Category Archives: Parenting

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.” 


“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? 


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

You can also email or call (847) 869-7740.

You will not be disappointed.

The Trouble with Parenting

I am exhausted today. We were at two doctors appointments and the kids are all home. You know what that means? No time to recharge the parental batteries.  And bickering. And tears.  And some whining.  And hearing my name – a thousand times.  Hmmm…

I’m tired today. I would like to crawl into my bed and rest some.  It’s dreary outside, and frigid.  Did I mention that the ground is snow-covered?  It is.  So a delightful book, a warm blanket and a steaming cup of coffee sound like the ultimate RX for my fatigue.  But there will be none of that today.  You see, that’s the trouble with parenting. 

The kids aren’t the problem.  The whining and bickering and incessant calling of my name, those aren’t the problems.  The lack of good coffee isn’t even the problem.  It’s the parent part that’s the problem.  Me.  I’m the problem.  You see, God gave me four beautiful kids.  He sent them to me because He trusted that I would care for them, which I do.  I care for them a lot.  I suspect that he also thought that they might teach me a thing or two about selflessness, which they have.  They have also taught me about it’s evil cousin selfishness, which I sometimes must exercise to get a moment alone.  My apologies, I digress.  

The trouble with parenting, my dear friends, is parents. 

When you became a parent, did you have any clue the amount of time, energy, and money that that darling little bundle would take from you?  When I decided to become a Mom, I had no clue.  Not a single idea of the sacrifice that it would require of me.  I did not have even the slightest hint of the perseverence, diligence, and overall maternal fortitude that it would take to raise up a child.  That is probably how I ended up with four.  Because of, and in spite of my cluelessness, I managed to birth four healthy children into this world.  And thus I began to bleed energy, money, and time.  The trouble with parenting in our home?  Me.  Well, and my husband too.  It was us.

When our kids became seemingly out of control and we were frustrated beyond belief, we were forced to take stock of our situation.  We were struggling because we were tired.  We were distracted.  We were moving in 50 different directions, pulled by things that really weren’t all that important.  We were busy busy busy, but not with the things (or people for that matter) who were most important.  We were being consumed by the mundane, the unimportant, and the selfishness within ourselves. 

I realized that parenting takes time.  It takes immeasurable amounts of energy.  It takes diligence, and follow-through.  It takes courage – courage to say “NO”; courage to prioritize; courage to stand up for your family.  It takes presence, both of mind and body.  Parenting takes intention.  It takes rules and boundaries.  It takes a good memory to remember the rules and boundaries!  It is an overwhelming task, no doubt. 

So here I am… distracted by a blog.  But I have one ear on my children.  They think that because I’m on the computer that they’re flying under my radar.  They’re not.  They try, but I’m onto them.  The reminders are continual, and they’ll learn.  But so will I.  So am I.  I’m being courageous, present, and intentional.  I remember the things I asked them to do, and I’m onto them.  I’m onto myself.  The bedroom will get cleaned, the household jobs will get done, and I will follow through.  But there’s one more thing.  It’s more of an undoing and I challenge you to do it too.

I’m going to clear my schedule.  I’m going to be selfless.  I’m going to plan things that give me opportunities to be with my kids and “unplan” things that take me away from them.  I’m going to turn off the TV, the computer (as soon as I publish this), and the iPhone.  Really.  I am going to listen to them and look at them when they speak to me.  It’s not much, but it tells them that they’re important.  And they are! 

The trouble with parenting may have been me.  It may be you.  But the best part of all, is that within the trouble – within me and within you – lies the solution.  Us.  Parents.  We can give to our kids so much more than stuff.  So much more than a clean house.  So much more than distraction.  We can give them ourselves.  Arnold Glasow once said,

“The best thing you can spend on your children is TIME.”

He was absolutely right.