It’s time for another Ask Dr. Leman: “How do I get my teenage son to talk to me?” Discover how Dr. Leman answers the question on this episode of Have a New Kid by Friday Podcast.
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Doug: Hey son, how’s your day going? Fine. How was school? Eh. Do you get tired of one word answers from your teenage son? Well, that’s the question Ana asked, “How do I get my 14 year old to talk to me?” And we get asked Dr. Leman his answer.
Hi, I’m Doug Terpening.
Andrea: I’m Andrea.
Doug: And we are so glad that you are with us today on Have a New Kid by Friday with Dr. Kevin Leman. It is a joy that you are here with us. If this happens to be your first time, I 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 seek a local professional for help. Well, before we hit record on the button, we were just laughing about the idea of how would people describe Andrea Terpening and how would they describe Doug Terpening? So well, Dr. Leman, Do you want to give them your description of what you think they’re going to say about me?
Dr. Leman: No, we’re not going to tell them anything, but I think it’s interesting because how many times have you listened to people on the radio and you really don’t know what they look like? But most of us get an imagery in our mind about what somebody looks like. And I thought it might be fun to see if our podcast people would like to take a shot at describing what not only you look like, Doug, but your bride as well.
Doug: Well, and I thought it was so fun that you’re willing to offer your new book to anybody who comes closest to describing what Andrea Terpening looks like and whoever comes closest to what Doug Terpening looks like.
Andrea: Is that two offers?
Doug: That’s two offers. Right, Dr. Leman? You said we could give two books.
Dr. Leman: Absolutely. And guess who the judges are? The Terpenings themselves. This isn’t 2016. This isn’t 2020, no question about fake this or interference here in this election. This is just which one is the closest to describing these two people from the wetlands of Oregon.
Andrea: We’ll have our kids help judge.
Doug: Oh yeah, there we go. There we go. That’d be fun. So you’re like, “Well, okay. I have an image.” If you go to birthorderguy.com/podcastquestion, birthorderguy.com/podcastquestion, just go there and you got 90 seconds. You can leave your description and we’ll play it for James and Nana and John and Carly and say, “Okay guys, who’s closest?” And if our friends the Kings leave an answer, we’re going to disqualify them because obviously they know us, but for the rest of the world. Yeah.
Dr. Leman: I’ll give you one clue. One of them’s prettier than the other.
Doug: Oh, thank you for saying that about me, Dr. Leman. I love that.
Dr. Leman: You a pretty boy. You really are.
Doug: When we go places, people often comment about my beauty. So I’m used to it.
Andrea: He’s my arm candy.
Dr. Leman: There you go.
Doug: You should see the look I’m getting from Andrea right now about, yeah, you’re not the pretty one. So, okay. What are we talking about today? Oh, Ana. So, thank you Ana, for leaving this question. And here we go. I’m looking forward to hear how people describe us. It’s going to be fun. Okay. And this is Ana’s question.
Ana: Hi, Dr. Leman. My name is Ana [Avoletta 00:03:36]. I’m calling from Brazil. I’m in love with your book about changing my teenager up to Friday. I’ve been applying a lot of your tips. There is something that I still can’t resolve. And this is you keep saying that we should listen to our kids. We should give them the opportunity to say how they feel. And I keep trying to establish a conversation with my 14 years old boy, but he just doesn’t want to talk to me. He’s just say one or two words. “I’m okay. It’s fine.” But he actually doesn’t give me any more words to talk to him or to understand what’s going on. He’s kind of isolated, a little bit cold. I’m trying to use some of your pocket phrases, “Tell me more about it, how you’re feeling about it.” And he’s just not into conversation.
I recognize that I may have been for some years an authoritarian mother, it’s been quite a time, about one and a half year that I’ve relaxed and trying to give him more space. But I don’t know how to get out of this non talking situation we are in. Can you please help me with that?
Dr. Leman: Well thank you, Ana. My goodness. That is so nice to hear. We’ve got people in Brazil listening into our podcast. Let’s start with some basic facts. Your 14 year old son is a male. I say that because he’s following in the footsteps of many great men who are grunters, one word answerers, non conversationalists. Again, as a reminder, women use three and a half times the number of words that men do in a given day. Point number two is he’s 14. He is entering into what I call the canyon of inferiority. If you ask a 14 year old, who would you rather be in all the students in your class? Most 14 year olds, if they’re honest, would say, “Anybody but me.” They’re going through things at 14. They’re sorting things out. You’re a reformed authoritarian mom, and congratulations on turning that page in your life. You’re going to be successful, but I think, Ana, you’re probably trying a little too hard here.
