If your kid is cutting, it’s because they are hurting. Learn how you can take action to help your kid on this episode of Have a New Kid by Friday Podcast.
Show Sponsored by Revell, a division of Baker Publishing
Produced by Unmutable™
Doug: Cutting, I wish I could be joking about it but it seems to be a serious thing that sometimes is becoming more prevalent in our lives. What do I do if I find out that my kid is cutting? And how do I react? How do I respond? What does it all mean? That’s the question we get to ask Dr. Leman and hear his answer from him.
Hi, I’m Doug Terpening.
Andrea: And I’m Andrea.
Doug: We are really, really glad that you are investing in your kids and that you are just saying, “I want to be a better parent.” Kudos to you. And we want to let you know that if this is your first time, 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.
Well, Dr. Leman, this question comes via a pretty good friend of ours who said, “Hey, cutting has become a reality far too close to our home. What do we do about it?” And we didn’t know what to say, so help us. Why does it happen? What should we do about it? Can you enlighten us?
Dr. Leman: Okay. Before we do that, and this is a good topic, it’s a tough topic, I want to start on a little lighter note. How many years you guys been married?
Dr. Leman: Okay, Doug, with that in mind, I want to know what is Andrea’s shoe size?
Doug: Oh, crud. I think she’s a six in a women’s. No, a seven. An eight.
Andrea: Do you think I have big feet? Are you saying I have big feet?
Doug: A five.
Andrea: I wear seven and a half.
Dr. Leman: Give up and give me one answer.
Doug: And like a seven’s not close enough. I got to go seven and a half.
Andrea: Well, you went to eight.
Dr. Leman: Well, you sort of went… You covered the waterfront is what you did. I’m going to pin you down on this one. What’s is Andrea’s favorite veggie?
Andrea: You got me thinking.
Doug: I’m going to guess that her favorite veggie might be… Oh, this is super easy. It’s the one you dip in butter and you put through our teeth. Oh, what’s that one that I hate so much? Not eggplant. Artichoke hearts.
Doug: Artichokes, yeah, artichokes.
Andrea: You put through your teeth.
Dr. Leman: How he’d do on it? Did he do good on that one?
Andrea: He was very creative. Yes, because I was thinking carrots, broccoli. What’s my favorite? I love vegetables, but yeah, that was good. That was good.
Dr. Leman: Is there a favorite meat that she likes?
Doug: Maybe bacon, believe it or not. Or, I would say pork chops.
Dr. Leman: Okay. How’d he do?
Andrea: Well, honestly, I have a soft spot for hamburgers.
Doug: True. I did know that.
Andrea: Yeah, you should have just said it. It’s not really a meat. I mean, but it is the way the meat is prepared, so yeah, beef.
Doug: Ground beef.
Dr. Leman: Okay. All right. Well, let’s flip things around. What’s Doug’s shoe size?
Andrea: Doug is a nine, possible a wide.
Doug: Yeah. Correct.
Dr. Leman: Okay. You got that right. All right. What’s his favorite veggie?
Andrea: Well, he says he likes cauliflower now, if it’s steamed well. I’m going to go with broccoli dipped in hummus.
Dr. Leman: Hummus. How’d you do?
Doug: Perfect. Except for the cauliflower. That was a stab at me, but that’s all right.
Dr. Leman: All right. How about his favorite meat?
Andrea: Steak, a good tender steak.
Dr. Leman: How does he like his steak done?
Dr. Leman: He likes it fighting back?
Andrea: Mm-hmm (affirmative).
Dr. Leman: One of my favorite lines from the old Buddy Gibson… Not Buddy Gibson, Buddy Epsen, Beverly Hillbillies, was granny asked somebody how they liked their possum, hanging at the bone or fighting back?
Andrea: That’s disgusting.
Dr. Leman: But anyway, I’ll admit one thing to you and then we’ll get to the serious topic of cutting. We were on one of our cruises where I speak on a cruise and bring lots of people. And by the way, if you have access to a group of people, lots of people, 30 people or over, we can always put together a cruise where I’ll come and speak on the cruise and all that. But we’ll talk about that another day. But those kinds of things are possible.
But my wife and I were doing The Newlywed Game on the cruise, and we scored zero points. Zero. We didn’t get one right. Now, we’ve done this several times where we did pretty good. But I remember that one cruise ship, we got zero points on The Newlywed Game. And we claim to know each other pretty good. So you guys pass the test with flying colors.
Now, we’re going to move on to the wonderful topic of children who are cutting. This has grown to be a huge problem in our country and others, where kids self-mutilate themselves. And some people might not be aware of this, but kids will cut, they’ll literally cut and make themselves bleed, especially on parts of their body where they can cover that up. So if you have a kid that you live in a warm climate, for example, and you got a kid who all of a sudden no longer wears short-sleeve shirts. All of a sudden it’s always long sleeve, and maybe the color that that kid used to wear is no longer obvious. Now, it’s dark color, black color, or friends have disappeared, grades have dropped. I’m mentioning these other things because many times they go hand in hand with a kid who’s feeling sullen and withdrawn and is cutting.
