“Did YOU hear anything BAD???”

That was the question that was asked of me as I asked a man to stop yelling at the bus driver as I got my kids off the bus. Since I wasn’t quick enough on my feet, I didn’t respond. But as I walked with the kids, I kept thinking about his question: “Did YOU hear anything BAD?”

Technically, I didn’t. But then again, that would depend on whose definition of bad we’re using.

A little context, please… Oh yes. One serving of context coming right up.

As I’m getting my kids off the bus, I hear the bus driver honk. Turning to look, I see that my son has crossed in front of a car coming down the road. I yell his name and start after him just as the man in the car is getting ready to drive (illegally) in front of the bus. The bus driver yells.

“YOU’RE SUPPOSED TO STOP!”

The man is angry. “I’M 54 YEARS OLD, I KNOW WHAT I’M SUPPOSED TO DO!”

Back and forth they yell at each other, the bus driver in the interest of protecting the children in her care, the man in the interest of protecting his pride.

In the meantime, I have completely lost sight of one of my children and the other is horrified listening to this man yell at her bus driver.

I turn to him, irritated that his irresponsibility has disrupted my normally enjoyable moment with the kids. “Could we just stop? Do we really need to do this in front of the kids?” I say to him. I’m not stopping to chat though, because we’re in the middle of the road, and confrontation really isn’t my thing.

That’s when he yells after me. “Did YOU hear anything BAD?”

I shake my head in disbelief. When I’m home, and its much too late to respond to his question, I think to myself

No sir, I didn’t hear anything bad, if your definition of bad means that you didn’t swear or call names. What I did hear was you being incredibly disrespectful to a woman who is trying to protect children who can’t protect themselves. Sir, if you’re 54 years old, you’re old enough to know how to speak to a lady and admit when you’re wrong. You’re also old enough to know that the safety of children trumps whatever immediate need you have, and that a school-bus full of kids just watched you throw a temper-tantrum like a five-year-old.

Ultimately, the message had little to do with the absence of name-calling and swear words, and more to do with what it looks like to be an adult.

Bad words? No. Bad example? Yes.

Homework Help & After School Activities for Parents & Kids

I just came across this website tonight while searching for homework help for my fifth grader.  I fell instantly in love with it, and had to share it!  Of course, I am a language arts nerd, so if you’re a math guru you might not be as excited.  Nevertheless, it’s chock-full of fantastic ideas to encourage learning outside of school and support parents as we help our children learn the essential skills of reading and writing. 

The site is called “ReadWriteThink,” and you can get there by clicking HERE.

I hope you enjoy it as much as I did!

Tattling, Telling, and Teaching Your Kids to Know the Difference

My psychology credentials might be a little sketchy, limited to a couple of classes I took and some books I read, but my Mommy-Cred is totally on the up and up.  Ten years of parenting under my belt and four kids spanning from 5-10 have taught me a thing or two about… well… a thing or two.

One concept that has always been a little fuzzy for me though, is the tattling versus telling issue.  I could TELL the difference between the two by whether or not my hair stood on end as a child came my direction with a slew of words spewing out of her mouth, but I always struggled with articulating to my kids how THEY could tell the difference and know whether their words were tattling or telling. 

Dear friends, I have an answer.  Maybe you already know this, but I have to tell you – it’s new to me!

A specific scenario that erupted in my home last night involved two children (whom shall remain nameless), a sink, and water.  Child #1 used a nasty tone of voice to point out to Child #2 that there was now water all over the kitchen window because that Child #2 was doing more playing in the sink than hand-washing.  Child #2 apparently did not correct the behavior quickly enough, so Child #1 turned towards me.  I could feel my hair begin to stand up on end. 

“MMMMOOOOOOOOOOOOMMMMMMM! (S)HE’S MAKING A MEEEEESSSSS!” Because, as you know, ‘mom’ and ‘mess’ both have more than one syllable.

Child #2 dries hands and backs away, lower lip trembling and defensive.  An argument ensues, and both children are ordered to their rooms.  Husband goes in after Child #2 to calm nerves and comfort. 

Tattling.  Telling.  What’s the difference and why should we care?

