It’s time for another Ask Dr. Leman: How do I help my enabled kid change? Listen in to find out Dr. Leman’s advice on this episode of Have a New Kid by Friday Podcast.


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Doug: So you’ve listened to Dr. Leman’s podcast and read his books and you’ve said, “I have to change.” And you realize, whoops, I’ve been the enabler, and that’s why I’m changing. But you don’t feel like your kid is changing with you. How do you deal with that? What does that look like? And what can we learn from Dr. Leman? That’s the question that you asked that we get to ask Dr. Leman for you.
Hi, I’m Doug Terpening.

Andrea: And I’m Andrea.

Doug: And we are so glad that you are with us, and welcome if this is 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.
And today we get a question from one of our podcast listeners, and it is absolutely one of our joys. If you want to leave one, you can go to Well, let us jump into Andrea’s question. Here we go.

Andrea: Hi, Dr. Leman, I would like to first say that I have been listening to as many podcasts as I can a day and reading as many of your books as I can. I was just told about you by a friend maybe three weeks ago, and so I’m learning so much. But my question is a followup to the part two on making a child a successful student. I am a teacher myself. So let me say that reading in our home has been something I’ve done from day one. And I’ve done all the “right things” you’re supposed to do academically, from when they’re born until now.
But my question is about my seventh grader. His name is Smith, and he has ADHD. He sees an endocrinologist for his small stature, and he has always struggled academically. His confidence in school and life is very low. And I will admit, I have enabled him. We have tried to compensate for this and help him. I felt guilty about it, all of that. But what I’m trying to ask here is how do I change this? Because when I just walk away and have him do the studying on his own for tests, and he fails, he just says he’s stupid, he can’t do it, and he doesn’t try anymore. So I need help with that student that isn’t motivated by the grade because he doesn’t think he can do it. Thank you.

Dr. Leman: Well, the first thing I would say is you do own up to the fact that you’ve enabled him. So he has “learned” not to be successful in school. And now, you say you’ve done a lot of the right things, and you’re a teacher. And I hope you’ll take this first suggestion seriously, because I think it’s a key to help. I would find a young lady, maybe a freshman in high school, to tutor him. He needs somebody else. Mom is already an admitted enabler. So with all due respect, you’re not the best one, even though you are a teacher, to help your seventh grader. I would find the prettiest, vivacious, smart freshmen girl I could find. And I would pay her to come to your home for maybe just an hour a night, four nights a week, maybe two hours a night.
It’d be her little job. It’s like babysitting, only she’s babysitting your cute seventh grade son. I think that’s the best way to encourage him and help him, because I think he’s already shut off all possibilities that he can do this. That’s a lie that he tells himself. Just because you got ADHD doesn’t mean you can’t achieve in school. You know that. But he needs focused attention, and I think that young lady can help motivate him to do well. You pull the freshmen aside, you tell her, he’s got ADHD, he’s had problems for years. He’s never seen himself as successful.
Now here’s my concern. The reality of how he sees himself is the reality. In other words, your perception of how you see yourself, that’s who you are from behind your eyes. And that has to change. So 14-year-old tutor might need a little encouraging from you, as to how to slip him some commercial announcements, so that when she leaves and he’s done his homework with her, that she has slipped him a good dosage of vitamin E. Say “Hey, I was really pleased with how you did that. So you’re getting it. You’re coming along. I’m proud of you,” that kind of thing. He needs a little coaching up, so to speak, because his self image is so negative. So it keeps you out of the picture.
The other thing I want you to think about. Mom, is what’s really important here. What I didn’t hear is what kind of a kid your son was. And I would pay more attention. I know the question’s about ADHD and learning, but I would pay more attention to what’s in that kid’s heart than what’s in academics for him right now. That’s really important.

Andrea: And what would that look like? Would that be using vitamin E to talk to him about his good character traits or-

Dr. Leman: Yes, his character traits.

Andrea: Paint us a picture.

