It’s time for another Ask Dr. Leman: “How do I get my husband to look at his anger issue?” Find out what Dr. Leman has to say about the correlation between powerful parent and child in today’s episode.
Learn more about Dr. Leman at BirthOrderGuy.com.
NEW: The Intimate Connection –Dr. Kevin Leman
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Doug: On this episode on Have a New Kid By Friday with Dr. Kevin Leman, we get to answer your question: What do I do if I have an angry husband and now at nine years old I find out I have an angry son? I thought he was a great kid, but now he’s turning angry. How do I get my husband to change? What do I do about my son? That’s the question we get to ask Dr. Leman today.
Doug: Hi, I’m Doug Terpening.
Andrea: And I’m Andrea.
Doug: And we are super triply duper happy that you are here with us today. And if this is your first time, we just want to let you know this is for your education and entertainment purposes only. If the subject matter raises any concerns for you or your child, please go see a local professional for help. And, I just want to remind everybody, BirthOrderGuy.com, you can go there and get tons of resources and insights from Dr. Leman. And also you can go to BirthOrderGuy.com/podcastquestion and leave an audio question, like this mom did, and you might get it answered right here.
Doug: Well, let’s jump into today’s question.
Ask Dr. Leman: Hi, Kevin. My son is turning nine. We thought he was a leader and very logical and smart, only to find out and be told he is very powerful and controlling. And we saw a lot of red flags in this last year that we knew we had to make a change. We have made a lot of changes in our home, so we’ve seen a really big turnaround in him. And I do believe you when you say you can see major changes in a week, as long as the home is remaining consistent and parents are on the same team.
Ask Dr. Leman: But my last concern is, he has this anger, and we call it verbal diarrhea. He likes to have the last comment still, and he complains a lot, and is acting miserable, when he doesn’t need to be. But my husband also has a, I guess, a root of anger in him, as well. I was just wondering if you had any helpful advice for my husband to look at his anger and seek some help, if you have any tips on that, so that it can be just passed down to my son. I really appreciate it, and thanks.
Dr. Leman: Well, there’s a little grist for the mill in that question. How old was the son?
Andrea: He was nine. Nine.
Dr. Leman: Did she say?
Andrea: Mm-hmm (affirmative).
Dr. Leman: Yeah, nine, yeah. Wow. There’s an awful lot in this. I’ll make a couple of guesses, first of all. I’m going to guess that your husband, and this really isn’t a guess, is an authoritarian, there’s a right way to do things. He’s a black and white thinker, which leaves you a pleaser. It puts you in the middle of your son and your husband. You know the venom that comes out of your husband’s mouth, the anger, and you do your very best to combat that by probably being permissive on your end to try to balance that off. Your son is caught in the middle, but his verbal diarrhea, his venom that comes back, the anger that he explodes with, is symptomatic of being reared in an authoritarian home.
Dr. Leman: Now, when you talk about or ask about how to help your husband, should he go to therapy or how does he get insight into all this, reading three books, Leman books. Let’s say you bought them online, you’d spend maybe $45 for three books, that would be a little cheaper than seeing a shrink at $350 a pop. I don’t think he needs self-examination from an outside source. I think the self-examination can come from simply reading a book or two. In fact, I think you should read them together and you should highlight in the books with different colored magic markers, things that pop out to you.
Dr. Leman: Your son is going to have a short fuse. When he loses things he’s going to become explosive. He’s always going to be pointing the finger at somebody else’s fault, because that’s the environment he’s growing up in. But the seed is being planted, that has grown to adulthood, your husband, he has to be challenged. And the words on the page will challenge him. I think you have to read them together to see that, I mean, Doug Terpening, our cohost, has said publicly, “I was an authoritarian parent, and I’ve learned to turn it around.” Is it always easy? Is there a part in Doug Terpening’s life when he reverts back to the authoritarian? I bet a nickel on it, because earlier learned behavior always seems to pop up from time to time.