There is a big difference, and we should care because one can help prevent trouble while the other will only cause it – on the surface and even deeper.  Perpetual tattling on one child is a form of bullying and will negatively impact the child’s sense of self-worth and confidence.  Personally, I’ve had enough of it, and I have a strategy for putting an end to the tattling in my house once and for all. 

Child #2 let loose on Child #1 in the presence of the entire family, with a string of hateful words directed not at Child#1, but at the self.  That child internalized that he or she was a complete and utter failure and to blame for everything.  Now, there’s more going on here than just the tattling, yes.  However, the large amount of tattling that goes on in a house with four children under the age of ten is NOT helping this child’s sense of self-worth.

So, after a cooling off period, I talked with both children about the difference between tattling and telling and why one is okay and the other is not.  This is what I came up with:

  • Telling gets a person OUT of trouble
  • Tattling gets a person INTO trouble

Additionally, there are three other criteria that I use to determine whether or not an adult needs to know what is going on, and I can’t remember where I heard these, but they bear repeating:

I want the child to ask himself:  Is this person involved in an activity or about to be involved in an activity that will

  • hurt him or her self 
  • hurt someone else 
  • damage or destroy property

If the answer is YES to any of those questions, then an adult needs to hear about it right away and it will constitute “telling”.  If the answer is NO, then you’re probably looking at a tattling situation, in which case you should not worry because I have a strategy for dealing with that, too!

Quite often there are situations that merit adult involvement, but we can all do without the nails-on-a-chalkboard-tone that comes with tattling.  It is, after all, our responsibility as adults to guide our children as they grow.

When I spoke with my kids about this issue, I explained that if a situation arises that feels hurtful or unfair and cannot be resolved without an adult becoming involved, whichever child is offended or has had feelings hurt should come to an adult and say,

“I feel ___________ because ______________.”

This tells the adult that there needs to be some sort of intervention but prevents hair-raising tattling and adult frustration.  We discussed an example. 

“Mom, I feel sad because they won’t let me play the game.” 

OR. 

“Mom, I’m upset because I’m sorting the laundry all alone.” 

I explained to them that those statements tell me that there is a problem without tattling.  It allows me to investigate the situation without bias (how many of us automatically side with the tattler only to find out that the tattler ‘started it’?), hear from everyone without anyone feeling defensive, and take action based on all of the information.  Usually a simple “What’s going on here” from an adult will bring all of the issues to light. 

But what about…

I know, this might not be perfect, and yes, it does take extra time.  We also have to teach this technique our kids.  We have to role-play until they GET IT.  I can promise you though, that the investment of time and teaching will be worth the sense of peace and calm that will prevail in the home.  It will also pay off when their relationships and spirits are healthy and not angry or resentful. 

Now.  A disclosure:  My kids are older and it’s still a work in progress in my house.  However, I have a plan, and that is half the battle. 

What’s your plan for dealing with tattling? 

Angry Birds & Life: Perspective

OK, so Angry Birds is like life. Really? Yes. Really?? Yes. (And if you don’t know what Angry Birds is, you really need to click here). But that’s ridiculous, you think. Yep. I know. I had this same discussion. With myself. While I was trying to fall asleep. The only solution was to write about it.

Have you ever played Angry Birds and done the same thing over and over again, failing each time to kill all the pigs (or monkeys or whatever)?

Oh… You’re playing RIO. You’re releasing birds. It’s the PETA friendly version. Got it.

Anyway, you’re lobbing the same stinking birds at the same stinking obstacles and getting the same stinking results. Hmmmm…

I once heard that the definition of crazy is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. Have you tried doing something different yet? Of course. And what happens? Aim the bird somewhere else: get a totally different result.

What about that “restart” arrow? Don’t pretend like you don’t use it. You know where it is. Over on the left side of the screen where you can pause the game and restart it because your first attempt didn’t produce the expected results. See? I knew you knew what I was talking about. It’s okay. I use it too, mostly because it’s easier to just start over than to risk wasting my time. But what might have happened if you had stuck with it? You won’t know because you gave up before you had a chance to find out.

How about this one: Ever calculated all of the details for your bird launch only to discover that your speeding yellow bird runs head first into a concrete block? Of course you have. Did you try again? Of course you did.

