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Tootling: What’s That?

“Catch them being good” is a phrase often used with parents and teachers to encourage the idea of recognizing children’s positive behavior when it happens. Our tendency is to ignore good behavior and pay attention to the misbehavior, and this can, and does, lead to negative interactions. Kids, themselves, are no different when interacting with their peers. They tend to quickly point out their peers misbehavior while ignoring the positive stuff. When peers report other children’s negative behavior, we call this tattling, and as any preschool or elementary teacher can attest, tattling runs rampant and can be a challenge in the classroom.


Skinner, Cashwell, and Skinner, (2000) and Cashwell, Skinner, and Smith (2001) decided to turn the idea of tattling upside down in an effort to get children to recognize their peers’ good behavior, so they created a new approach called “tootling”. Tootling is having peers “tell on” a peer who is doing something good; more specifically, when a peer exhibits a prosocial behavior toward a peer. For example, John sees Lisa helping Billy pick up some puzzle pieces he dropped on the floor, so John “tells on”, or tootles on, Lisa for helping. Since this a prosocial behavior John and Lisa are recognized. This recognition improves the chances of more frequent prosocial behavior in the future. This, of course, is an oversimplification, but the essence of tootling is to encourage positive behavior and positive interactions among peers and enhance students perceptions of one another.


Over the years, Chris Skinner and several of his colleagues and students have conducted numerous studies using tootling as an intervention to reduce the number of classroom disruptions, to increase appropriate social behaviors, and to increase student on-task behavior. We’re going to highlight some recent studies conducted by Dr. Skinner, his colleagues, and his students here at the University of Tennessee using tootling as in intervention to reduce unwanted behaviors in one study, and to increase or improve social skills in three other studies.


Stay tuned!


In the meantime, if you have any behavioral of academic concerns regarding your child, we may be able to help. You can reach us at our clinic at 865-974-6177 or