It’s easy to get caught up in the little things of your child’s life–music tastes, orderliness, outfit choices, hairstyles… In today’s episode, Dr. Leman discusses the most important value in a kid’s life and how the parent is solely responsible for nurturing this virtue. Learn more about Dr. Leman at BirthOrderGuy.com.
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Doug: Well hello, I’m Doug Terpening.
Andrea: I’m Andrea.
Doug: We are so glad that you are with us today. If this is your first time, with a quick reminder 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. Dr. Leman, this drops a couple days after Memorial Day Weekend. Does the Leman family do anything for Memorial Day Weekend?
Dr. Leman: Well, we usually just have a cook out. We’re very traditional on that line. Actually, probably be in New York at my cottage, and we’ll flip some burgers and some hot dogs and have some friends over. Back east, that’s when you hope by then that Spring has sprung. I live in western New York, and that isn’t always the case. I was back there recently and there was snow on the ground in late April, in places, so yeah, we just kick back and are very traditional as far as that goes. It’s, you know, back east where we go, school’s still in session til about the third week in June, believe it or not. That’s another reason, Doug, why I hated school. I grew up in New York and they kept me in school til the third week in June. No wonder I did poorly.
Doug: Those lousy teachers and principals, keeping you in there that long.
Dr. Leman: Oh, I had teachers that were so old and decrepit, and I see these teachers today, and I go, “Oh my goodness. If I had a teacher like that, I might want to go to school,” but they had these black shoes with about inch heels, and ties, like little shoe laces on them, that they’d tie. Really, I mean old, old.
Doug: Very old, so, so, sold.
Dr. Leman: Yeah.
Doug: Fun, well one of these days Andrea and I hope to make it out to the infamous cabin.
Andrea: Cottage, yeah.
Doug: Cottage on the lake.
Andrea: Yeah, I would love it. That would be fun.
Dr. Leman: I hope so, so tell me, what are we talking about today?
Doug: Okay, let’s jump into today’s topic. Dr. Leman, at the end of the last podcast, you said, “Sometimes parents major on the minors,” or you encouraged us not to major on the minors. What are some of the minors that lots of parents will major on?
Andrea: Yeah, and what are you talking about when you say that?
Dr. Leman: Well, I think the minors are everything from the kids’ music they listen to, to their dress, their hair, their orderliness in their room. They’re the little things of life that just sort of get in the way of good relationships. I love to ask parents, “Hey does your kid have a good heart?” I speak to a lot of business people, and a lot of people who consider themselves visionaries, and I’m quick to point out to them that they can be a CEO, they can be a visionary, and if everything that they possess, in terms of their skills, their business skills, etc., comes from the head, that they will succeed for a period of time, but they will not succeed over a long period of time. Why? Something’s missing, and it’s called heart.
King Solomon was the smartest king of Maul. They said it over in Proverbs 3, in fact I wrote a book called, The Way of the Wise, and it’s a good little book, where I Lemanize that scripture, by the way, pretty good. I might end up paying for that, Lord, someday, but you know, he uses the term, or the word heart three times in these six little verses. What I’d pay attention to, if I’m a parent, is my kid’s heart. Does your kid feel like they’re the center of the universe? Most parents rear their kid, in our society today, like their child is the center of the universe.
Now again, I realize everybody listening to us is not a person of faith, but I’m just telling you, if you bring up your kid to feel like they’re the center of the universe, where’s room for Almighty God in the kid’s life? There’s none, so when I walk in the classroom, over at Leman Academy, and I don’t care if it’s ankle biters, kinders, the first graders, or maybe a fourth grade class, I’ll say, “What kind of a class are you?” Every class is a little different. Some class will respond in unison, “We’re a respectful class,” or “We’re a caring class,” or “We’re a kind class.”
Now see, we really believe, as a school, that we’re not only there to educate kids, we’re a classical school, so our kids will take Spanish in kinder, and Latin in the third grade. It’s rigorous, but we think it’s equally as important to talk about their virtues. What I’m most concerned about, when I see a son or a daughter in any home is, does this kid give a rip about anybody else other than themselves, and again, most of us as parents rear our kids in hotels. What does that mean? It means we give our kids room service, free dental care, free medical care, I mean it’s crazy, premium Wifi. My question is, what does your son or daughter give back to you, give back to the family? How do you develop heart if everything’s about you?
You know my mother, God rest her soul, she dragged me to a thing called Joy Club when I was a kid, and it was horrific, okay? I hated it. We’d go to this lady’s house, in her basement, and sit around and she’d … I don’t know if you guys are even old enough to know what a flannelgraph was, are you?
Andrea: Oh yeah.
