Reducing Dobbing and Increasing Problem Solving

Why did I research this?

Dobbing can be annoying to us adults and to the child being dobbed on. Whether or not your child has copied it from another child or she gets some good old satisfaction from telling on others, some education around appropriateness of dobbing is worthwhile, for your child to learn how to problem solve and for you to get back to your cup of whatever it is that you are having.

What did I find out?

Children tell on each other for one of three reasons:

  1. To exert power
  2. To seek approval or
  3. To seek attention (sometimes due to sibling rivalry)

When children learn what is right and wrong they want to let adults know about the injustices they see. They want to let adults know that something unfair happened (mostly) and sometimes they want someone else to get into trouble. We want children to tell us when someone is in danger or hurt and to talk to us about their problems but we also want children to practice solving their own minor problems. How do we do this without being bombarded with every problem under the sun?

The way we respond to our children will help them understand the sorts of things we’d like them to tell us about, while teaching them what is minor and major.

Here is an example of a minor problem.

“Mum, Josh snatched my stick and was rude to me.”

Firstly, acknowledge you have heard him by saying something along these lines “Ok, So Josh snatched your stick and said some rude words so you feel annoyed about this because it wasn’t the kindest or the fairest thing to do. Is that right?”

Secondly and depending on his age, let him know that you have some ideas by saying “I have some ideas. If you’d like some, let me know.” You could also ask, how he thinks he could solve the problem.

Thirdly, offer some ideas when they are requested. Such as; “You could tell him how you feel about all of this, you could ask for your stick back, you could ask him what it is that he wants or you could play with someone else. It’s up to you what you decide but let me know if you need anymore help.”

By giving your child some ideas, you are showing him that he has the capabilities to solve this problem but that you also understand his annoyance and are there to guide him.

Telling on other children is normal but this doesn’t mean to say that we encourage it or discourage it for every problem your child experiences.  Listening and guiding your child will demonstrate understanding and problem solving.

How is this useful?

Guiding your child through the process through listening, accepting and acknowledgement will help your child understand minor and major problems. For example; “How can you work this out?” gives a message of “Oh, I can work this out!” but I can still ask my Mum for help.

Coaching your child or being the mediator while a solution is being worked out will help equip your child to take charge of future social situations.

Giving kids a safe place to share their concerns will encourage problem solving and give your kids practice on judging when to tell an adult.


~ SM