Dr. Leman: But the point is, is that we learn why we do what we do, okay? And again, the authoritarian says, “I only count in life when I win, when I’m the boss, whatever I say goes.” And you tend to look down at people. You tend to look down at your son or your daughter. You tend to look down at your wife. You’re better than them, you know everything. And so, I think reading the books, Parenting Your Powerful Child, Have a New Kid By Friday, and Making Children Mine Without Losing Yours. That small investment, if you read those books, will certainly give you all the information you need to try to turn things around in your home, so you can have a happy home.
Dr. Leman: Now, again, I can hear your husband say, “I’m not reading any book.” Well, if you’re not reading a book, you can go out and get the DVD. You can listen to the book. Ask yourselves this question today, “How are things going in your family? How do you feel about your role as a mom? As a dad? How’s your family going? How’s it working out for you?” And I’m telling you it’s not working out good or you wouldn’t be asking this question. There’s no magic dust here. It’s a relearning. It’s, rather than telling your son what to do at every moment, it’s saying, “Hey, honey, I’d love to know what you think about it.” It’s asking opinion rather than giving out orders.
Dr. Leman: So anyway, I think the best way and the most practical, pragmatic way to deal with that is to take those books and read them one at a time. And like I say, highlight them so you can see how each other respond to the written word, because you two have to be on the same page. If you two are not on the same page, you can read every Leman book there is, you’re not going to see a change in behavior. So, there’s your assignment.
Doug: So, Dr. Leman, what got me out of my anger authoritarian cycle was actually softness. And it was obviously, my daughter saying she was afraid of me, and then it was the kindness and softness of my wife. How often does that approach work to get the authoritarian angry person to listen?
Dr. Leman: Well, lots of times, you are introduced at a party or something, and you’ll hear something about, “Well, the better half is my wife.” There’s so much psychological truth in that, Doug, it’s terrible. Because women are relational by their nature, and a sweet woman can really be a great trainer to a husband about life.
Dr. Leman: My wife has helped me in so many situations, to say, “Honey, now wait a minute. Now, just back up a step or two and let’s talk about this a little bit.” And, the man that’s big enough, so to speak, to really listen to his wife, I always tell the CEOs, the business people I work with, “Hey, run everything by your wife first.” Why? Because women are closer to life than we men are. If you’re blessed with a great wife who has insight into relationships, men, listen to your wife. A lot of men just don’t listen. They know it all. They have such a need to be right. We see them every day, and we take a look at the divorce rate. How many women do you think have ever said to me, “Oh, Dr. Leman, I just love it when my husband controls me?” That’s not love. It’s trying to service your wife and know all of her needs and desires and try to meet them as best you can. Are you going to be perfect? No. None of us are perfect, but that effort.
Dr. Leman: You want your wife to say, “Oh.” You ever hear that little oh, dove? “Oh, you’re so sweet.” I mean, that’s when you know you’ve reached into a woman’s heart. And so again, I’d just say women are the best teachers in the world when it comes to relationships. So, gentlemen, and specifically in this case, the caller who asked the question, I mean, you have to understand you have a profound effect upon your husband. And when he starts making some progress, reinforce that as best you can.
Andrea: How does reading a book and learning new skills help somebody with an anger that’s been built into them from their childhood, and it’s deep down?
Dr. Leman: Because the anger is produced by whom? Who produces the anger?
Andrea: I would assume that person.
Dr. Leman: That person produces it. In other words, they manufacture it, they produce it, they distribute it. It serves a what? A purpose in their life. So, when an adult male throws a temper tantrum, everybody stops, everybody freezes, hearts race. Heels click together. And so, he has learned that his powerful, disruptive angers creates the change that he wants. He’s listened to, he’s feared, and all that. That’s what neat about reading the book, because you’ll see the purpose of nature of the behavior in the book. I mean, just like the classic kid throws a temper tantrum on the floor. What’s the purpose of it? It’s that little six-year-old’s, four-year-old’s way of saying, “Hey, I want you to do what I want you to do. Not what you want to do. I’m challenging your authority. I’m an authority over you.”
Dr. Leman: I think, and I like the idea, of highlighting it with different colored markers, so it helps get the parents behind each others’ eyes to see how they see life. See, the reality is, the guy that’s really angry all the time, he fears that if he’s not that way that no one’s going to appreciate him or listen to him or care about him.
