It’s February.

The holidays are over. All [most] of the Christmas decorations are packed away. The family goals for the New Year are written on the back of a Chik-Fil-A napkin and taped to the fridge…and for about 15 minutes, I get to sit on the sofa and overdose on Netflix and caramel popcorn.

I’m debating whether or not I should watch that morally questionable reality show everyone loves when it hits me – it’s almost Valentine’s Day. Then there’s Easter. Spring Break. Family vacation. Church camp. A new school year. Thanksgiving. And. Yup. Christmas. It’s almost Christmas again.

This literally happened to me about a week ago. I dragged myself off the sofa, washed the shame/caramel off my face, and went to Target where I bought Lilah’s and Ezzy’s (my 3-year-old) class Valentines.

The girls got home and got started right away. I think I had walked two steps when it started:

“Maaaamaaaaa, Ezzy is just doing scribbles on her Valentines!”
“Maaaamaaaaa, Lilah won’t let me use her markers!”
“Ezzzzyyyyyy, your paper is in my way!”
“Mama, Lilah yelled at me!”

I tried to sneak upstairs, but they saw me. But, I mean, what could I say?

“Be nice to your sister.”
I’ll put you in time out/spank you/take away screen time if you don’t stop arguing!”
“Nobody likes a tattle-tale.”
“Shut. Your. Tiny. Crazy. Mouths!!”

I’ve tried many of these strategies (except the last one, of course). But, inevitably, the next toy, game, or project, they spend more time complaining about each other than they do playing.

Recently, I’ve decided to do something different when my girls argue or tattle. I stole the idea from my 4th grade teacher, Ms. Whaley. It’s called “The Tattle Sheet.”

In my house, the “Tattle Sheet” is a piece of construction paper taped to the wall. On one side is Lilah’s name, and on the other side is Ezzy’s name. Whenever they want to tattle, I send them to the tattle sheet.  Lilah writes a sentence under her name, Ezzy took my pencil. And Ezzy (who can’t write—dang it—should have done those flashcards from the infomercial) just puts a check.

Each night before we play our pre-bedtime games, we walk over to the tattle sheet. I say, “We have twenty minutes to play starting now. We can waste that time with the tattle sheet, or we can hug each other right now, say we’re sorry, and start playing right away.”

Nine times out of ten, they forget what they wanted to tattle about to begin with.

TATTLE SHEET FOR THE WIN!

Disclaimer #1: This isn’t a cure-all—they still argue and complain. But it’s definitely decreased by half.

Disclaimer #2: Not all tattles should be saved for the tattle sheet. Things like, “Ezzy has the sharp scissors and she’s trying to stab me with them” should be addressed ASAP.

What about you? How do you manage the tiny crazy mouths in your house?

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Holly Crawshaw is a wife, mother, and writer who eats sour candy and laughs at her own jokes. She served on staff with North Point Ministries for six years, the latter of which was spent as Preschool Director. She and her husband, Ben, are raising their two daughters, Lilah and Esmae, in their hometown of Cumming, GA.