Classroom Discipline Tips for Children & Youth Workers, Sunday School & Other Bible Teachers

How do you effectively deal with children who consistently report misbehavior of other kids?

When children consistently or excessively report on other children, the offensive behavior probably is not the issue. They run to the teacher with accusations because something is in it for them. In some way, "ratting" on other students is rewarding for them.

discipline for children who rat on others
  • It could be a means of drawing attention to themselves.
  • Perhaps they see it as a way of gaining approval from the teacher.
  • Or, they could be deriving a feeling of power or control over others in this way.
  • Children may also have found it easier to let the teacher deal with it rather than engage in conflict resolution themselves. A sort of dependency may have developed between teacher and students wherein it becomes the teacher's job to resolve conflicts and not theirs.

The ultimate goal should be that students learn to resolve their own problems rather than depend on the teacher. If the behavior of other students truly offends them, there are steps they can and should take BEFORE running to the teacher. You would need to determine what is appropriate in your situation.
Using the principle in Matthew 18:15-17, students should first go to the offender before bringing in outside sources. If that doesn't work, perhaps they could take a friend with them. They may ultimately need to report to the teacher but that still shouldn't get them off the hook of resolving their conflict. All parties, the offender and the offended, should be brought together and the offended child should have to confront the behavior with the teacher present. The work of resolving conflict is still theirs. In that process the teacher may need to step in with some consequences for future violations but the teacher may also discover that the child who did the reporting was also at fault.
This process sounds like it will take time and energy that you don't have but eventually only the legitimate cases will come your way if students see that you aren't going to bail them out of their own conflict resolution. They will soon learn that only legitimate grievances should come your way and that they won't gain reward or approval because they reported. If there is nothing in it for them, the excess and wrongful reporting should soon stop.
You may want to develop a checklist of questions to ask students before allowing them to share their grievance to ascertain if they followed the set procedure for dealing with conflict. For example, you might ask if they first talked to the offender before coming to you. If they say no, then lovingly tell them that you are sorry but you don't want to hear it.
Be sure, however, to always leave the door open for immediate reporting of certain kinds of behavior like violence and carrying of weapons. Those are legitimate fears calling for immediate adult intervention. You need to teach the children the difference between what requires immediate adult intervention and what they should seek to resolve first on their own.

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(Last updated 12/01/16)

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Handbook on Classroom Discipline      Effectively Handling Classroom Discipline Workbook

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