On today’s episode, Dr. Leman defines the “Bread and Water” treatment and gives examples on how and when one should implement this last resort method.


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Doug: Bread and water. I like bread a lot. I drink a lot of water. But Dr. Leman says, “Give them the bread and water treatment.” What the heck is the bread and water treatment? And how do I actually apply it? And Doug and Andrea want to know because we’ve been trying to do this and don’t know how to do it correctly.

Doug: Hi, I’m Doug Terpenine.

Andrea: And I’m Andrea.

Doug: And we are so glad that you are with us. If this is your first time here, welcome. We want to let you know that this is for your education and entertainment purposes only. If the subject matter raises any concerns for you or your child, please go seek a local professional for help.

Doug: Well, Dr. Leman, we slip these into you every now and then and this is one that Doug Terpenine wants to know an answer to, so you’re now helping Doug Terpenine. Maybe I should have recorded it and played it back as a question. I could’ve been like that, “Hi Dr. Leman, this is

Doug Terpenine and we have a problem.” We have a dear friend whose son has just become uber defiant. He won’t do his chores, he basically won’t do his schoolwork, like he’s-

Andrea: He’s 17.

Doug: He’s 17. Dad talks to him and he just basically snarkies back to him and they were asking us for advice and I said, “Give them the bread and water treatment.” I also thought the toilet paper example too and they’re like, “Well what is it?” I’m explaining to them and then I’m like, “Oh no, I’m even afraid.” Like a, what is the bread and water treatment and when do you apply it and how do you apply it so that if I go back to them I can explain it to them. So there you go, Dr. Leman. What is the bread, water treatment and how do I apply it?

Dr. Leman: The time to apply the bread and water treatment is when you feel like you’ve exhausted about everything and that you are exhausted. I mean in the case of your friend’s kid, 17 years old, defiant doesn’t do a thing, doesn’t do schoolwork. Probably is very mouthy and disrespectful, certainly doesn’t help around the house. He’s just living off it is what he’s doing.

Dr. Leman: And that would be a case where I would say to a parent, if I was doing a consultation with them, I would say, “You know what your kid needs is your kid needs the bread and water treatment because quite frankly, your kid does not have a grateful bone in their body.” And I think it’s really important to treat kids, teach kids rather to be grateful. Most kids in America have clean sheets on their bed. They have freshly laundered towels, wash cloths available to them.

Dr. Leman: Their parents either give them spending money to buy their own clothes or mom is always buying socks, underwear, jeans, you name it. Shoes, athletic shoes for kids. Kids today in America, North America, you Canadians included, you’ve got it made. You’re cared for, you’re overprotected. It’s amazing your parents don’t put helmets on kids the second they’re born, you’re so over protective of the kids. That makes me ill to think about.

Dr. Leman: And so you get these kids who are ungrateful little brats, who grow up to be strong-willed, anti-authority. I don’t care what the authority comes from. They don’t like it. They don’t like anybody telling them what to do. So to answer your question, what’s the bread and water treatment? You give them nothing. That’s where that comes from. The bread and water treatment. There’s food in the house, they are welcome to eat some of it. There’s water at the tap, there’s a bread and a water.

Dr. Leman: That’s where that comes from. That’s all they get. They don’t get driven to school. In fact, I’m going to start by getting everybody’s attention. If I had a kid like you described Doug, who was 17 years of age, didn’t do a lick at school, probably doesn’t show up at school some days. When he’s at school, he does nothing. I’ll tell you what I would do. I would go down and without that kids notice or input, I would withdraw that kid from the local school and I would tell my 17 year old that he is free to go to work, get a job and if he wants any services of the family, he’s going to have to work and give something back to the family in exchange for services rendered here at home.

Dr. Leman: And furthermore, I would tell him, using the toilet paper technique that we’ve talked about before, if you haven’t, we’re not even going to explain it to you. We’ll let you figure it out what it is. Go back and listen to some other podcast. Give him the toilet paper treatment that says, “You know what? On your 18th birthday, which is coming up here in four and a half months, you are free. We are no longer holding you back from the many things you want to do in life. The adventures await you, success awaits you and nobody wishes you more luck than good old mom and dad. But when you turn 18 you’re out of here. You need to go find your own place.”

Andrea: Okay compassionate Andrea has to jump in here.

