Teaching kids the difference between tattling and telling may help them resolve problems independently.

Do you have a child who’s obsessed with tattling? While the habit may be annoying, it’s a natural part of childhood and socialization.

One the best ways to deal with it is to help children differentiate between tattling and telling, child psychologists say. The nonprofit Child Mind Institute describes tattling as “reporting a peer’s wrongdoing, when the situation is safe and the child can handle it herself” and defines telling as “alerting adults that the situation is not safe and/or your child needs help managing the situation.”

Human Interest Media offers this great video for children that articulates the difference between the two. 

Once kids start to see the difference, give them the tools and the words to navigate the situation, suggests Child Mind Institute psychologist Jamie M. Howard. “Children may be able to solve a minor problem themselves if they can identify the problem and use their words effectively to express their frustrations,” she writes. “As tattling/telling situations arise, talk through the moment with your child and help him or her figure out ways to approach a similar situation in the future.”

For examples to share with your child, check out Howard’s article. Psychology Today has more information about why kids tattle and other suggestions on dealing with it.