then brainstorm for solutions during a class meeting.

If you are new to this idea, you might be afraid that that would be humiliating to a child. It is not. When teachers have been taught the "Eight Building Blocks for Effective Class Meetings" there is success. Punishment is not allowed. We even discourage consequences because so many teachers and students try to disguise punishment by calling it a consequence. We focus on solutions. Children get very good at helping each other when they receive training and the opportunity to practice these skills.

In our book, Positive Discipline: A Teacher's A-Z Guide, we have taken over 100 subjects and offer hundreds of nonpunitive solutions that motivate children to change their behavior through strategies that maintain dignity and respect. This book is a companion to Positive Discipline in the Classroom, which focuses on class meetings.

Many teachers now say, "Please put it on the agenda" when children come to them with problems that can wait a few hours or days for solutions. They also find that the children are learning skills to solve many of their problems without using the agenda.

I hope this helps.

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