Dr. Leman: But see, that’s the bread and water treatment that says we’re done. So you can say, “Leman, it sounds like you’re going on strike.” Yeah, we are going on strike. We’re done. Because everything we have tried has been thrown back in our face. And so we’re throwing in the towel. We come to realize that we can’t change you. You have to be who you want to be. And apparently this is who you want to be, but you can’t be who you want to be on our nickel once you hit 18.

Dr. Leman: And so this is a kid that might go down and sign up for the army and that might be a good thing because he won’t be able to pull the kind of stuff he pulls with you to a tough master Sergeant. So again, it’s one of those last resorts as a parent that says, “You know, I’m making a fool of myself here. I keep giving this kid money and he comes home smoking like pot. I’m supporting his habit, he’s driving my car that I ensure and he’s not a responsible kid. And I give him the keys to the car.”

Dr. Leman: Who’s the dumb one here? The kid or you? I can answer that. You. You’re the dumb one. You’re the one that gave the kid the keys to the car. Well, Dr. Leman, I mean school, we think school’s very important. Well, he doesn’t. There’s the problem. And by the way, you talk about not driving him to school. Do you know he lives … We live a mile and a quarter from the school. Exercise is good. Talk to the American Health Association, they’ll tell you, he can walk.

Dr. Leman: I know. I grew up in Buffalo, New York. He can walk. Trust me. So I’m just saying, one of my little things that you find in the book, Making Children Mind Without Losing Yours is there’s a time to pull the rug out and let the little buzzer tumble and those little tumbles sometimes hurt. Sometimes they get scraped up emotionally with that. But you’ve got to draw the line someplace.

Dr. Leman: And in this kid, your friend’s 17 year old son, that line should have been drawn years ago and you wouldn’t be facing what you’re facing today. So again, do you want a blow out or a slow leak? I’m always of the blowout. I’d much rather have a blowout and deal with things early than let things just erode away.

Andrea: Okay. That’s really painful because what if this kid just takes to the streets? It’s not like mom’s done. Mom’s heart is going to be crushed over and over by where this child’s life is going.

Dr. Leman: Andrea, there’s thousands of parents tonight throughout the US who are wondering where their kids are, who are under the age of 18. There are kids who just figure they know more than the rest of us and they are out in the streets and any time a kid leaves the home, he is in peril. She is in peril. I think I’ve told the story on one of our podcasts where a 15 year old girl knew it all. She took off and she never saw noon the next day. she was found strangled, she was killed.

Dr. Leman: But anytime you go out on your own as a youngster, you’re at risk. What am I going to do? Tie a kid to the bed that wants to run away? My advice to parents when kids run, and usually they run to another kid’s house, usually they’re not on the street. Usually, they’re at one of their buddies’ houses.

Dr. Leman: And I’ve had cases where the kid runs away. He still goes to school, which I think is funny. So yeah, it’s hard to hear. But it took 17 years to get that kid to that rebellious point. And if the parent would have read Making Children Mind or Have A New Kid By Friday and implemented some of those simple techniques when that kid was six and seven and kicking them and name calling and all the things that kids do when they become powerful, they would have never got to this point where that 17 year old is there.

Doug: So how does someone like Andrea though realize that doing all these drastic changes are not going to make his life worse?

Dr. Leman: Well, if you look at anybody who did a metamorphosis in their life, they did a real 180, you’ll find that cornerstone of that was failure. It wasn’t victory. Trust me, it came out of failure. It’s just like the drug addict. I’m going to go out and greet a kid this week who is a former heroin addict. He’s been in jail several times.

Dr. Leman: And you know what, with God’s help, he’s beat it. And he’s got a responsible job and he’s getting there. He’s in his twenties, he now wears a tie to work and I’m going to go out. I’ve never met this kid by the way. He’s a grandson of a friend of mine and I’m going to go out and I’m going to meet him and I’m going to say, “Hey, my name is Kevin. I’ve heard your inspiring story and I just want to congratulate you because I love inspiring stories.” And I’m going to extend my hand and shake his hand, which I hope he’ll shake my back because he’ll find some money in that handshake and I will leave.

Dr. Leman: All he knows is I’m Kevin. And I just wish him well. My wife and I have done that kind of stuff for years. I call it natural tithing. If anybody cares for a term for that. I call it natural tithing. I love success stories like that. But that kid was going nowhere and it was through some tough love, some bread and water treatments on the part of people who really loved and cared about him that helped him make that decision that I don’t want to live like this anymore. I don’t want to be homeless. I don’t want to live on the streets.