It’s something that parents just have to be aware of. If your kid is cutting, I mean, we can end the podcast in one minute by saying, “This is something serious.” You rarely hear me say, “You need to go and find someone who’s really good with kids, who understands the psychological dynamics of cutting, whether it be a psychologist, a trained counselor, a psychiatrist,” if you can find a good one, they’re worth their weight in gold, “to help your kid see what the motivation for cutting is.”
Many of you will be surprised to learn that the number one reason why kids will cut is that they feel it’s the only area that they have some control over in their life. So if you’re a highly structured parent, you know exactly how life ought to be, you’re opinionated, you just know how other people should behave, especially your children, you’re probably creating a situation where a kid might very well reach into the area of cutting. But it’s a symptom of a lot of unresolved issues of anger and control in your son or daughter’s life, and they should be seeing someone. So there, you don’t hear that from me very often.
But the key thing I want parents to hear me say is this is a direct result of them feeling like you’re micromanaging their life. You’re not giving them freedom of choice. You’re one of those parents who say, “This is how it is.” And many times just because of your personality, you’re that type A, firstborn, controlling person, you don’t see yourself very accurately. You don’t see yourself as controlling, but yet you are. So a question to ask, any kid who is cutting is, do you feel like life is laid out for you? I think you’ll be surprised to find out that most kids who are cutting say exactly that.
It’s a tough one, it’s a tough subject to talk about. It can deteriorate emotionally. Many times you’ll see the psychological diseases that come our way, the psychopathology that develops into mental illness is going to spring up in the late teens and early twenties. So lots of times these symptoms manifest themselves when kids are in high school.
I don’t know what you think of that, Dr. Doug and Dr. Andrea, but that’s a take on cutting to share with your friends.
Doug: Wow. So if I heard you right, I just want to repeat it that I heard it right. If I find my kid is cutting, I should go get professional help right away. That’s what you’re saying.
Dr. Leman: Right. Yeah. And you can be a part of that. I wouldn’t be surprised to see a professional say, “Well, I’ll be glad to see your 17-year-old, but I want to schedule an appointment with you and your bride as well.
Doug: How likely is that kid to want to go to counseling do you think?
Dr. Leman: Not very.
Dr. Leman: How anxious is any man that wants to go to counseling?
Doug: So how do I help get my kid there or not?
Dr. Leman: You make the appointment, you take him. This is serious. This is life-threatening behavior. There’s no choice here.
Andrea: So when you say it’s life-threatening, is this like a sign of deep depression and their next step is suicidal?
Dr. Leman: Bingo. I mean, every negative you can think of Andrea, anything negative you can think of comes right out of the cutting-like behavior because it’s an act against their own body. It’s saying, “I’m not worth it. I’m giving up. I’m dropping out.” Anyway, you go, it’s negative. And that’s why you’ll rarely hear me say, “Hey, this is something you need to get somebody else involved in, real quickly.” And the smart physician or psychologist will get you involved in that therapy.
We’re getting into some basics about forgiveness, and didn’t realize that we weren’t giving you the kind of choices that we should be giving a youngster growing up in our home, and there’s got to be a real melting of the hearts and an asking for forgiveness and extending of grace to people. And hopefully, that kid’s not that far dug in that he or she’s going to be able to make the turnaround.
For example, what about anorexic kids? Those of you who are old enough to remember The Carpenters. Karen Carpenter died of anorexia. Well, one of the things you’ll almost always see with anorexia or bulimia is perfection, and perfection is what? Slow suicide. There’s certain disorders that we see in young people that just need immediate attention, and should never be taken lightly. Cutting, anorexia, bulimia are things that I see in sort of one big, huge self-destructive behaviors, and you have to get some outside professional help.
Ask around, talk to your physician, find out who’s good in town. I get asked that all the time, and quite frankly, I shouldn’t say this publicly, but I will. I refer to one person in Tucson who I have tremendous confidence in, and she’s not a doctor. She’s a counselor, for lack of a better term. But she is so good with families. She is so good with kids. And so find someone out there who’s practical, who’s on-hands, who has a heart for your family, and can help you walk through these dark days, because those are dark days for your family.
Doug: When we come back, I want to find out when we say the parent is the one creating this, wow, I think a lot of parents also just stood up and listened and said, “Okay, am I that parent?” So I want to ask that question when we come back. But this is super apropos now, to the book that is available from our friends at Revell, which is When Your Kid is Hurting. For $1.99, between now and the end of July of 2020, you can get it for $2.
Andrea: That’s only two more days.