What about being certain that one particular puzzle is impossible? There are some levels that I am sure just cannot be solved. There aren’t enough birds. They didn’t give me the right ones. I need the super red bird, not the puny red one who goes slow. Why is that pig or monkey THERE?!?!! Seriously?!? But then I remember that this was designed by a human to be solved by a human. Well, and thanks to YouTube, I can see how to solve any level. Oh, stop being so indignant. You’ve done it too.

I have some questions for you though:

When you run into a real world problem that seems unsolvable, and you just don’t have the right birds to solve it, do you remember that this world was designed by God not humans? Do you remember that He has perspective that we don’t? Do you give up before you ever have a chance to see how utterly incredible the outcome might be?

I discovered that how I handle my Angry Birds problems is a reflection of how I’d like to handle my real life problems. Just hit the restart button and give it another try. Sometimes that’s possible, but sometimes we just have to make do with the birds we have and put our faith in God to make it all work out.

An Open Letter To The One Who Returned My Daughter

Dear Dr. Bark,

My husband and I would like to thank you, however the words, “thank you,” do not seem to do justice to the overwhelming sense of gratitude that we feel as the recipients of your expertise in treating our daughter, Maddie.

For the purpose of this open letter, I am choosing to include some information here that might appear to be redundant to you, for you already know in great detail the symptoms with which our ten-year old daughter was struggling. However, I feel it important that our readers understand both the severity and depth of Maddie’s symptoms prior to our visit with you.

As you well know, Maddie was a highly medicated child when I first made contact with your office. Your assistant, Sara, spent a great deal of time with me answering every question that I had and formulating a plan to facilitate the best possible outcome. In July of this year, Maddie was taking, on a daily basis, the following medications: Vyvanse, Intuniv, and Singulair. While many people will state that for an ADHD kid, that’s really not too bad in the dosages she was receiving, they were high enough to cause a flat affect and stunt her growth, in both height and weight. This was a small price to pay though, we were assured, for the peace that our family enjoyed, and the excellent marks she was bringing home from school.

Uneasy, uncomfortable, angst, worry… guilt. Those are just some of the feelings I had every morning when it came time to medicate my daughter so that the two of us could make it through the day. On the meds, life was good. Off the meds: chaos. Impulsivity. Inability to focus. Lack of awareness; she didn’t seem to know where she started and ended. She would fight with her sibs for the sake of fighting, and her relationships with her brother and sisters tanked. Grades would slip and A’s turned to F’s, understanding turned to blank stares. This is where we started, and this is where we ended up any time we tried to stop the medication. There had to be a better way.

I prayed. I read. I researched. I vowed to reclaim this beautiful child of mine, a girl from whom I had not seen a genuine smile in months; a girl who would not tell me she loved me. Not that I believe that she didn’t, I just don’t believe she felt it and could say it. I don’t know that she felt anything. Apathy, compliant, flat. That was my Maddie.

I came across your ad in Chicago Parent Magazine. I felt like it was an answered prayer before I had even discussed it with my husband or made contact. I knew that you would be able to help me; that I saw that single ad, the only one I even remember from the magazine was, to me, a miracle.

I will admit that I was skeptical. Everything that I had read flew in the face of what I was about to do. The cost, to us, was staggering though not unexpected. We had to sell some things to pay the fee that our insurance company would not cover, and for six weeks I questioned whether or not I was making the right choice, not because I did not believe in you, but because I did not believe in myself. What if it didn’t work? What if we went broke trying this? What if… What if… What if…

“What if it works?” was the question that we always came back to. We didn’t know, but we had to try. Not just to appease our own guilt, but for Maddie. She did not want to take her medicine anymore. She hated it and would beg me,

“Mommy, please! I don’t want to take it! I like to be able to eat, and please… we’re having my favorite lunch at school today.”

She would frown, and acquiesce. Swallowing those tiny pills, designed to balance the unbalanced neurotransmitters in her growing, developing brain, she would look sadly at me, her pleading eyes questioning,

“Why can’t I just be normal?”

Dr. Bark, we had a difficult summer; I will not lie to you, nor will I lie to my readers. The choices that we made, removing one medicine at a time beginning the first week in July, were difficult because we knew the consequences. We knew the behavior that we were in for; we knew what Maddie was in for. It was HARD.