Dr. Leman: So are all those stories successes? No. Most of them don’t end up in success. A lot of them have tragic endings. But I’m asking you, what do you do with that 17 year old? Do you continue to placate and give and get nothing back? That doesn’t seem like a healthy relationship to me.

Doug: I need to put the ebook promotion in and when we come back, I’m going to ask some specifics on how you actually apply this. Because I realized, I don’t actually know how to apply this. But the ebook promotion is, Have A New Husband By Friday. October 15 through the 31st of 2019 for $2.99. Have A New Husband By Friday. Dr Leman, I know that you already gave us last week a little blurp on what this is. Anything else that you’d want to add to Have A New Husband By Friday?

Dr. Leman: Well, it’s a book that will change your marriage, ladies. It’s going to teach you some basics that you have to understand about us as men. Things that you assume about us will be revealed in this book not to be true. It’s going to get your attention. You’re not going to believe some of what I write in that book, but trust me, it is well worth your reading.

Dr. Leman: It is one of my all time favorite books. I would say in the top four or five for sure of all the books that I’ve authored and it’s a must read. It’s a read you want. If you’re an adult and you’ve been married several years and you’ve got kids starting off in relationships, it’s a great book for them to read as well.

Doug: Have A New Husband By Friday for $2.99. An ebook. And I guarantee you if your marriage is struggling, this is, for three bucks, you will be very thankful. And now, a no-nonsense parenting moment with Dr. Kevin Leman.

Dr. Leman: All right, you parents, you know, I’ll tell you the truth. There’s days I just close my computer. You asked me all kinds of questions and actually, I think I’m about as responsible as anybody at trying to answer questions for people. But there’s so many, I can’t get through them all. But I do my best. I want you to know that.

Dr. Leman: But one of the major questions I get from parents is at what age do I give my son or daughter a cell phone? I’ve heard all the safety arguments. Dr. Leman, we just want to make sure our little Harper can contact us if he needs us. Oh, you can get him a cheap cell phone for that. You don’t have to get him an eight or a 10, you don’t have to get him a smart phone. You get him a dumb phone.

Dr. Leman: Parents always want to pin down an age. I try not to do that and yet I think today, by the time I’m done, I’m probably going to give you an age to consider. Kids who are, I mean five, six, seven, eight, nine, 10, 11, 12, there’s no way those kids should have cell phones, but they have them. They have them in great number, especially the 12, 11, 10s. I mean almost all kids have cell phones. Cell phones are wonderful things, but kids grow up way too fast.

Dr. Leman: There was a book once called All Grown Up And Nowhere To Go. That’s how kids are today. They’re all grown up way too early and they’re getting into things that, quite frankly, they shouldn’t, that are very destructive. without coming across like the old guy that I am, if you asked me for a time, a date, I would say no earlier than 14. If you pushed me hard, I could say 16 but kids today are way overly involved in their phone, in YouTube, in Instagram and you name it.

Dr. Leman: We were sitting in a restaurant this week. There were seven at the table. There were three adults and four kids and of the seven at the table restaurant, five of them had their heads in a cell phone. And what they’re looking at, who knows? Is it stuff they have to look at? No. That little cell phone has trained us. If you hear a little bing, I mean you’re like a rabbit with her ears up. You can’t wait to see why your phone just pinged. Late breaking news. Here it is. Are they useful? Yes. Are they great? In many ways. Should you use restraint in getting kids to have cell phones? Yes. I think you should.

Dr. Leman: I say 14. You say 11, you say nine. Go ahead. Give it him at nine. Give it him at 11. You’re the ones that asked me the question. Okay. I try to give you a straight answer. I think 14 is about the proper age to give a kid a cell phone. Also think they ought to be thoroughly engaged in paying for that cell phone because it’s going to drop. It’s going to crack and all that. Let them save, let them work hard to get that cell phone. Don’t just hand them a cell phone. Over and out. Call me if you don’t like this.

Doug: Okay, Dr. Leman. So here’s where we stumbled on applying the bread and water treatment with our friends was they asked, “So he can’t eat whatever he wants in the fridge that he feeds himself.” But then they were saying, “Well ,if he does chores, do we say, ‘Okay, you now get heat and electricity?'” How do you apply it? He’s only doing 10% of the chores and stuff like that. How do you actually administer it?