Dr. Leman: Do you remember flannel graphs and all that?
Andrea: Oh yeah.
Dr. Leman: Talk about excitement, and I mean I hated that sucker, but it’s amazing, when parents train up kids, and my mom was doing her best, it’s amazing what we remember. Remember the name of the club? Do you remember the name of the club? What was the name of the club?
Andrea: Joy Club.
Dr. Leman: Joy Club, okay, but here it was, it was Jesus, others and you. Now here I am on Social Security, and I still remember the meaning of Joy Club. Did I enjoy Joy Club? No, I hated it. I already said that. It was a pain in the butt to go there. I don’t know how stronger I can say, I really didn’t like it, but even with things you don’t like, sometimes in the process there’s some takeaway. I’m amazed that I look over my life, and I’m at a stage where I can look back over a long period of my life and say, “Okay, who are the influential people of my life?” It was certainly my Mom, she was number one. Dad was certainly number two. My older sister, Sally, was probably number three, followed by my brother, Jack, number four, okay, older sister was more like a second mom to me.
I look at the things that really counted in life, the real lessons in life I learned, the love I received, the confidence that people had in me. I always say, “If you see a turtle on a fence post, you know he didn’t get there by himself.” Well, many of you know my story. I’m not going to go through it, but I was not exactly the most likely to succeed at anything in life, but I had a mom who believed in me, and that’s primary, and so when you look at these things, parents, these things of the heart, they’re really important.
When you believe in this kid, and you expect the best of this kid, and are they going to fail? Yes, it’s part of the human condition, but when you believe in that kid, you’re setting that kid up for good things in life. You pay attention to the heart, that’s the most important thing, and you’re looking for those virtues of kindness and humility. These are the things that you try to teach as best you can, but you teach most of those things through the way you live your life, mom and dad, and you’ve got to remember that they ankle biters, the teenagers, whatever age your kids are, they’re looking at you, and they’re making emotional, spiritual, relational notes about how you live your life.
Doug: Well I’ve learned that the hard way, that I have to get myself healthy, which is interesting. The book that we just talked about, Having a New You by Friday, right, that I have to get healthy before I can have any effect on my kids. How, Dr. Leman, I’m still stuck though. I still feel like I’ve got to teach my kids self-discipline, and I’ve got to teach them through cleaning their room, doing the dishes, mowing the lawn.
Dr. Leman: Just some Vitamin N, Doug. I mean a kid who you say, “Okay, I still need to teach my kid,” like the clean room thing, okay, and the kid asks you for something. He wants to be driven over to the Mall, and you casually walk down the hallway, and you take one look at his room, and you simply say, “No.” “Dad, why? I need to go there. I’ve got to get some stuff for school.” “Well, I see your work’s not done.” Turn your back and walk away.
Dr. Leman: Now, you don’t have to preach. You’re being very matter of fact. You’re saying there’s work to be done, and this goes back to one of the principals from Have a New Kid by Friday, and that is B doesn’t start til A gets completed. Don’t make it more than it is. Invite them in, okay. We talked about pocket answers and people can get pocket answers, you know, at birthorderguy.com, and they’re sort of neat. You know sometimes, as a parent, you need some little pocket answers because the kids will catch you off guard. You don’t quite know what to say, and you need those little ways, and Vitamin N is always a way out. You can always start with,”No.” You can always start with, “That’s an interesting question, you know I need some time to think about that. I’ll get back to you.”
In other words, you just need a way of navigating life’s ways with your kids, so you’re not always at head to head discord.
Doug: Yeah, even my question reveals to me just how of touch I am on this, majoring on the minors and here you are, like the whole time you’re telling me like, “Doug, what’s your kids’ heart? Are they giving back? Are they gentle? Are they kind? Do they care about others? I’m like, I’m going right back to the room.
Dr. Leman: Yeah, either Andrea, let me point out, neither Andrea nor I said you were smart.
Dr. Leman: I want to make that clear.
Dr. Leman: See, this is the human condition, that’s why I love you so much, Doug. You’re willing to say, “You know what? I’ve learned a few things as a man, as a husband, as a dad,” and we gravitate back to those things that, you know, who gives a rat’s tail fifteen years from now, if a twelve year old’s room is spic and span as it could be? I know it could be better, but are we majoring in what’s really important? What do we do when we find out from teacher that your son went and sat down to a kid who is pretty well ostracized by the rest of the peer group, and had lunch with him? What do you say to your kid?
