Do your middle school and high school kids struggle at home? In school? Are you concerned about their choices and the impact it will have on their future? Dive into today’s episode with Dr. Leman and learn how to handle these issues as your kids grow into young adults.

Learn more about Dr. Leman at


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Doug: Well last time, you got to get help if you had that pre-K or kindergartner on up to elementary school kid. And now we get to ask Dr. Leman, what about junior high and high school years? And specifically, we’re going to ask him to drill down on, “Man, my kid and I are either fighting about school or my kid is struggling at school, Dr Leman. What can I do to help them out?”

Doug: Well, hi. I’m Doug Terpening.

Andrea: I’m Andrea.

Doug: And we are so glad that you are with us today and welcome. If this happens to be your first time, 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, I am excited for this episode because as our kids have progressed from elementary to middle school to high school, man, there are some differences there. And there are some way different issues that kids are dealing with as they go through those early years to the teenage peer years.

Doug: So help these parents that are listening to this. Like, “Man, I got this kid out there in middle school and I got this kid out there in high school and I’m telling you this school is H-E, you know what, double hockey sticks. And they’re struggling.”

Andrea: And I hear moms say, “Yeah, my son’s going to be going into middle school.” And middle school has this tinge to the way they say it because that’s a scary step.

Dr. Leman: I’ve got to tell you guys something funny. We get a lot of positive feedback on our podcasts from people. And I got one recently that really just … it was really all about you, quite frankly, the Terpenings. And the quote was, Doug, are you sitting down? The quote was, “Oh, I just love the Terpenings. Especially, especially,” guess who Doug?

Doug: Andrea.

Dr. Leman: Andrea. Yeah. Were you sitting down? You knew that probably.

Doug: Nobody ever said that.

Dr. Leman: People love Andrea because, you know, they say nice things about me once in a while, too. But people really like the Terpenings because you’re married, you’re a couple, you don’t always think alike. I think some of the things that you’ve said, Doug, on our podcast have really endeared yourself to not only men, but to women. When you’ve sort of admitted, you know, I used to be this kind of a guy and I’ve done a lot of changing. And that speaks volumes about the kind of character that Doug Terpening has. But I just think it’s really sort of cute and funny that this lady, I’ll never forget how she said it, “Especially, especially Andrea.”

Dr. Leman: So Doug and Leman are, you know, we’re chump change and she saw gold. So Andrea-

Andrea: And I say about 1% of the words on the podcast.

Dr. Leman: … we’re glad you’re a part of this every day. Well I don’t think it’s 1%. We ought to do a measurement on that sometime, Doug.

Dr. Leman: Anyway, listen. So listen. Yeah, I would like to talk about the older kids. And by older, we’re saying seventh grade and eighth grade. If you’ve never read, by the way, Planet Middle School. I mean check the ratings out on that book. The reviews on that book, they’re wonderful.

Dr. Leman: I don’t mind saying I don’t review my own books, obviously. They tend to scratch where parents itch.

Dr. Leman: But all of a sudden you’ve got this kid who sat in your lap and, you know, goes with the flow. And all of a sudden they hit the hormone group, as I like to call it, around seventh grade. And you wonder if it’s the same kid. Did he grow up in the same house? And so what you have to understand is that they’re beginning to really flex their individuality. They’re spreading their wings a little bit. They want more freedom. I had a 15-year old tell me recently, he says, “Does mom really think that I can’t read the menu?” [inaudible 00:00:03:59].

Dr. Leman: And then there’s the mom saying, “Look, look honey, they have this,” and, “look honey, they have that.” And the kid confides in me is this, “She doesn’t think I can read this thing?”

Dr. Leman: So you’ve got to be careful here. They’re growing up. Let me give you a word picture of Kevin Leman in seventh grade. I walked to school. I grew up in Buffalo, New York, area. I would go to a little restaurant across the street from the school. And we had a seven through 12 school. And I would sit there in the morning and get a Danish pastry, a cup of coffee, and I would smoke some cigarette butts that I smuggled out of my father’s ashtray in my home. And if I didn’t order coffee, I would order a root beer that came in an iced mug. I was such a punk. I mean, and I struggled in seventh grade academically, I struggled in eighth grade. I struggled all through high school.