You can chill. If you stop talking, if you stop asking those questions, he will eventually begin to talk. I’m not going to tell you that he’s going to be the conversationalist a year or three months from now or anything like that, but he has to feel like he’s got a little space. And apparently he doesn’t feel like he has space, and you give him space by just backing off. And that means that when he comes home from school, there’s no question about the day. Let him come in and you’re reading a book or working in the kitchen, or maybe you’re at work and just getting home, whatever, and go about your business. If you want to have some fun with this, since he’s a non talker, sit down and fix dinner for yourself one night and let him walk in and say, “Well, where’s dinner?” “Oh, you’re talking again. You’ve been awful silent lately. I had no idea you were interested in dinner tonight.” And give him that look like, “I’m just pulling your chain a little bit,” but you’re making the point.
The hovering mom is not good for a 14 year old. That weakens his self-concept. So you need to let him spread his wings a little bit. There’s a fine art to parenting. It’s like a judgment play in a football game in Brazil, which we call soccer, and you’ll see that ref sometimes go to call a foul and he doesn’t. It’s a judgment call. And so you’re in a position where you have to make judgements every day about this kid. Ask yourself this question, what kind of a little guy was he? What would describe his personality between the ages of five and 12? And whatever those words are, I’m going to give you almost 100% guarantee that that’s the young man that he’ll return to in time. 14 is weird. They shut down. They’re trying to sort out life.
And so I think the best answer I can give you at how do you get your 14 year old to talk is to stop talking to him. Now, some mothers are rolling their eyes right now saying, “That is the worst advice in the world. This kid could be going through” … Hey, he’s 14. Cut the kid some slack. Check with school. How’s he doing in school? Is he doing well in school? I’ll bet he talks to all his friends. So, step number one is just back off and he will come around. You could always write him notes if you want. And not a lot of notes, just a once in a while note. “I love you. I’m so proud of you.” Just some Vitamin E, some encouragement to him. So I’m not saying shut him out. I’m saying just don’t talk as much. Well, that’s for a starter. What do you guys think?
Doug: Well, I was going to ask our resident mother in here who cringed. Her face cringed when you said, “Well”-
Andrea: Don’t make dinner.
Doug: Yeah, she’s cringing again. So Andrea, what is it within you that’s … because we could somewhat identify with this except that it wasn’t a boy, it was a girl. What is it within you that needs conversation from your kids? What is it that you actually are trying to get from that 14 year old that just drives you to have to have conversation and connection with them?
Andrea: Well, I think you just said it. I think connection.
Doug: And connection to you comes via words.
Andrea: Right. Right. And if I don’t know what’s going on, I don’t know, this may be more of a me thing, because then I carry this weight that I’ve done something and I’ve offended them and I need to know what it is so I can make it right.
Dr. Leman: Oh, boy. We’re going to put Andrea in therapy, folks, for the next few minutes. The guilt gatherers of life, listen up. Listen, he’s 14. Just chill. He’s also a powerful kid. Remember, that mom was a reformed authoritarian. So in this kid’s growing up years, he had an authoritarian mother who was telling him what to do, how to do it, when to do it. He needed some space. So don’t project your needs as a mom onto your son in such a way it becomes a bigger problem than it already is. Just chill. Enjoy them. Like I say, talk to school, talk to the teacher. “Does my son, is he all by himself? Does he eat lunch by himself?” “No. He’s got a bunch of kids. They go out and play football at break time and they do this and that.” I mean, find out from strangers, from people who rub shoulders with your kids. They’ll tell you.
Andrea: What would you tell Ana if she did ask that and the teacher said, “Yeah, at lunch he sits by himself in the corner. He usually tries to pick the desk in the corner of the classroom and doesn’t talk to anyone.”