Doug: Wow, that’s really insightful. That this is how he gets his value or his perceived value. Interesting, interesting.
Dr. Leman: Well, you got to remember, perception is reality.
Doug: Yeah. This lady, you say, is a pleaser, so he’s used to being able to walk all over her. If she stands up to him, what is he going to do, do you think?
Dr. Leman: Oh, he’ll react negatively at first. I call it the fish out of water syndrome. If you catch a game fish, that fish, once he’s hooked, will do something that’s not very natural. They leave the water. Most fish who just leave the water die. They need to be in the water, but it’s that initial resistance. Because the really angry person, whenever they’re challenged in the slightest, their defense is more offense, so it takes a while. But I think sharing your real feelings, mom, in this situation, with dad, with husband, is really important. You’re going to say some things that might be very difficult for you to say.
Doug: So, Andrea, you’re more on the pleaser scale than the authoritarian scale.
Andrea: Mm-hmm (affirmative).
Doug: Could you do this? Could you get a book and highlight it for me and say some things to me back then?
Andrea: Back then?
Andrea: As opposed to now?
Dr. Leman: I think right now she should just say, “Hey, dummy, that’s wrong.”
Andrea: We’ve gotten there.
Doug: She did last night. Don’t worry, Dr. Leman, she had no problem telling me I was a dummy last night.
Dr. Leman: Good for Andrea. Everybody loves Andrea, don’t they?
Andrea: I think, is the highlighting supposed to be the things that resonate with me? And Doug is highlighting the things that resonate with him? Or is the highlighting me showing Doug this is what I think you need to notice?
Dr. Leman: No, highlighting is what grabs your attention, because we want Doug to see what’s important to you. Because we need to work toward oneness as a couple.
Andrea: Yeah, that totally makes sense.
Doug: So, you can highlight the book, and could you come and say to me, “Hey, dummy?”
Andrea: Well, I don’t think that’s what it’s about. I think it’s about what is standing out to me, and you saying what’s standing out to you. And then us talking together. Not me looking at it trying to look through your eyes.
Dr. Leman: Ah, see how smart she is?
Doug: Well, she is smarter than me, isn’t she? But we’ve known that for a long time.
Dr. Leman: Doug, really, we should both shut up and just let Andrea continue.
Doug: I know.
Andrea: I think [crosstalk] Dr. Leman.
Doug: Well, let’s take a moment right there and do one of my favorite new segments to the podcast, which is, A, we get to tell you about the new book and then we’re going to jump into the Straight Talk. But the new book from Baker Books that you get this week, which is very applicable,
Dr. Leman, is, Have a Happy Family By Friday, for $1.99 in eBook form, May 28th to June 3rd.
Doug: What is, Have a Happy Family, about?
Dr. Leman: Well, among other things, Doug, that’s the book where I highlight the fact that the words you choose to use with those you love can make a difference. And just turn that relationship around. It’s a good one. It’s a very inclusive book that deals with, not only the marriage but family. And port of call idea you’ve heard me talk about, on the lake of life, the good ship family. Do you have a port of call? Do you know where you’re going? This is a book that can help you prioritize as a family, cut down on some of those extraneous things you’re doing that aren’t really good for your family. It’s a good read, I think people will like it. For a buck 99, oh, my goodness.
Doug: Highly recommended, learning where your port of call is, has been one of the best things for the Terpening clan. Again, Happy Family By Friday, for podcast listeners. A buck 99 where eBook is sold, May 28th to June 3rd.
Doug: And now, one of my new favorite segments, or my new favorite segment, Straight Talk, with Dr. Kevin Leman.
Dr. Leman: I love these straight talks. It forces me to say something in a short period of time that makes some sense. And that’s not always easy. But let me give you parents a great tip. Say it once and walk away. Now, talk about simple. How simple is that? Say it once and walk away. “But Dr. Leman, they follow me.” Yes, I know, they’re the enemy. We’ve established that a long time ago. But the point is, you need to train them that you’re not playing the game any longer. “What game is that?” The game that they come after you and then you tell them a second time and you raise your voice and then a third time and you put their middle name in it. And before long, your blood pressure has risen, and sparks are flying, and it’s a lousy evening for everybody.