Dr. Leman: You know, many of you know my story. I graduated right at the bottom of my class in high school. Looking back, my mother seemed to spend more time at school than I did. She certainly spent a lot of time with my teachers. And she went to those proverbial nights where the parents would go from class to class, meet all the teachers. I always hated that because it was like, “Okay, they’re talking about me.”

Dr. Leman: And she’d always come home with the same one liner. “All of your teachers say the same thing. You could really do something if you’d only apply yourself.” I hated that statement. And I heard it over and over and over again. If I would only apply myself, I was a jerk. But you know what? If someone would have pointed out to me that I was the youngest of three children. I wish I knew Dr. Kevin Leman then, because he could have really helped me.

Dr. Leman: He would have said things like, “You know, your older brother, he’s the captain of the football team. He’s the quarterback. He was voted best looking in his class. And your sister, your older sister, I know she’s like a second mother to you, but she never got a B in her life in anything.”

Dr. Leman: Well see, I could have used some insight that I was behaving the way I was behaving because I felt I could never measure up to brother or sister. So when teachers in Williamsville Central High School saw me come up, and they saw that last name, they assumed that I would be like my brother who was a very, very good student, and my sister who was a perfect student. Boy, were they surprised.

Dr. Leman: They used to walk up and down and collect homework papers and you’d put them on your left or right corner of your desk when you were done. The teachers never even broke stride when they came to my desk. They knew it wouldn’t be there.

Dr. Leman: So I’m telling … This is a prelude to what we’re talking about. Kids who struggle in school. What would’ve been helpful is if my parents would have probably got me a tutor, an older girl would be fine, like a freshman. Dimples would be great. Well I won’t go into any more details.

Dr. Leman: But nevertheless, getting me help academically at that point probably would have helped me a lot. And parents, all I’m saying is if you got a kid that struggled … Again, let’s look back at the last school year and how many shouting matches and how many tears and how many slammed doors and how many, “You don’t understand and I can’t do it and you need to help me.” And all those kinds of discussions that took place. What possibly could give you reason to think that this next year, this year that we’re starting right now, is going to be any different? I’m here to tell you it’s not going to be any different. If anything, it’s going to get worse.

Dr. Leman: So what are some creative ways that you can help your child who seems to really lack some basic skills educationally? For some of you it might mean taking them for an evaluation. Maybe there’s some other things going on in the kid’s life. But my point is you have to have a new game plan for this year. And once those kids hit seventh and eighth grade, hopefully you’re kids not sitting at the corner drugstore this morning or at the counter at the little restaurant, smoking a cigarette in seventh grade and drinking coffee. Hopefully they’re smarter than I was.

Dr. Leman: But nevertheless, all I’m saying is, you got to have a game plan here. So if kids are troubled, look for ways of getting help. Go to the teacher, go to the professional, go to the counselor at school and say, “What do you think? What do you think we should do? What kind of help could we give our son or our daughter?”

Dr. Leman: So again, with older kids, they’re now … Activities tend to become more predominant. They take more time. If your kid gets involved in sports, you know what that drill’s like. Which brings me to the point of do you lessen the responsibility that your teenager has in the home? I think the answer is yes.

Dr. Leman: Why do I say yes? Because younger kids need to pick up the slack. Because older kids are involved in more things. They have, quite frankly, less time to do things around the house. And that’s a great way of ensuring that everybody pitches into the family.

Dr. Leman: So again, with older kids, you’re talking about getting a driver’s permit and getting a driver’s license. And I’d ask you the question, is your kid responsible at home? Yes. Is your kid responsible in school? Yes. Well, if there’s two yeses, then yes, a kid can get a job. That’s not a right. It’s a privilege to get a job. Could my kid drive a family car? He could if both of those are yeses.

Dr. Leman: So there’s a lot to consider when you think about the school year and how important are grades? And do your kids have a long-range plan? And are they college material, so to speak? Are they more vocationally oriented? Is your son or daughter in the right high school? Maybe they should be in a charter school, a private school.