We had hope though, and after we met with you, our doubts disappeared and we were encouraged. You and Sara were there to support us every step of the way, answering any questions we had, and reminding us that the struggles we were experiencing were temporary. There would be an end to this ADHD medicine, and end to Maddie’s struggles.

There would be Normal for Maddie.

We started to see a new child emerge in mid-August, as the final visages of her medications lifted and she worked through some things that emerged after taking her homeopathic remedy. This child we saw, this daughter of ours, was amazing.

We noticed right away that she had such a pretty smile. At the same time, we realized how long it had been since we’d seen that smile. She began to have conversations with us that weren’t laced with hyperactivity or lack of emotion. She revealed to us in conversation, deep, insightful, meaningful thoughts.

She told me she loved me. Every day. Often.

She started to give the most wonderful hugs. She’s started to eat well and grow. She is maintaining a healthy weight, and no longer resembles an emaciated child. She loves school, and brings home fantastic grades, which she is so proud of! She has healthy, engaging relationships with her Dad and I and her brother and sisters, and she is a joy to be around! And, she is totally off her medications.

We have always loved our daughter, but we knew we had to help her, had to find a way to be rid of the medicines that she so despised. You helped us to do that, and in doing so, you returned our daughter to us.

Thank You.

For more information on the services offered by Dr. Toni Bark, please visit www.disease-reversal.com.

You can also email info@disease-reversal.com or call (847) 869-7740.

You will not be disappointed.

Why You Shouldn’t Pee on Others… And Other Thoughts From Walking Dogs

A Pee on the Poo

I was out walking on Sunday morning with my dogs, Violet and Oliver.  You see, they have boundless energy, and in my attempts to reel in their doggie excitement, I walk them around the block several times a day.  In addition to shredding garbage when we’re not looking they also like to have peeing contests.  Personally, I feel that this is far below Violet, but then again, she is the trashiest Standard Poodle I know.  Anyway, peeing contest.  So whenever one of them pees or poops, the other has to pee on top of it.(I know, gross)  It’s like some wicked little scent covering contest.  They love each other very much so I don’t really understand why they have to try to top each other.   For the most part I don’t really even care that they do this, but that was before they involved me in their little peeing game.

We were walking along, and both of them had watered pretty much every corner along our route when Violet stopped to take her morning poo.  Fabulous.  As I’m standing there waiting for her to finish, I feel something wet on my shoe.  Looking down, I see that Oliver is peeing on my shoe!  And my favorite pair of sweats!  Really?  Gross!  Apparently, I was the tallest thing near him, and he was so excited to cover up Violet’s mark that he completely forgot that the object he chose to pee on is ultimately connected to the hand that feeds him.

A Lesson in Disguise

That got me thinking and I ended up wondering how many times I’ve “pee’d” on someone in an effort to pursue my own agenda.  I think that the most glaing example for me comes within my family and my relationship with God.  One of the kids will ask if they can do something, and because I’m bigger/faster/more experienced I simply do it for them.  It’s easier for me, takes less time, ends up less messy.  But there’s a caveat, something that I wish I had remembered during all those moments. 

When I do it for them, I rob them of critical opportunities to learn, and to become self-sufficient.

Is my agenda so important that I have to behave that way?  It doesn’t stop there either.  These poor kids.  How many times have I brushed them off, barged past, nodded a response without really hearing what they are trying to tell me?  In pursuit of my own agenda, in pursuit of the things I’ve made more important than people, “peeing” on the people I love the most. 

This is also apparent in my relationship with God.  Somewhere along the line my prayers changed and became a checklist of wishes I think He should grant.  My ambition over His will?  Yeah, right.  I know that isn’t going to happen, but the shallow prayers have led to a relationship in trouble.  “Thanks for listening, God – but I don’t really trust you to open that door, so I’ll just open it myself.”  Ambition is a great thing, but only if it’s used in a way that is God-honoring and respectful to others. 

Has your ambition helped or hurt your relationships?  How do you honor God and respect your family while you pursue your dreams and goals?

5 Parenting Guest Posts from June

I spent a month guest posting on Jill Crew’s blog.  Jill is the Early Childhood Coordinator for Parkview Christian Church’s Orland Park campus, and she invited me to share my insights as the parent of four young children. 

I had a ton of fun, and look forward to writing for her again soon!

Here’s the link to check out my posts.  Enjoy!