Andrea: I was going to add that they’re to the point where they’re saying the next thing they’re going to do is buy him a tent and tell him you live outside. So yeah.

Dr. Leman: Well, you need a day of reckoning. There needs to be a time where you say very calmly that, “You know what, things aren’t working out here like we thought they would. They’re certainly not working out for you. You’re very unhappy here. You’ve made that known to not only us as your parents, but to your brothers and sisters and it’s time that we come up with a little different way of doing things and you’re going to see some changes in us real soon. You’re probably not going to like those changes you see.”

Dr. Leman: And that’s how I’d start. I’d start with just that, that you’re going to see changes and he’s going to test that out. He’s going to ask for that $20 bill. He’s going to be asked to be driven someplace. Your response is going to be, “Honey, I don’t feel like driving anywhere now.” “But mom, I need …” “No, I hear what you’re saying, but you have to really hear what I’m saying. I’m not driving anywhere. You don’t need my permission for anything. You’ve made it clear. You want to live your life the way you want to live it. Well, you live it. Go ahead and live it.”

Dr. Leman: And when he gets left out of things that you might do with the rest of the family, he’ll notice that. “Honey, every time you’re included, we have a big blowout and everybody goes on unhappy and we’re done. We’re not doing that anymore.” So bit by bit, he sees his whole world is beginning to crumble around him.

Dr. Leman: It’s called reality discipline. You’re letting the reality of the situation become the teacher to the child. This can’t go on like this, it’s broken so you’re here until you’re 18. We’ll have that conversation. It doesn’t have to all be in the same day. That’s why I say if Doug’s asking a question about how do you implement that, just let him know that he’s going to see some changes.

Dr. Leman: But there are going to be changes he’s not going to like, because you’re not kowtowing to him. You’re not placating him. You’re not giving him things that he says he needs or want. There’s food in the house and there’s water to drink and you got your clothes in your room and do what you want to do.

Doug: Would you ever say to the kid, “Hey, in four months, you’re out of here, so let’s just start practicing now. we’re giving you nothing like you’ll have in four months.”

Dr. Leman: That’s what the conversation about is, you know, you have to learn how to say that. You have to put it almost tongue in cheek. There’s success out there waiting for you. You seem to know everything there is to know in life. You certainly don’t need our input. We wish you the best. But on your 18th birthday, you will be out of this home and if, by chance, your 18th birthday comes and goes and you haven’t removed yourself from our home, your personal belongings, you will find outside of our home. And you can do with those whatever you want.

Doug: So say it but not in spite. Don’t say it spitefully just say it frankly.

Dr. Leman: No, it’s hard to speak the truth in love, Doug, because our emotions, you know, for the Andreas of the world, she would have a terrible time doing that. She’d be a mess.

Andrea: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Dr. Leman: You’d have to be the one that stands up. She’s going to be hiding behind you, using a good deal of Kleenex. Those kinds of things, it goes back to we can’t keep living like this. It goes back to the slow leak theory. There’s a time for action, not pointing fingers, but you know, if we would have done this long time ago, we wouldn’t have got to this point. So those are tough things. Parents, if you’ve never read, Have A New Teenager By Friday, there’s a lot of action-oriented stuff in that book. For those of you who have middle-schoolers, Planet Middle School. If you’re struggling with a mouthy middle schooler and you don’t like today’s topic and you never want to be there with your kid, read Planet Middle School, it’ll help put you on a path that will have a lot happier ending than the one we’re talking about today.

Doug: Yeah, and I’ll also throw in Making Children Mind Without Losing Yours as well. And maybe we’ve given you too many books to read, but we just beg of you, go get one of these books and read it for yourself so that you don’t end up in this spot. Because I can tell you, Andrea and I were fostering rebellion until we changed our parenting ways. And you don’t want to. You don’t want it. So it breaks our heart. So go read those books for your sake. Not for ours, but for yours.

Doug: Well, thank you Dr. Leman for helping us out. This is still going to be a tough conversation with our friends. I don’t know how we’re still going to help them fully see it, but this definitely, definitely helps me and we appreciate it. [inaudible 00:18:55].

Doug: Well, we look forward to the next time we get to be with all of you. And don’t forget, Have A New Husband By Friday, October 15 to 31st of 2019 for $2.99. Go and get it. Take care.

Andrea: Have a good week.

Doug: Take care. Bye bye.