Dr. Leman: Here’s my point, they have trained you to tell them three times. They have trained you to get mad and cry and get upset, and slam things down and storm out. Acting like a four-year-old rather than a parent. So again, I always say, “You see the monkey grinder and the monkey, just which one is the organ grinder?” It makes you wonder when you see how kids can manipulate parents. So again, say it once, walk away. Where do you walk to? How about the john. It’s got a lock on it, doesn’t it? Have a seat, relax. Read a chapter in a book. Say it once, walk away.
Doug: Dr. Leman, we should talk about the son. She also is worried about her son. She’s read the books. What would be, you would say, do this next step, to help him understand what his anger problem is doing? Or what would her next step be?
Dr. Leman: Well, it’s really important that she owes up to her responsibility in creating this situation, because it’s really easy to point to just the angry husband who’s been overbearing and done this and done that. Just like we said that fighting’s an act of cooperation, the cooperation of the controlling husband and the pacifying pleaser wife, they both contribute to the maladies that happen in that family.
Dr. Leman: She has to come with a, “We need to do this, we need to do that,” rather than, “You need to do this,” and “You need to do that.” She has to bear that responsibility. In many ways, she’s the leader in this but she has to come across, not as the leader boss person but the person that’s interested in a joint venture with her husband.
Doug: So, the next time her son gets all mad and all angry-ish, what should the words or actions be that she does?
Dr. Leman: Well, number one, that has to be discouraged. So, as soon as he goes into a power tantrum, he’s removed from the scene. What does that mean? It means sometimes you take him by the arm, and you march him to his room, and you close the door and you shut it. Depending upon where you live and the season, you take him to the back door of the home and you put him outside. In other words, you can rant and rave outside. One of the rules we have is you don’t fight in the home. If you want to go outside, you can shout and holler, get mad at the tree, whatever you want to od, but you don’t have a right to upset the evening in our home.
Dr. Leman: As soon as it starts, you nip it in the bud, so he learns real quickly that his power tantrum all of a sudden, which used to keep everybody involved for 30, 40 minutes, an hour, the whole evening long, all of a sudden is no longer an option. Now, again, this guy’s got nine years of being powerful, and is not going to turn around overnight. But you can make a dent in it overnight real quickly. I was the author of Have a New Kid By Friday. I’ve often said you can have a new kid by Wednesday. You start giving the kid 48 hours of extremely different behavior, he’s going to take notice, she’s going to take notice.
Andrea: What if the kid still sees dad getting away with these power tantrums? And mom can’t send dad out in the backyard.
Dr. Leman: Yeah, yeah.
Doug: Hey, I don’t like that idea. I don’t like where this conversation’s going.
Dr. Leman: Good idea, Andrea. Proof you’re smarter than both of us. But you know what? I think the woman has to have a straight talk with the husband. It goes like this, “You know, when you act like that, you just really turn me off. There’s not a bone in my body that wants to be close to you.” That usually gets a man’s attention.
Doug: Thanks for giving her tips, Dr. Leman. This is really great. This is really helping me in life. Thanks, big guy.
Dr. Leman: Celibacy’s a good thing, Doug.
Doug: Now I have to change. I almost like you.
Doug: Well, that does it. The thing that, I got to throw in my two cents for you, Andrea, is, if you believe something, you will do it. Even though you are a pleaser, and reading these books has changed you to believe that these are the right kind of behaviors for you. When you talk about reading these three books, it really is for a pleaser. It gave you the belief that you could do it.
Andrea: Yeah, and tools.
Doug: And tools. That’s why I tell everybody, read the books, read the books. You will be surprised. You will email me and say, thank you, Doug. But, all right, wrap it up. Remind you, Have a Happy Family By Friday, a buck 99, eBooks, May 28th to June 3rd. Get it and you will be quite happy.
Doug: Well, it was great to be with you. We love answering your questions and helping you add that parenting toolbox, so you can love them kiddos more and more. Have a delightful day.
Andrea: Have a great day.