Andrea: Dr. Leman, I want to jump back to the struggling student and how you suggested getting a tutor. And I guess what I’m wondering is, what about the kid who’s, it’s because they’re emotionally struggling? Maybe the emotionally struggling has led to academic struggles. But maybe they’re not even academically struggling. Is it still a tutor that they need? Or will the tutor for a child who’s emotionally struggling and academically struggling help the emotional side, too?

Dr. Leman: I think to answer your question directly, I think the academic help helps with the rest of it as well, Andrea. I think parents sometimes move too quickly to take their kid to the neighborhood shrink. And I think they fear that somehow their kids aren’t going to make it, that they’re going to be left behind. There’s a lot of parents who push.

Dr. Leman: We did some shows, in fact, I did a op-ed for Fox News in New York on the super rich actors and actresses who paid exorbitant amounts of money to get their kids into prestigious universities, where they had absolutely no right to be there.

Dr. Leman: So parents are well known for doing things for their kids that kids could be doing for themselves. And it’s fear based, that somehow my kid’s not going to measure up. It’s more important that your kids learn that failure is okay. It’s a stepping stone to doing the right thing and to getting things done right.

Dr. Leman: Again, I go back to the basics. Your kid has to feel like you believe in them. I think I’ve shared this before, but one of my vivid memories from little league baseball. I was 12 years old and I was an All-Star. Okay? I was selected for the All-Star team, so I was a pretty good little baseball player.

Dr. Leman: But I remember facing a guy named Norm Hankinson. I’m telling you, the guy had a five o’clock shadow. He was huge. He needed to shave twice a day and he was 12 years old. I remember him throwing a fast ball and I remember my little knees shaking at that plate. I still remember my father yelling, “Hit it out of the park, Kevin! Hit it out of the park!”

Dr. Leman: And I’m thinking, “Hit it out of the park? How about a foul tick? Would you settle for a foul tick?”

Dr. Leman: But you know, I’ll say something about John and May Leman, they believed in their kid even though there wasn’t a lot of reason to do so.

Dr. Leman: When you think of all mighty God, he looks at us as these little incomplete scribble-like pictures that maybe a four or five year old would do that are on refrigerators across U.S. and Canada today. And yet he loves us. He wants what’s best for us. But are we a completed work? No.

Dr. Leman: And so the hard part, parent, is how do you encourage your kid on a daily basis? And how do you measure out that vitamin N, no, to give balance to your kid, so that your kid knows deep down in their heart you care about them, you care about their feelings. Again, parent, when was the last time you sat at the dinner table and said, “Honey, I’d love your opinion about this. I’d love your opinion about that.” When was the last time you did that?

Dr. Leman: When did you get into your kid’s mind and say, “Help me out. I’m trying to understand some things. I see these things on TV and I hear these stories and I hear things that young people are doing to themself. Like cutting, for example. I don’t get that. Honey, can you shed any light on that?”

Andrea: Hmm.

Dr. Leman: I mean, get it into your kid’s head. Let them know that you live in this world. Let them know that you want their opinion. You respect their ideas.

Dr. Leman: Let me ask y’all a question. All you listening right now, do you associate with people that you’re uncomfortable with? Oh, I heard a resounding no. No way. Then why would your kids hang out with people that they feel uncomfortable around? So the question, parent, is, do your kids feel comfortable around you? And if they don’t, why? Why don’t you ask them? This might be a great learning experience for you.

Doug: Well, Dr. Leman, I really want to come back to the whole believe in your kids and failure is a stepping stone. But I’m not going to forget this time that we have an e-book promotion, which fits in perfectly in here.

Doug: So this one, I know you should be out buying this book. So for a $1.99, from September 3rd through September 9th of 2019, don’t be upset, Dr. Leman. You can get Parenting Your Powerful Child. For those that have no idea what that is, how will that book help them?

Dr. Leman: Well, number one, let me say that should never happen, that you’re able to buy that book for a $1.99. Parenting Your Powerful Child is pure gold. If you have a kid that if you said, “The sky is blue.” He says, “Actually, it’s Aqua.” This is a book for you.

