“Mommy, Chava is doing it again!” Basya yelled up the stairs.
Nechama sighed, “Doing what again?” Nechama was not sure what was next. Was Chava writing with crayons on the wall? Was she pulling Basya’s hair? Was she throwing her food? Nechama hoped it was none of the above, but what distressed her more was that she did not want Basya to tattle. From experience, Nechama knew that tattling just snowballed out of control in their house.
“She’s clearing off her plate without you asking her to! Just like she did yesterday. Isn’t that great?” Basya said with mounting enthusiasm.
Nechama smiled. It was so nice to hear one of her children telling her about something good that the other one was doing for a change.
“Yes, Basya. It is wonderful. It’s also amazing that you are telling me about it. That’s perfect. I’m coming right down to finish loading the dishwasher,” Nechama answered.
* * * * *
We all know that kids love tattling on one another, letting you know when a sibling or classmate did something wrong. While this type of peer pressure can discourage children from misbehaving, it also creates a negative environment in the classroom and home. Children often feel like their siblings or classmates are “out to get” them.
Recently, I have become interested in a new classroom-based intervention to combat tattling and turn it on its head. This technique is called “tootling.” Instead of children reporting negative behaviors to the teacher or parent, they learn to report positive, pro-social activities. The goal of tootling is not only to reduce negative interactions, but also to encourage children to be aware of positive actions in themselves and others.
There are several reasons why children tattle:
Lack of information. Some children tattle because they want to know if the teacher or parent will enforce the rules.
Attention-seeking. Children who want attention will often tattle on others to get their teacher or parent to notice them. Instead of acting out, they choose to tattle and get the attention that way.
Limited problem-solving skills. When children do not know how to handle the problem themselves, they approach someone older to help them figure out.
Legitimate concerns. Dangerous, destructive, or illegal activity should always be reported.
In order to combat the many reasons that tattling takes place, incorporate tootling into your home or classroom. The focus goes from the negative to the positive – and helps children cultivate problem-solving skills, provides them with information, and allows them to gain attention for the right reason.
Why Tootling Works
Reporting on other’s positive actions can inspire the reporter to emulate those good deeds. In addition, if others report on a child’s positive actions, that child is more likely to repeat them. And finally, those repeated actions will become habit or routine.
Implementing Tootling in the Classroom
Training Session – a class session is set aside to explain to the students what the tootling process is. Students are taught how to appropriately report positive peer behavior. They are not allowed to report on their own behaviors. They are given clear examples of tootling such as:
* Ruchie lent me a piece of paper.
* I dropped my book and Yossi picked it up.
* Someone was leaving me out at recess and Shayna included me.
* Nochum shared his lunch with me because I forgot mine.
* Baruch let me go ahead of him at the water fountain.
* Yehudah gave Chaim an extra try at handball today.
* Riva helped me with rhyming in my poem for English.
* Bayla showed Sarah how to jump rope while skipping.
* Students are then encouraged to give their own examples of tootling.
Index Cards. Once the students understand the concept of tootling, the teacher passes out index card that will be taped to their desks to record tootles. A correct tootle states: The name of the helper, the name of the person who was helped, and the positive behavior. For example: a. Ruchie b. Me c. Lent me a piece of paper.
The students are instructed to fill out their index cards quietly throughout the day.
Reward. At the end of each school day, students hand in their cards. The teacher counts the tootles, only counting the pro-social behaviors. The next day, the teacher announces the number of tootles recorded and reads some examples aloud and offers praise. The teacher then records the number on a feedback chart. After a certain number of cumulative tootles (set by the teacher), the class is rewarded in some way, either through an activity that the whole class enjoys, a few more minutes at recess, or a special snack.
Repeat. After each reward, the process begins again, perhaps with new, more stringent criteria for tootling and with a different reward.
As Nechama experienced, tootling can work at home too, but is implemented in a slightly less systematic manner. Clearly, your children will not be using index cards to record their siblings positive behaviors. Instead they verbally report the pro-social behaviors throughout the day. The parent keeps track of those tootles and tallies those tootles in a chart. Just as in a classroom, the family members can decide together what kind of reward comes with a certain amount of tootles.
After a few months, tootling becomes instinctive and part of the everyday experience at home. At that point, the tootling rewards itself through a positive environment and better sibling interaction. In that sense, mitzvah goreret mitzvah.
About the Author: An acclaimed educator and social skills specialist, Mrs. Rifka Schonfeld has served the Jewish community for close to thirty years. She founded and directs the widely acclaimed educational program, SOS, servicing all grade levels in secular as well as Hebrew studies. A kriah and reading specialist, she has given dynamic workshops and has set up reading labs in many schools. In addition, she offers evaluations G.E.D. preparation, social skills training and shidduch coaching, focusing on building self-esteem and self-awareness. She can be reached at 718-382-5437 or at email@example.com.
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