Morgan: "MOM!!!! Ryan just threatened to cover me in snot balls!!!!!!" (the serve)
Me: "Well, what did you say to Ryan about that?" (the return)
Morgan: "Well I said 'I don't LIKE that, Ryan!' but he won't stop!" ('He won't stop' is a return to me, a request for me to do something rather than her. Fortunately this is an easy lob to hit as we're all in the car and I'm a direct witness to the events.)
Me: "It doesn't sound to me like he is continuing with the threats. Sounds like you handled it." (right back at her)
Morgan: "But MOM!" (her ball goes wild)
Me: "It sounds like you're still mad and that's okay. But you told Ryan how you felt and he stopped, so you handled this problem all by yourself." (Game, set, match!)
Every time, as long as it doesn't require me to get involved, I send that ball right back to her and make her handle it. Every time, and sometimes these things last a while.
Also, if the child tells a lie in her effort to get me to take her side, I acknowledge that I heard the lie (because I try never to let any lie go by) at the same time I send the responsibility back to her. In the example above, she claimed he was continuing the threats.
Now I know that he could have been kicking the back of her seat or continuing his behavior in a non-verbal way, but I truly didn't hear him. Stating my observation that I couldn't hear continued threats of snot balls was a way of helping her know that I knew she was fibbing.
If she hadn't been, she'd certainly have tried to set my mistaken impression straight by providing some inkling that Ryan was threatening her non-verbally. She didn't do that, so I must conclude she was stretching the truth to make her case (is that rhetoric, Kelly?). She also backed down from that plan of attack when I made that statement--no point in telling a lie if mom isn't going to buy it, maybe.
Now that I'm really good at Tattling Tennis, I almost enjoy it. :o)