Teaching Kindergartners to “Blame the Victim”

tattling  present participle of tat·tle (Verb)

Verb
  1. Report another’s wrongdoing: “he never tattled or told tales”; “I would tattle on her whenever I had hard evidence”.
  2. Gossip idly.

* * *

My kindergartner is no angel. He challenges authority, experimenting all behavioral options and testing for weakness. He’s a perfectionist and hates to lose at anything—bursting into tears or having a meltdown for something as minor as not being in line first. He has the amazing superpower of Not Listening and can drive even the most patient person batty.

He observes those around him to see what to do, what not to do, and “Gee, I haven’t tried THAT yet.”

Kindergarten has taught him quite a few things I wish it hadn’t.

One thing I never expected him to learn was how you can’t go to a teacher with a problem.

A boy pushes you down on the playground? Or someone picks on you repeatedly and refuses to stop?

You aren’t supposed to tell your teacher. Why?

Because it is TATTLING—an offense so great a teacher will force the child to drop a color if they dare confide in them.

Can you think of a better environment for a bully to thrive? As long as they hide their actions from the direct view of the teacher, they are untouchable.

It is a policy that puts the blame and punishment on the victim.

I admit, my son will often stretch the truth to outright lie if he thinks it will get him out of trouble. Looking into his eyes, I can often tell when such is going on.

Last Friday, my son had a sad face for the day—nothing new as he will often have at least one a week for the behavior mentioned above.

But on this day there was also a note from the PE teacher, saying he’d pushed a child so hard they hit their head on the ground.

I was stunned. Yes, my child is physical and strong and doesn’t seem to realize his own strength. Yes, he earned his blog nickname “The Tackler” for a reason, but usually his actions had a reason. Retribution. Sibling rivalry. Defense. Mimicry.

I asked, “Why would you push someone during run club.”

“Because they [his friends] kept pulling my jacket and they wouldn’t stop when I told them to.”

“Why didn’t the teacher stop them?”

His response was instant. “She was busy with the papers to count laps.”

“Hon, when someone bothers you and won’t stop when you ask, you need to tell the teacher.”

His eyes watered, frustration showing through—far too genuine to be an act. “I can’t, Mom because that’s tattling and you have to move your clip down a color if you tattle.” He gave recent examples of other classmates who had to do so when they tattled.

The war on tattling is creating a haven for bullies

To him, tattling is THE WORST offense he can do.

I agree, tattling is annoying and I’m sure if you multiply it by nineteen other children, it could overwhelm you.

But here’s the thing. My son is five, almost six.

He doesn’t truly understand what it means to “tattle”. To him, tattling is asking a teacher for help with a problem that *could* get someone else in trouble.

It includes being picked on and bullied.

Even if my son pushed the child without cause, the jacket grabbing scenario a ruse to get out of trouble, his vehemence against tattling is true.

Four months left of kindergarten, and my son is already trained to NOT ask for help if he needs it. In a few more years with this indoctrination against “tattling”, it won’t even occur to him to try.

Is this really the message we want to send our kids? To fight their battles alone, helpless? To allow bullies to run unchecked because the bullied victim would get into as much trouble as the bully?

Schools wonder how bullies become such a problem—they don’t realize their very policy breaks children of the urge to ask for aid from the start.

There will be a discussion with the teacher(s) and likely the principal in the future. Because I cannot stand by and watch my child be bullied.

Each time he is, he learns from it. He imitates it. He mimics.

And one day, HE might be the bully that no one will speak out against and I will have no idea because the school will be equally clueless.

If we truly want to fight bullying in schools, the schools need to open their eyes and the communication lines for reporting it, not stick their heads in the sand and punish anyone who reports a troublemaker.

This “blaming the victim” BS has to stop.

Kindergarten seems a good place to start.

* * *

Did your school or your child’s school punish “tattling”? At what grade did it begin? If you were/are a teacher, what is your policy?

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About Kelly K @ Dances with Chaos

Kelly K has learned the five steps to surviving of motherhood: 1) Don't get mad. Grab your camera. 2) Take a photograph. 3) Blog about it. 4) Laugh. 5) Repeat. She shares these tales at Dances with Chaos in order to preserve what tiny amount of sanity remains. You can also find her on her sister blog, Writing with Chaos (www.writingwithchaos.com) sharing memoir and engaging in her true love: fiction writing. It's cheaper than therapy.
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13 Responses to Teaching Kindergartners to “Blame the Victim”

  1. Running from Hell with El says:

    Holy crap! This is a terribly misguided policy! Wow!

  2. It drives me nuts to see this in schools. I was lucky that my son’s kindergarten teacher wasn’t to the extreme when it comes to tattling. She made sure that the kids knew that telling about every little thing that someone else did wasn’t necessary, but that if someone pushed you or hit you or was bothering you so you couldn’t learn that you could, and should, come to her. He had problems last year with a kid bullying him and, while he didn’t tell her at first, he did tell me. Once she was aware of the problem, she brought it up in general to the class and she made sure to keep an eye on the boy that was bullying.