I hope at dinner that night you’ll say something like, “Wow, I heard some awesome news today, and it was about you, James.” Now I’m telling you, James’ ears are up like a rabbit about to run, okay? Then you slip him the commercial announcement, what’s the commercial announcement? “Your teacher shared with me that you went and sat with a kid that nobody seems to like, or pay any attention to at lunch. Honey, I can’t tell you how proud I am of your kind heart. That is so good to hear,” end of commercial.
What have you just slipped into your kid’s head and heart?
Doug: What’s really important.
Andrea: Mm-hmm (affirmative), and I don’t know, by looking at this list of things that sometimes we try and major on, that really what you called are the minors, like their hair, their music, their dress, I think that when the heart is changed, then it’s going to come out in the kind of music that they’re listening to, or I mean maybe their hair, it may not matter at that point, but I think if we get so high centered on those outward things, then like you said, Dr. Leman, the heart gets forgotten, but if we major on the heart, then those outward things, they just come in line.
Doug: Mom, how easy is it to stay on the majors, when your house is in disarray?
Andrea: It’s horribly hard. I just telling you what I heard him say.
Doug: Yeah, I know. Let’s not get practical.
Andrea: I’m not saying I’m a winner at this.
Dr. Leman: It’s easy for you to say, Leman, you come over to my house and you walk through my family room, and see if you can walk through it without falling over junk.
Doug: Yeah, right. What if people came over and saw that house? “Oh no.”
Dr. Leman: You know, this is part of life’s journey, and as you grow older and you mature more, and you get a few bars on your shoulders as a parent, you realize that you step over some of these things. I tell parents, “When a kid throws a temper tantrum at the Mall, you step over the child, realizing the temptation to step on that little sucker, don’t do that, but when you step over the child, you’re avoiding the power struggle.” You’re saying, “If you want to make a fool of yourself in public, go ahead, but my no is a no,” and that’s my advice to parents. Let your yes be yes, your no be no, and kids will work it. They’ll manipulate you, and it’s called purposed behavior, and we’ll discuss that, I’m sure, in one of our podcasts in detail, but trust me, the behavior that your kid, the drama that your kid throws your way, serves a purpose in their life, and if you’re a dummy, you’ll take it hook, line and sinker, and you’ll get into things you have no business getting into with your kids.
Doug: I want to go back to something you said earlier, that I think it’s way more important than I realized when I was a young parent, and that is that our kids are watching us every minute of the day, and they are a reflection of us, and people will often tell you that the Terpening kids seem so calm and patient, and you can probably guess which of the two of us that comes from, right? Andrea has modeled to these kids, and our kids reflect that, and the things that I have, like my whole anger problem, guess what my kids have? My anger problem, and it’s just, I mean it’s amazing.
Andrea: Well, that’s exactly what Dr. Leman said, here a minute ago, he said, “We teach them through how we live,” so that’s sobering, right, because they’re watching us.
Dr. Leman: Well yeah, and everybody who just heard that conversation with Doug and Andrea, think back to that one thing you told yourself as a parent, you will never say to your kids that your parents said to you, okay you got it? This is funny because not only have you said it, but you’ve said it with the same tone and inflection your parents said to you. “Don’t poke your eye out.” When was the last time you saw a kid poke his eye out? “If you don’t sit up on that chair, you’re going to break your neck.” Does anyone know anyone, in your circle of friends, who’s kids have leaned back in a chair and broken their neck? We hope that’s not true, but that’s there’s not anybody in your memory bank of that, but I’m just saying there’s some humor here.
We tell ourselves that we’re going to be so different, and we don’t realize that there’s some negative imprinting on all of us, through our day to day living with mon and dad, and that’s why, back to that Have a New You by Friday book, it’s not rocket science that you are the way you are. It’s based on the fluid dynamic relationship you had with your parents, and you had with your siblings, and how you perceived those differences, that created who you are, how you think, how you view life, etc.
Doug: Well, Dr. Leman, you’ve given me, Doug Terpening, lots to think about again. It’s amazing how much I have left the heart of our kids as I’m looking at you, Andrea, like you’re right. It is about teaching our kids the right kind of heart, so this has been fabulous.
Andrea: Yep, don’t major on the minors.
Doug: Don’t major on the minors, and I think the key phrase for all of you, just as a wrap up, that you may have heard him say is, “Is your kid willing to give back to you and to the family, and to others?” If you want like, okay this was nice, you guys can ramble a bit, but what did you say, have we taught our kids that they’re not the center of the universe, and that they can give back to others? That is gold, gold, gold, to focus on.
Well thank you. Go buy the book. Tomorrow, you can get it for $2.99. Go do it for yourself and you will thank us, all three of us later, that you got the book and read it. Well it was great to be with you guys today.
Andrea: Have a great day.
Doug: Look forward to the next time. Bye-bye.