Parenting Vivian | 11 Apr 2010 03:09 pm

Developing A Citizen-Watch Child – Motivating Your Child To Report Something Wrong

Does your child have a hard time telling? Do you find yourself discussing incidents that could have been avoided if your child reported it? Does your child always seem to get caught defending themselves? Developing the habit of reporting something wrong is not always easy. Some children can do it with ease while others find it more challenging.

What Hinders Your Child From Reporting?

There are often different reasons why children fail to report incidents, but I consider the main ones to be

(1) Fear of not being cool;

(2) Fear of retaliation against the person being told on;

(3) Not wanting to be seen as a tattletale and

(4) Wanting to handle things themselves.

If your child or someone you know has ever been victimized by name calling, bullying, teasing or isolation, you may probably think that those circumstances would most definitely be reported by the victim. However, studies show that twice the amount of reported instances of abuse goes unreported and in some cases that number triples. The unreported situation becomes repressed. The repression stays until it can no longer be contained and extreme action is taken. We see this in acts of teen violence, suicide, promiscuity, drugs and alcohol abuse. We do not have to look very far to remember the Virginia Massacre, Columbine Shootings and many other school-related incidents that were found to be the result of repressed emotions. Sometimes the instances that cause these feelings are easily identifiable and other times it is not so evident.

Developing a Citizen-Watch Child

When children are unable to develop a reporting habit from an early stage, it translates or follows them throughout their life. It can carry over in areas where a child is being physically abused and is afraid to tell someone or later in adult life, it can hinder them from reporting incidents in the workplace and community. Many persons experiencing sexual harassment, verbal and physical abuse fail to report it for fear of retaliation. Developing what I term a “citizen-watch” child promotes the idea that when he/she sees someone in trouble, calling a policeman, fireman or another community authority becomes second nature. Efforts should be made to not only encourage the child to report the incident involving them but also if they see others in trouble as well. This grooming and development must begin at the elementary school level.

How to Develop a Citizen-Watch Child?


Education: Educate your child. Talk with your child every day about situations that happen and the way it was handled or could have been handled. Use role play to devise situations that could occur and devise possible strategies for solutions. Encourage your child to share things with you even if they are at fault. Stress the importance of an open and honest relationship as a means of protection. Role model: Children learn a lot through observation. Let your child see how you handle situations that need reporting.

Repetition: In the same way that it takes numerous exposures to a concept like learning a new language, music or sport before it becomes retained or a learned behavior, you must educate your child constantly. Drill these concepts every day for maximum learning and optimal practice.

Reward: As adults, when we receive a bonus at work, a promotion on the job, lunch from a friend and/or a gift from our spouses, we are becoming conditioned to continue working at that which brought us the reward. Similarly, when working with children, good behavior and adherence to rules and promises should too be rewarded. Some may call it bribery but rewarding your child when he/she practices this behavior reinforces the established belief system and also removes the “not so cool” hindrance of reporting.

My name is Monique Russell and I provide workshops for kids that help them identify and address emotional challenges as they arise. I also offer free tips for parents on conditioning desired behaviors in kids. For more information about me and my services, visit my website at

Comments are closed.