    Now that he’s in first grade, his new teacher isn’t quite as lenient when it comes to tattling. She’s not ignoring problems completely, but she’s definitely more about self-reliance. On the one hand, I’m glad to see it. The kids do need to learn how to work through problems themselves. But on the other hand, I don’t want my son to have to worry about going down a level on the behavior chart because he honestly has a problem. He needs to know that the teachers are there to protect him when he’s in trouble, not to cause more trouble.

    I’m trying to teach that fine line between tattling and going to an adult for help while we’re at home. He and his little brother do everything brothers do – from playing together nicely one minute to playing rough the next to fighting and hitting the next. I try to teach them that telling every little thing the other one does doesn’t need to be told. Ok, so my eldest stepped in front of the television while my youngest was watching it. Is that something you can handle together or is that something Mommy needs to deal with? Is it happening all the time or is it a one off? It doesn’t usually take long to get to the bottom of what has actually happened (especially since I’m listening even if I’m not in the same room). If more teachers could do the same, I think it would help all the students. But they’ve got to make it a priority.

    • I wasn’t sure if this was a thing at other schools too, so it’s interesting to hear that your son’s school also has a tattling policy. I wonder how widespread it is.

      I know my son has gotten a sad face day in the past for tattling, but it could just as easily have been for minor infractions as major ones. The point is the message he has received is “Don’t tell on anyone for any reason.” Then he reacts, gets physical, and gets in trouble for that, because he is still young and will react without thinking.

      I just had no idea my advice to “tell the teacher if someone is bothering and won’t stop when asked” was completely being ignored because of fear of dropping a color. It just seems extreme to me.

      There will be a lot more talks with my son and hopefully one soon with his teacher(s).

  3. It’s a complicated situation, but a fairly easy distinction could be made by the teacher with regards to two different types of “reporting” made by students:

    1. Do NOT tell the teacher about infractions against rules that don’t involve a victim (you or someone else). For example, you shouldn’t run to the teacher saying, “Johnny is using glue and you told us not to use glue.” Not your business. Let the teacher handle it. Pay attention to following the rules yourself.

    2. DO tell the teacher about infractions that involve a victim; especially if you have asked the perpetrator to stop with your words first. “Johnny keeps grabbing this glue stick out of my hand.” This IS your business and if you’ve already tried to stop it yourself, someone else should step in to prevent the scenario from escalating (like to the point where you end up pushing back and then get in trouble).

    I’d like to think that most competent teachers are aware of the dynamics in their classroom, even among 20 students. They might not catch every single transgression, but in general, they shouled pick up on who the “regular” trouble-makers are. Still, some teachers are more tolerant or capable when it comes to handling conflicts (like some parents) and no child should have to tolerate a continual double-standard.

    I hope you feel that your school listens to your concerns, Kelly. Good luck.

    • I was hoping you’d weigh in, having been a teacher.

      I think the biggest issue is either A) They don’t fully distinguish between point 1 & 2 unless someone is actually hurt and/or B) My son doesn’t fully understand the difference, only seeing himself and friends docked for “tattling”.

      I’m hoping the latter is just B and we can make him understand this concept. The only thing I understand at this point, is my son considers telling the teacher about a problem as the worst choice ever, and therefore he won’t about anything, leaving the situation to escalate until he gets into trouble for lashing out against the attack.

    • As a former teacher, I agree with what Julie is saying here. As a new mom, who will one send her little off to school, I empathize with you!

      I suggest talking to the teacher (with your son present) to see if she had any understanding of what happened. Things tend to get lost in translation (on both sides), and an open discussion about what happened, the teacher’s policy, and your son’s understanding of it might result in a resolution.

  4. Dianne says:

    You know my response…come to the dark side and homeschool!

  5. Annie says:

    That’s a terrible policy. I’ve had three kids through kindergarten thus far (with one left to go). The teachers in our school system do not drop cards (colors, whatever) for tattling. They bring the two kids together to talk about the problem/issue. My daughter had a girl that would always bop her on the top of the head, or take her hat. She told the teacher and we actually had a conference about the issue. The behavior stopped.

    Yeah….you need to take this one up with administration.

  6. Isa nybody allowed to tell on the teacher? That is horrible. Is it school policy? My 4 year old is a pretty good listner, not perfect but pretty good. She’s our new tattler. She even tattles on Daddy. Keep up all the good mom stuff!

  7. Lei says:

    Whoa. I haven’t encountered this “policy”. So the only trouble worth paying attention to is when somebody gets hurt? And by then of course its too late to resolve things properly.

  8. Pingback: Time Out! - Raising Remarkable Kids

  9. Pingback: Time and the First Day of 1st Grade | Dances with Chaos

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