We don't tattle.
I've heard this from several people recently and I must confess I think having this as a rule is one of the dumbest things you can do as a parent.
Often I think parents use this as a way to cope with the constant tattling they deal with. I worked for years as a nanny and as a director of afterschool programs for kids and yes, kids have tendencies to constantly want to tell you what their sibling or peer is doing. And yes, it gets annoying. And yes, most of the time they do it out of the motive to get the other person in trouble. And yes, often they report behavior that they themselves engage in.
If you establish a "no tattling" rule though, is that a good thing? Aren't you severing lines of communication with your child (or students whichever the case may be)? We are encouraging our children to overlook bad behavior, and to not tell us when someone is doing something they shouldn't. And I am mystified as to why. We live in a society where children are taking their own lives as a result of years of bullying. Often bullying goes unpunished and often without an adult knowing about it.
To me, there is a connection. Kids aren't telling us what is happening. How can I tell my child to not tattle but to expect them to report bad behavior to me? Isn't that just tattling? I tell my daughter not to tattle on my son and she sees porn on his computer or finds cigarettes in his backpack? What is she supposed to do? I tell my students not to tattle on each other and Peter sees Paul picking on Mary or cheating on a test--what happens then? Honestly, I think "no tattling" rules are created by teachers and parents who are just down right lazy and don't want to deal with the drama of kids. I think it fosters a horrible environment of no accountability.
From a spiritual standpoint, I think a no tattling rule is detrimental to my children. As Christians, we are called and commanded to keep each other accountable. I think it's something we don't do often enough and definitely don't do well. I want to raise my kids to be able to both give and receive accountability in love. But if David Jr. can't come to me over some small act of behavior that Amanda Jr. is engaging in, how can I expect him to one day go to his sister (or any other Christian) in love over sin in her life? Some would probably say I'm making a stretch between tattling and spiritual accountability, but to me tattling is where it starts. I teach them to come to me over anything. To hold each other accountable when it comes to rules, obedience, and fairness. To teach that we want to encourage each other to always do what is right and good. And that when someone isn't doing what they should, we should come along beside them in love and help them. And that sometimes we need to tell an adult or authority figure because that is important.
Tattling is a teaching opportunity. Both for our children and for us.