Dr. Leman: Okay. Then it’s not a horses’ hoofs I’m hearing, it’s a zebra. It’s something completely different. There are some things going on. But I would assume if he’s sitting by himself, that we’re going to see the grades change, we’re going to see behavior drastically change. And this might be one of them, his non-communication with his mother. But again, when you hear the footsteps of a 14 year old, it’s probably just the clippity clop of the neighborhood horse coming by, but it could be the clippity clop of a zebra, which is a completely different animal, a different situation. And trust your gut on some of this stuff, mommies. You know your kid better than anybody else does. And sometimes you need some intervention, but if you’re a reader of my books, you’ll rarely see that I say, “Okay, immediately go see a shrink.” That’s the last thing your kid needs you, in my biased opinion.
Doug: So this podcast we’re going to rename Pick on Andrea podcast. So I’m going to pick on Andrea here in a little bit.
Doug: Yeah. So since you’re already in counseling, we’ll just keep piling on you.
Andrea: Piling on in counseling.
Doug: I guess that’s not the right term. So Andrea almost cannot stand it if her children don’t talk to her.
Andrea: That’s true.
Doug: She is this motherer of they have to tell her some emotional word to get her off their backs. We all do. And you have to have a connection at deep levels before Andrea feels that the world is okay. So how much of this … I only use that example as I can even see our kids try and push Andrea away at times, like, “I don’t want to have to talk about my deepest feelings, mom. I’m fine. Just let me be.” How much do you think this is that Ana has just been too in that kid’s space and he’s just trying to say, “Give me room to breathe, mom.” What is the chances that’s what it is?
Dr. Leman: Yeah. He’s looking for a burrow to dig into, to give himself some time and some space and some comfort. Again, I know we should call Andrea the cringer. In fact, you should give me … Here’s the deal. Since I can’t see you, whenever Andrea cringes, you should say, “Cringe, cringe.”
Doug: What if it’s an eye roll?
Dr. Leman: Oh, gosh. This woman has talents, folks. She’s like the seventh grade girl who said, “You never let me do anything. You always do this.” Now she’s cringing and rolling her eyes. No wonder we love her around this podcast. Actually, she makes more sense than the two of us sometimes, I’ve got to tell you that. And she’s really good at digging in, like she said. “Well, wait a minute, Dr. Leman, what if you go to school and you find out he is eating by himself, he is a loner where he used to be much more active?” Then I’d give much more credence to honest question about her kid and what’s the changes that are going on in his life.
Doug: So what you’re telling us is this kid is a normal 14 year old male, who at times is just trying to figure out life. And if mom backs off, it’ll help. And let him decide when to come and talk. Because the positive for Andrea now, is when our kids are hurting, guess who they don’t come to. They don’t come to dad. They always come to mom because they always know mom’s going to give empathy and compassion and will sit and cry with them. Not so much with dad.
Dr. Leman: Okay, Doug, you and I are going to play a little game called love language. And let’s see if we can pull these up. Words of affirmation, gifts, physical touch.
Doug: Quality time.
Dr. Leman: Quality time, yeah. And there’s one more.
Andrea: Service or helps.
Doug: Service, helps.
Dr. Leman: No.
Doug: And gifts.
Andrea: Acts of service.
Doug: Acts of service.
Dr. Leman: Acts of service. Very good. Very good, cringer. Acts of service. All right. Now, what love language is Andrea’s? Only Doug can talk.
Doug: All five. Am I allowed to say all five? Uh oh, I got an eye roll. Eye roll, eye roll. Andrea’s is acts of service and quality time.
Dr. Leman: Acts of service and quality time. All right. Now Andrea, what is your love language?
Andrea: Acts of service and … Oh, that I give or that I receive?
Doug: That you want.
Andrea: That I want.
Dr. Leman: Yeah. That you receive, yeah. That you want.
Andrea: Acts of service and quality time.
Dr. Leman: Okay. So he’s got them. All right. So, acts of service and quality time. If I ask you to define what quality time meant in your life, what would Doug … I won’t even go with your kids yet. What would that be like? What would you be doing? Would you be looking-
Andrea: I would be walking and talking.
Dr. Leman: Yeah, okay. So I was going to say-
Doug: And what kind of talking though? There’s a certain kind of talking you want.
Andrea: Yeah, meaningful life thing.
Doug: No, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no. You want to know exactly emotionally how I’m doing. You want me to use emotive words that talk about, “This is how I’m feeling.” This is not bad. You want to know exactly how I feel.