Doug: Yeah. So you got to get it soon. When Your Kid is Hurting, for a buck-99. So Dr. Leman, how would that book help somebody if they stumble on this situation with their kids?
Dr. Leman: Well, this is the book for our topic today. I mean, these are the kinds of things. When Your Kid is Hurting, this is the book of all the Leman books to read if you’re in that kind of a situation. And again, I’ve said before, for most of us, you don’t have to run out and get that book today, but you’ll be so smart to take advantage of it, download it, keep it in your library, so when those tough days come your way, and they’re coming, whether it’s breakup with a boyfriend, end engagement, I mean, you name it, your kid can find themselves in all kinds of hurtful situations. You will profit quickly from reading this book. This is one, like I say, it’s not a regular read for everybody, but the day is coming, so you might as well get it now. It’s a buck 99, is that what you said?
Doug: Correct. A buck 99.
Dr. Leman: Yeah. Perfect. Download that puppy. You’ll need it. It’s a good book.
Dr. Leman: People who’ve read it, love it.
Doug: So get it now, between now and the end of July of 2020, on ebook. All right, Dr. Leman, so if I’m a thoughtful parent and I’m like, “Oh, I need to change,” what is the parent doing to create this? Is that the right question I’m asking, Andrea? I’m asking, I want to know if I’m doing these things to my kids, that’s going to lead to this?
Dr. Leman: You know who you are. Okay? Everything’s got to be just so. We look at your home, for example, what is your home look like? Is it neat as a pin? I remember going into a guy’s house once, and it was just so strikingly perfect. I said, “Well, don’t you have a junk room in this house or something?” He says, “Oh, yes, yes.” He took me to a closet, and I’m not kidding you, there was a little chest in the bottom of it that must have been, I’d say 14 to 16 inches deep and probably 18 inches tall. And he opened it up and he had a few things in there. That was his definition of a junk room. Everything’s in place. Everything’s perfect. You know those kinds of people.
Let me ask you something, as an adult, do you feel comfortable in those homes? You use a Kleenex and you throw it in a wastebasket and you notice that the mom, the wife, walks over and takes it to the main garbage container and puts it away. There’s a place for everything. It’s like everything is sanitized, everything is perfect. And the kids get the message that they’re like the laboratory rat, and this is the maze you go down. And when you’re in seventh grade, you’ll take this maze to the left, when you’re in high school, this one to the right. And of course, you’ll go to college and this kind of college. I mean, life’s mapped out for them.
Those people who have all their little ducks in a row, who functioned on making sure everything in life is perfect, you’ve imprinted your children with a message that you only count in life when you measure up. My question is, what happens when you don’t measure up? What happens when the C’s come home on the report card and not the straight A’s? What kind of reaction is there from the parents? Not a response, a reaction. I guarantee it’ll always be a reaction. It’s the end of the world, you got C’s. Or the end of the world, you got one C, or you got a C plus or a B. So if you paint a picture of perfection in life, you’re setting your kids up for failure.
Andrea: So what if the house isn’t a perfect showpiece, but you paint perfection in other ways, whether it’s grades? And then I have another element to this question.
Dr. Leman: Well, let’s just stop at that question because this shows everyone the genius of Andrea. Because here I painted perfection, perfection, perfection. She says, “Hey, Dr. Leman, what about this person whose house is rather slovenly? Well, one of the things that I’ve written about, I’ve written a lot about perfection. And the worst kind of perfection, quite frankly, can be found in that home where there’s piles. But I’ve often said, ask someone who’s got a house full of piles and asked them to find something, they know exactly which pile to look in. That makes them the critical-eyed parent. Who’s the flaw picker?
It’s not just the first picture that we’ve painted of perfection in the home. It’s that little rudder, the tongue is always quick to point out what could be different. And so, again, the same message comes across to the kids that you didn’t measure up. And it’s very discouraging. So instead of getting vitamin E, which is encouragement, they’re getting vitamin D, which is discouragement, on a continuing basis, where the kid will give up, they’ll stop trying. And the anger that they have toward their parent, now we’re getting a little clinical here, is pointed in toward themselves. And they go off into self-destructive behavior, whether it’s drugs or cutting, or you name it. Do you see what I’m saying? So I’m so glad you asked that question. That is a great followup question to what we just talked about.
Doug: Well, ending right here, just thinking through our own upbringing. And I just wonder how many of those parents came from really crummy backgrounds themselves, and didn’t know how to deal with it and just pass it on to their kids. It’s probably the situation that we’re doing, huh?