Dr. Leman: I think when you’re a teacher on top of that, you sort of magnify the importance of doing well in school. And don’t get me wrong, doing well in school is obviously great. But at the expense of what? Does he really know that he’s loved as he is? And again, it’s not what you do, honey, that makes me so proud. It’s who you are that makes me so proud to be your mom. It’s who you are. It’s the judgment you make, the kindness I see in your life, the consideration for other people. Those are the important subjects that I think are taught within the confines of the home. So I wouldn’t… I know you’re concerned, your phone call tells me you’re concerned, and you have reason to be concerned, but you’re consulting with your physician, and you didn’t mention if you were medicating him specifically for the ADHD, but there’s all kinds of ways to encourage kids who have ADHD.
But I think we miss the boat, if the kid walks away thinking I’m a failure because I struggle in school. He’s had 12 or 13 years of struggling in school, apparently. And so what’s going to turn that around? He’s got to see himself differently. I go back to reality is how you see yourself, and that has to change. And that outside tutor, I think, is worth gold. Again, I’d go really looking for somebody who’s outgoing, got a great personality, and sort of a natural encourager by themselves. And trust me, that seventh grade boy, looking at that young lady that’s two years older than him, he could pay attention to every word she says, I think.

Doug: How does he… Going back to Andrea’s question, I really find that fascinating that you’re saying the reality, what he thinks about himself is what we care the most about. So Mom can give vitamin E about things that she sees. But school is so important in how we value ourselves, and there’s so much social pressure there on how you perform. Are there specific things that she could do to remove that or downplay that?

Dr. Leman: I just think the simple… A dialogue about the fact that I’m so proud to be your mom. And it forces us to look at what traits does my son have that I don’t see in other children? She’s a teacher. She sees kids. They’re hedonistic little suckers. They care about themselves. They’re very superficial, most of them. What do you see in your kid that makes you proud to say, “Hey, yeah, I’m his mom.” And talk about those things. And is this kid mechanically minded? Lots of times these kids who don’t do well in school, for whatever reason, they can tear anything down and put it back together again. If that’s his inclination, wow, I’d start thinking about the future and what a kid like that can do. Those kids can make big money, have good jobs.

Doug: So Dr. Leman, for that mom that is that critic, that she just can’t turn that off for whatever reason, or that, like you said, as a teacher school would be so important to her, are there specific words that would help someone like that be able to know this would be meaningful to my kid? Is it that I’m proud to be your mom, or is it specifically a trait or a step that they did? What would be specific words that a kid could be able to believe that their mom thinks they’re good? Or Dad? Shouldn’t just pick on Mom. Or Dad?

Dr. Leman: Well, again, I just think you focus in… On make a list. What are the things that really make you happy about your son or your daughter? Talk about those things, and how important they are, and how you see them paying off in life for him later on or her later on. It’s just an ongoing dialogue. But I wouldn’t be telling him. I would try to form a conversation that’s based upon your son or daughter’s opinion about things. Opinion will always open doors. Questions shut doors, shuts down communication. They feel like they have to come up with the right answer. But I’d love to know what that kid dreams about, and how he sees himself in 10 years, at age 22. And how do you want to be seen by others? And what about friendships? What kind of a friend is this kid?

Doug: Yeah. Okay. I’m slow, but you’re saying Mom, you step out of the role of pushing school, put the tutor and the school in there, and you just be mom and be relational with this kid.

Dr. Leman: Yeah. You’re the emotional cheerleader for your kid.

Doug: And just be with him. Andrea, you thrive at that. That’s your sweet spot.

Dr. Leman: The fact that she’s a teacher doesn’t help in this situation.

Andrea: She sees the school issues.

Dr. Leman: But that teacher might have a friend who teaches, who has that 14-year-old daughter who would be perfect.

Doug: Well, when we come back, we’ll ask Mrs. Terpening about her tutoring experience with giving her kids tutors recently here. So, but before we do that, I want to make sure I remind everybody that this month, you can get the ebook Born to Win for a $1.99, between now and the end of May of 2020.
And you know that a couple of weeks ago, we were also just talking about Dr. Leman’s brand new book, Why Your Kid Misbehaves and What You Can Do About It. And I’m just telling you, it’s one of these winners again. It’s so practical, so simple that people are already starting to say, wow, thank you for describing what my kids went through and were going through, and how I was contributing negatively to it, and what I can do about it in action steps, not fluffy whatevers. So if you haven’t gotten it yet, I cannot encourage you enough to go get Why Your Kid Misbehaves and What You Can Do About It. I’m just telling you, you’re just going to love it. And go look at the Amazon reviews about what people are saying about it. It’s phenomenal. So for your sake, the reason we do this whole podcast, the only reason we’re doing this, is because it’s impacted Andrea and Doug’s family. And we know it will help yours. Read the book. And you will think us for generations, decades, and decades about how it’s helped you. And now a no nonsense parenting moment with Dr. Kevin Leman.