Andrea: I want to make sure you’re okay.
Dr. Leman: Yeah. But that’s a communication is my whole point. So if you want to torture your wife, just run silent and run deep, Doug, and see what happens. All of a sudden, you’d just mole up and go under the grass of life.
Andrea: He’s done that before.
Dr. Leman: You’ll drive her nuts. Well, that little mole has done that. What do you do when he does that?
Andrea: You go after them more.
Dr. Leman: Don’t you force some kind of a blowout over that?
Andrea: You try and dig up the mole hole.
Doug: She throws a stick of dynamite down there and blows it up. Yes, she does at some point.
Dr. Leman: So the danger, I think for Ana down in Brazil, is if she doesn’t heed what we’re talking about today, and she goes in there and tries to make a mountain out of a molehill, she’s going to have immediate negative results. The other book that you might want to read, Ana, is Parenting your Powerful Child, because your 14 year old is powerful, and that’s a direct result of you being an authoritarian parent. So you might find some help in that as well. But my point is that women tend to be much more relational than men. Andrea is the perfect example, I think, of what I would call a positive pleaser in life. She invests in people’s time. She invests in people’s lives. And the little plant, if we could call the plant, Andrea the plant, what does she need? She needs words. She needs acts of service, kindness. She needs quality time, which is communication. And if you want to take care of that plant Andrea, you water that plant with those things.
Now Doug, in all probability, isn’t like that. It’s rare that a couple would say, “Well, we both have the same two love languages.” That just doesn’t happen very often. Once in a blue moon. So Doug, just to carry this on a little further, what would you say is your love language?
Andrea: Oh, Doug wants me to answer words of affirmation.
Dr. Leman: Yeah. All right. So there it is. But see, we’re different. So, but this could get us in trouble. I’m assuming he doesn’t need words of affirmation to the point where you’re saying to yourself, “Douglas, how many times have I told you that?” You just need those attaboys. And I think a lot of men need those words of affirmation that they’re needed or wanted by their bride. And that’s one of the things I wrote about in the book Sheet Music, as well as Have a New Sex Life by Friday, that women need to understand how much a man needs to feel needed by that bride. So we’re talking about communication, and I think problem is solved, quite frankly, if Ana will just back off a little bit and see what happens. He’ll come around. He loves his mama, I’m sure. Mama is the most important person in his life in all probability.
Doug: Yeah. Well, I just think, I’ve tried your silence to the kids, because we have a kid that’s somewhat like this and it drives me nuts too. I’ve just learned move on and love them as they are and they’re not going to talk the way I want to talk to them and that’s okay. When they want to talk, I’m ready to talk to them. But it is hard when you’re like, “What is going on inside of that head? Oh, well I guess they’ll let us know when they’ll let us know,” but Andrea has done an amazing job of keeping us on track because we have a great eBook promotion that I think actually really applies to this one too. And it is Making Children Mind Without Losing Yours for $2.99 between now and the end of June of 2020. Making Children Mind Without Losing Yours, one of Dr. Leman’s best seller books. And I think we said next time we would do an Amazon thing. So, did you have one to do?
Andrea: So here’s an Amazon review by Sydney for this book, Making Children Mind Without Losing Yours. “I started implementing Dr. Leman’s recommendations immediately while reading the book. I didn’t wait to finish the book to get started. My kids, my husband and I are all happier with the new way our house is running. I no longer make empty threats. My kids are doing what I say when I say it, mostly. And I’m no longer at my wit’s end at the end of the day. And it’s only been a week since I started changing the way I do things. I’ve always admitted that I was the problem and the reason my kids were unruly. I just didn’t know how to change it. Dr. Leman is a genius.”
Doug: So, Making Children Mind Without Losing Yours, again, if you want a foundational book to do exactly what Sydney has experienced, go get the book between now and the end of June of 2020. The other thing before we go to the parenting moment, I don’t think we mentioned the book we would gift people if they describe us. We talked all about it like-
Andrea: You did, his new book.
Doug: But we didn’t say the name. Yeah. Why Your Kid Misbehaves and What You Can Do About It.
Andrea: Do we have a timeframe for this?
Doug: Oh, yeah. We should say between now and the end of June.
Andrea: Right. I think so.