Dr. Leman: Oh yeah, it’s generational. I’ve told the story, but I came home 19-years-old as a janitor and announced at the dinner table, “I’m engaged.” I can’t even say it without laughing now. “I’m engaged to be married.” I’m making $195 a month, not a week, a month, full-time. I’m a janitor in a hospital and I’m going to get married. What does my mother say? “Oh, that’s nice, honey. Pass the green beans.” I mean, she did what I’ve verbalized for millions of parents. Kid has a power tantrum, step over the child, walk away. She just gave it a ho-hum. She gave it a, “Wow. Interesting, you idiot.” I’m so glad she didn’t go into some spiel about, “What do you mean you’re engaged. You couldn’t be engaged. You don’t make two nickles. You’re not old enough. You’re not mature.” None of that. She stepped over it.
It didn’t take me long to figure out, this is the dumbest thing I’ve ever done. I went and got my $20 back on the down payment for the diamond ring at Montgomery Wards. You can only imagine what a great ring that was.
Andrea: What about the family where they find the child is cutting, and this family has just gone through a divorce, dad has been unfaithful to mom? There’s obviously turmoil going on in the home. I mean, maybe there was perfectionism before that, but…
Dr. Leman: Yeah, so it’s not perfectionism, the enemy here. It’s the poison that you poured into the child’s soul. Well, what poison is that, Leman? How about the divorce? This is not late-breaking news, but more the nuclear destruction, teenagers fear that their parents will get a divorce. It’s a kick in the emotional gut that lasts a lifetime. I’ve had kids look me in the eyes and say, “Oh no, I’m glad my parents got a divorce.” Well, okay, “I’ll take that for what it’s worth, but I’ll guarantee you in a period of a few years, you’ll figure out that you’re not so happy that they got a divorce, and that you’re probably paying for it right now in your life.”
Situational things that are happening in a kid’s life can be so burdensome that they turn that anger inward. That’s why kids kill themselves. I mean, I recently was aware of a situation where mom, who’s a great mom, really a great mom from everybody’s appraisal, understanding, grace-filled, not a control freak, but her kid hung himself. And on top of that, he wrote a very nasty, angry suicide letter. Where’s that come from? It comes from a buildup of anger, maybe at himself, maybe through ridicule of classmates in school, or self-perception that were just so inaccurate. But those things happen. Suicide happens.
There’s things in life that parents, no matter how good a parent you are, and again, we’re trying to help parents become better parents, but I’m just saying you have to understand there are circumstances in life, where people just do something out of self-will. If you’re a person of faith, God gave us free will to do what we want to do. A lot of people engage in self-destructive behavior every day of their life. Some of them don’t exercise that in the forms of taking their own life or something, but nevertheless, self-destructive behavior has been with us for a long time.
We’re just trying to help families create creative ways of sharing our imperfection with each other, growing together, learning from our mistakes, moving toward a common goal and providing kids with a happy childhood, which in all probability, will lead to a very happy adulthood. So is life perfect? No. Do we have all the answers for everything? No, we don’t. So you do the best you can every day.
Andrea: If there was one word of encouragement. We can give parents here at the end of this heavy podcast, what would you say Dr. Leman?
Dr. Leman: I would say, I would not be reticent to share your imperfect self with those you love, because the reality is that we’re all imperfect. We all fall short, every day of our life. And when you understand how imperfect you are, then and only then, in my biased opinion, are you able to live the life that your maker would have you live; to think better of other people than yourself, to be a servant leader any way you can, to bless other people, to encourage other people, and to treat people the way you’d like to be treated. That’s a pretty good mantra for life, isn’t it?
Doug: I don’t know how many times I’ve heard you say that. That’s so helpful. Recently, I’ve been trying to start my time in the morning with God and saying, “Lord have mercy on this sinner, your beloved son.” And it felt weird at first, but now it’s like, wow, you know what? It really is great to admit my imperfections and know I’m still loved. It’s powerful. You’re right, to not try and be perfect to get love, but be imperfect and still be loved is amazing. Wow. And I took it back serious. Andrew, you’re trying to get us all light.
That was great, Dr. Leman. I want to encourage all of you parents out there, that if you are wondering if you are this, I would encourage you to go get the book, Have a New You By Friday, so that you can start changing yourself and watch your whole family change. I’m just telling you, the secret to this parenting is you change, and your whole family changes. That’s a phenomenal book. Also, get any of them, Making Children Mind Without Losing Yours, to give yourself some perspective of some of the things you’re doing that you don’t want to do, so that you don’t end up here. Can’t encourage it enough. Please, for your sake, go and do this.
Well, this one was super, super heavy. But I appreciate you being honest with us, Dr. Leman. Thank you.
Andrea: Yeah, I hope this helps somebody out there.
Doug: As a reminder, take this serious. And also, this is why we’re doing this podcast, so that you don’t get here, Lord willing, and that you are investing in this. Get the books, read them for yourself, gain the skills you need, so that you can love those kids more and more.
As always, we look forward to the next time that we get to be with you and add to your parenting toolbox.
Andrea: Have a great week.
Doug: Okay. Bye-bye.