Dr. Leman: This is a kid that when you tell them to do this, it’s a pretty good prediction he’s going to do just the opposite. He has reasons he loves to fight with you, argue with you. Chances are he’ll be a courtroom attorney someday. Who knows, maybe he’ll make a lot of money and give you some money in your old age.

Dr. Leman: But nevertheless, dealing with powerful children, they say I only count in life when I win, when I dominate, when I control. They’re not fun people to live with and they’re certainly not fun people to marry, by the way.

Dr. Leman: So this is a book that helps you to see how you can remove your sails from your child’s wind, from the tornado-like winds that he or she throws your way. Your life will go smoother. Your kid will profit from it. You’ll feel better about yourself and you’ll do it without yelling and screaming at your kid. For $1.99, I’d download that thing this second. You cannot miss on Parenting Your Powerful Child. By the way, that world is full of them.

Doug: You don’t have to hear me augment this, but I’m telling you, go buy that book, buy that book, buy that book. And you will thank us all later. Okay, now a no-nonsense parent advice from Dr. Kevin Leman.

Dr. Leman: It’s safe to say the older you get in life, let me tell you, your faith is going to become more meaningful to you. You see the years and the months tick by and you ask yourself, “Where’d all those years go?”

Dr. Leman: One of the things I’m truly indebted to my sweet mom for, and many of you have heard this story of one form or another, but it bears repeating. She put reminders of the importance of faith in my life as a young kid. There was a picture of Jesus knocking at the door. Many of you of can recall that picture. It’s a picture with no door knob on the outside. The point of that picture was that that door has to be opened on the inside by us, that we have to invite the living God into our life. And the other was a little plaque that read, “Only one life will soon be passed. Only what’s done for Christ will last.”

Dr. Leman: I can tell you as a grown man that I’ve recited that just in the past, I’d say, the past month. I’ll bet I’ve said that little thing to myself 100 times. Just a reminder to put things in perspective about what’s really important in life.

Dr. Leman: Well, one of the reasons why that is real to me today, is that I saw the realness in my mother’s faith. And later in life, my dad’s faith. He came to faith at age 56. It was my mom who was the primary person who set faith in all of her three children. She set it forward in a natural way. I mean, she tried. God love her, she sent me to JOY Club. It was pathetic. It was pathetic. I still remember what JOY stood for, Jesus, others, and you.

Dr. Leman: I hated that thing. It was after school. I want to go out and play and I had to be in some lady’s basement watching flannelgraphs. You’re not old enough to remember what a flannelgraph was. Ask some old guy what a flannelgraph was. They were boring as mud.

Dr. Leman: But, you know, my mom lived the Christian life. She was kind, she was concerned for other people. She prayed for other people. I saw with my own eyes. So all you parents out there who are in such a hurry to make sure your kid has faith, listen, chill, kickback, show your faith, show your life to your kids. Talk to them about things that are a concern. See things in the headlines of the newspapers or on Yahoo News and talk about them. And don’t be afraid to say, “Honey, I’d like to hear your opinion on this.” Remember, their opinion’s going to be different. Don’t ask questions, ask opinion. That’s a little bonus on today’s tip.

Doug: So Dr. Leman, I have two burning questions here. You said failure can be a stepping stone and believe in our kids. But I have to get … My kids have to get almost all A’s or at least all A’s and B’s to have any shot at getting into a good college. So I can’t let them fail. Yet you’re telling me let them fail and use failure as a stepping stone? They’ll never make it to a good college. So why are you dooming my kids to [crosstalk 00:18:49]?

Dr. Leman: Well, all right, let’s play out that scenario real quickly. As a parent, you’re reminding your kid to get in a good college. Someday you need straight A’s and a few B’s and all that. And you can explain to him how much money it is to send them down the road to that university, whether it be private or public. It’s a lot of money these days.

Dr. Leman: But your kid misfires, and he doesn’t do that, and he drags his feet, and he barely graduates from college. Let’s take that.