Doug: Yeah. So June of 2020, if you go to birthorderguy.com/podcastquestion, and you’re the closest to describing us, we’ll give you the brand new book, Why Your Kids Misbehave and What You Can Do About, as well. Okay. Now, a no nonsense parenting moment with Dr. Kevin Leman.
Dr. Leman: Hey, let me ask you a question, parents. How many of you woke up this morning and said, “I would like to talk to my daughter or my son about sex today”? let me see a show of hands. Okay. I see one hand from a hard of hearing person. That’s what I figured I’d see. You know what? The realities of life is we are sexual beings. God made us that way. Parents, if you’ve got a young boy in your home and he’s 12 years old, 13 years old, and you haven’t talked to him about such things as nocturnal emissions, somebody better talk with him. They’re growing up before your very eyes.
If you want some resources, I’ve written books on this subject, A Chicken’s Guide to Talking Turkey to your Kids About Sex. There are books and resources out there, but daddies, you should be talking to your daughters, mommies you should be talking to your sons. Yes, you both should be talking to your kids, but only a mom can tell a young man how women want to be treated. Only a dad could tell a daughter how men view women. This is a tough job. Do it in baby steps if you have to. Go ahead and do it.
Doug: Okay, Dr. Leman, I think for the moms out there real quickly, I say we just do a quick role play, just to help them out. So, I’ll be, what was a Brazilian 14 year old boy’s name, do you think? What would be a good one?
Andrea: What was the soccer player’s name? Pele.
Doug: Pele. I’ll be Pele. Alrighty, Dr. Leman?
Dr. Leman: Okay, Pele. Your ball.
Doug: Yeah. So I walk in the door. What would you say to me? I walk in the door and you’re sitting there.
Dr. Leman: I’d say, “Hi, Pele.”
Dr. Leman: Then I’d turn around and do whatever I was doing.
Doug: What? Okay.
Dr. Leman: Or I might go over and just touch him briefly. Just touch his shoulder or back of the neck or whatever. Briefly. Not a big to do, just a something and leave the room.
Andrea: And why is that important?
Dr. Leman: Men love to be touched whether they admit it or not. There’s some men that don’t want to be touched, but I’m suspect of those guys, to tell you the truth. Most of us like to be touched. It’s just a little general affirmation. “I’m here. Glad you’re home. I’m not demanding or asking you any questions.” You’ll bring instant relief to the 14 year old at that point, and go about your business. That’s all.
Doug: No, I could even feel myself as a 14 year old, if my mom walked over to me and said, “Hey, Doug, good to see you,” and just touched me on the shoulder, I would be like, “Oh yeah, mom’s the best.” That’s what I would think in my head.
Dr. Leman: Yeah. And it’s not even … Just one word. Hi. You don’t have to overdo that even. Just a simple … It’s a little touch and go. Do you ever watch an airplane do touch and goes? They come in and they almost hit the runway and then they pull up and they go around again. Touch and goes. They should call them almost touch and goes because they really don’t touch most of the time.
Doug: So for all the moms out there, it is true, if you just be the positive for your boy. Like my mom, when I was 14, I was a jerk to my mom, but she just loved me through it. I love my mommy. I call my mom whenever I can and I can’t wait to be with my mom nowadays. And she was smart enough to know just to back off and let me be weird during those years.
Andrea: I don’t know. I think if I were Ana, I would be encouraged that there’s something else to try here with her son.
Doug: And when he wants to talk, he’ll talk, like me. We’re not that different.
Doug: Well, Ana, I hope this has helped you give you hope on how to deal with your grunting 14 year old. It sounds like it might be pretty normal. And I hope you have the tools now to deal with him. Thank you for listening down in Brazil. It was really, really fun. Your English is beautiful and your accent was lovely. I’m glad that you’re enjoying the podcast. So in conclusion, remind everybody, Making Children Mind Without Losing Yours between now and the end of June for $2.99 wherever eBooks are sold. I forgot to add that, that it’s an eBook section.
Andrea: And a free book to anyone who can describe Doug and I according to our kids’ judgment.
Doug: Yes. At birthorderguy.com/podcastquestion, and you get the new book. Alrighty. Well, it was great to be with you today. We look forward to the next time so that you can be like Sydney, that you have the confidence on what you’re supposed to do and really just enjoy your household more and more. Take care. Bye, bye.
Andrea: Bye, bye.