Doug: Okay.

Dr. Leman: That’s your dreaded fear. He didn’t do anything. He just did enough, a lick and a holler to get by. Today’s educational is set up for that kid. That kid, once motivation sets in, once maturity comes to his life and he says, “I’ve been a fool. I need to do something with my life.” He, even with that terrible high school record, can get in a local community college, he can take two years and get above average grades and transfer to most state universities in the state you live.

Dr. Leman: So the reality is, even though he screwed up in high school, and I’m not advocating, I’m just saying it happens, that kid, with proper motivation, can do two years in a community college, transfer to a university. Really get motivated and want to get a master’s degree or maybe even a doctorate degree. I think we sort of overplay that.

Dr. Leman: I would also underscore that every kid does not need to go to college. We’ve got too many kids in college who do not need a college education. They would benefit from a technical school much more than the local universities.

Andrea: So you’re saying don’t worry about a few failures, let that be a teaching opportunity for them, and it’s going to work itself out down the road?

Dr. Leman: Well, I can’t quote it verbatim, but there’s a thing out there on Abraham Lincoln about how he lost this election. Lost that, failed this, failed this, failed that. I’m going to make a guess that Abe did pretty good in life. Every time I pick up a penny, I have that thought.

Dr. Leman: And by the way, when I say pick up a penny, I no longer pick up pennies. When change drops from my pocket, I survey the situation. If there’s a quarter or two, I might bend down. Sometimes I bend down. I ask myself, “Why did I bend down this far? Now I got to get up.”

Dr. Leman: Yeah, if you talk to anybody in life who’s successful, they’ll tell you a failure was a part of their life.

Doug: So here’s my question. I love all this. This makes me feel good, blah, blah, blah. But Dr. Leman, I got to be honest with you, my kid, we got behavior issues.

Doug: A, I can’t get him to do his work. It’s just a fight at home. And to be honest, I’m working, my spouse is working. I ain’t got time for this. I know I should. I can’t really do this, but he’s out of control. I love all this advice, but I ain’t got the strength.

Dr. Leman: Kids care about money, privilege, cars, internet, games. Parents, you have to hit kids where they hurt. If a kid isn’t pulling their weight in their home, you discipline them with love. Which means, again, would you let a kid drive a car that not responsible? No. Would you give kid money and you know he’s smoking pot? No, I wouldn’t give him a dime. If he wants money, he can go out and earn it. Get a part-time job someplace. You have to realize there’s only certain things you can do as a parent.

Dr. Leman: But what we’re not going to do is make it easy for him to engage himself in things that are hurtful to himself, to others, and society.

Dr. Leman: And sooner or later you have the toilet paper talk that you’ve heard me describe. Where you sit a kid down and try to get attention for just five minutes. And if he’s 15 years old, my suggestion is bring 18 jointed toilet tissue and hold them up in front of your kid. And they’re going to think you’re nuts. And drop them off one at a time until you only have three or four left in your hand.

Dr. Leman: And say, “Honey, you have three or four years remaining in your sentence here in this prison, in this home. We know you’re unhappy living here. We can’t help that. We’re not in charge of your happiness. But I can tell you one thing, that when on your 18th birthday, that’s February 17th if I remember rightly, you are free man. You’re a free woman. You can go anywhere you want. We wish you the best. I know you’re going to tackle life with an enthusiasm and we’re going to wish you the very best at that day.” Sometimes that doesn’t.

Dr. Leman: Sometimes that gets a kid’s attention that, you know what? I am growing up. I am getting older. Or what am I going to do in life? and for some of those kids, they join the service. And they finish high school barely and go in and figure out what life’s all about. And somehow military training helps some of these kids turn their lives around.

Dr. Leman: Or like in my case, it was a spiritual awakening at age 21, changed my life. But I went from a flunking D, F student to an honor roll student and never looked back. How’d that happen? In my case had happened with the intervention of all mighty God.

Doug: So Mrs. T., You got a wild child like that. You got 18 rolls of toilet paper. Can you do that?

Andrea: Oh, it feels kind of cold like to say, “Well, okay. This date you’re out.” But I was just reflecting the other day how important it is that I actually have to kind of let go my kids as young adults and I can’t control their choices. I can’t control where they go. I can love them. And hopefully that relationship will … that they want to come to me for advice. But I have to let go and let them make their own choices.

Dr. Leman: Maybe Andrea, instead of toilet paper, you should use fine chocolates. Bring 18 of them.

Andrea: And I’ll eat them as I count Let’s see, we’re on year 15, so I’ll eat 15.

Dr. Leman: And you give the last four to your son or daughter. Yeah.

Andrea: Okay. I’ll do that.

Dr. Leman: But be sure to put each individual chocolate on a little toilie. A little, you know, whatever they call those things.

Andrea: Doily. Not a toilie.

Dr. Leman: The little fancy … A doily. Did I say toilie?

Andrea: You said toilie. I think I did. Yeah. It’s a doily. It’s a little doily. Or if you want, give him a doily while he’s on the toilie. And that ought to be a good conversation.

Doug: Okay, you two.

Dr. Leman: I almost laughed at myself. That was very bad.

Doug: That was funny. Well, Dr. Leman, that sounds cold-hearted, but Andrea and I have done it. Like, no, we haven’t done the toilet paper thing. But you’ve told us other harsh things to tell … that sound very harsh to our kids. And all of our kids have always responded to them.

Doug: And the other thing that you said, if you’re a new listener, you may not have heard it. But Dr. Leman was pointing out that, use your phrase, they wouldn’t have underwear if it weren’t for you. And don’t be afraid to use the reality that you are paying for all these things to help your kids do the right thing for their sake.

Andrea: The one I like is when you say if they, you know, if they’re talking about leaving home and you say, “Go ahead. I’m sure there’s somebody else that’ll pay for your phone, and your food, and your rent.” And just the reality of there’s nowhere else I’m going to get such a deal.

Doug: So Dr. Leman, full disclosure here, and then we should let you talk, is we actually did that with one of our kids. We said, “Hey, we know that this is a really rough place to have free food, and free internet, and free heat, and free water. And just in a couple years you’ll be out.” And they were pissed at us at first. But you know what? Their behavior changed. It was shocking, actually. So it worked.

Dr. Leman: Well, it’s the reality of life and, you know, I coined the term in 1984, reality discipline, when I did the first edition of Making Children Mind Without Losing Yours.

Dr. Leman: And you know, you mentioned new listeners. And we gather new listeners every week. We know that. I would remind you, young, new moms and dads who’ve never read a Leman book, pick up, Have a New Kid by Friday, or Making Children Mind Without Losing Yours, The Birth Order Book. Those are [inaudible 00:26:23] to understand what we talk about on our podcast every day.

Dr. Leman: If you’re a business person, you’ve never read The Way of the Shepherd or The Way of the Wise, those are two of my favorite little books. And there’s 60-some Leman books out there. So a few of them are good. Trust me, you’ll enjoy them and they’ll be practical and hopefully make you laugh, hope you have a sense of humor.

Dr. Leman: Writing humor is interesting, because you write it and speak it and they’re two different things. People don’t always get humor in the written form. But you’ll like the books. And we thank Revell for sponsoring this podcast. And we get great reviews from those of you who listen to us. And now be a good friend to us and pass it along to your friends. It’s free, as you know, what could be better?

Doug: And if you’re a new listener and you’re just listening to this, I can’t recommend that you read these books enough. And the reason why is it gives you, the parent, the confidence to do the right thing. You just, it’s like having your own coach cheering you on next to you. So it’s helped me tremendously. It’s definitely changed … I tell people it’s changed my parenting. And we have a 20-year old that texts us almost every day. And it’s worth it. So do it, go for it.

Doug: Okay, well, we love helping you and we want you to have an amazing relationship with your kids for decades and decades and decades. And that’s why we do this. And that’s why we encourage you to read these books and we love, love, love being with you. So we look forward to the next time we get to be with you.

Andrea: Have a great week.

Doug: Take care.

Andrea: Bye bye.

Doug: Bye bye.