Dr. Leman: A, acceptance. B, belonging. And here’s the trilogy. Competence. Not confidence. Competence. Those are the building blocks for a healthy personality of a young person growing up in your home. How does your kid feel competent? He feels competent when you don’t redo the effort that he has made in the home, whatever it is. When you don’t straighten things up and make it perfect. The message is, I respect your hard work and your effort. Am I saying that if something is absolutely slipshod work, that somehow you accept that? No. In fact, one of the things about competence is, “Honey, I see your room isn’t done. When your room is done, then you can go next door and play with your little guy friend.”
Holding kids accountable is part of competence. But don’t be overcritical. If the project is worthy, if it’s a good job, let it be a good job. It doesn’t have to be perfect. And when you say, “Honey, I appreciate your work in the home,” that’s part of building competence in your kid’s life. Remember ABC, acceptance, belonging, competence. For further reading on that subject, see Making Children Mind Without Losing Yours or Have a New Kid by Friday. Goodreads.

Doug: Alrighty, Andrea. So recently, you finally have given in to tutoring with your kids because you finally realized that you hate math, and you stink at math.

Andrea: And chemistry.

Doug: And chemistry. How is having a tutor helping your children? What would you say? Because you’re a homeschool mom, so you’re kind of like this teacher, your identity is kind of tied up in this.

Andrea: Even more so because, yeah, they’re my kids.

Doug: What has a tutor done for education in this home?

Andrea: Well, now I don’t have to try and do the math with them, and I don’t have to try and learn it while they’re learning it. And it takes all the tension out of the… The emotion is gone because before, I was struggling with it myself. So there was a lot of emotion. So it would heighten the emotion. And now they get to just deal with their tutor.

Doug: And what about our kids about their tutor? Do they hate to go see our tutor, or what do they think about going to see the tutor?

Andrea: They actually enjoy their tutor. Their tutor actually happens to be their aunt, and they get to Skype with her. So now they have a once a week meeting with her, and of course, they don’t just talk about the math, but they get to talk about life and laugh with her. And it’s been… Now they’re motivated. They’re excited to get things ready for their tutor time, and they come away with a fresh perspective and encouraged, because she is a math teacher, and she can really tell all of us, “They’re doing really well. They’re doing great. They’re going to get this.” And so it’s been a win-win all around.

Doug: So Dr. Leman, your advice about getting tutors, we finally, after years of struggle have given into, and I’m just telling you, it’s gold. People that are good at tutoring make it so much easier. And I think, exactly what you said, our kids had turned out… turned Mrs. Terpening a deaf ear to her on certain things, and it’s come alive to them.

Dr. Leman: Yeah, if there’s issues in school, parents, it’s so good to make an appointment, go in and talk to the assistant principal, and let the assistant principal haul that kid out of class and say, “Hey, I want to talk to you about something.” Let that third person do it. That’s another advantage of having a tutor. It’s like teaching your husband to drive or your wife to drive or your kids to drive. And I taught four of the five how to drive. But when the fifth one came along, I was done. I was spent. I was like a salmon who had run my course. And thank you for Mr. D’s driving school. Because that’s now Mr. D’s problem to teach my 16-year-old how to drive.
My wife had Lauren out, and she told her that she had to make a left hand turn down here. Well, she’s in the right hand lane. And so all of a sudden, without anything, she does this almost U-turn from the right lane, turning left. It’s just amazing that both of them are alive today. So again, that third person can make a difference in your kid’s life.

Doug: Absolutely.

Andrea: Thanks for that little driving scenario, as our last child is supposed to get her permit today.

Dr. Leman: In one of the Leman books… In fact, one of you guys who got better memories than me, I tell a story in… It might be Making Children Mind Without Losing Yours, but I’m teaching my firstborn daughter how to drive. And she stopped at an intersection, finally, for the red light that I thought for sure she was going to go through, right in the middle of the intersection. She stops. We live in a community of a million people. She’s in a main… and what do I do? Bright psychologist, I jump out of the car in the middle of the intersection, open her door. And I say, as lovingly as I can, “Out!”
And my daughter, Holly, who is an English teacher by trade, she wrote the cutest short story about learning to drive. And she describes that. She said, “Who is this man to my left, who had this purple hue in his face? And I realized it was my father, and he seemed to be doing some type of a war dance in the middle of the street, and then he yanked open the door.” It’s funny to read. I wish I could remember it verbatim because it really was hilarious.
But parents, you can do this. I know you love your kids. And I want you to know, I loved all five of mine. I’d take a bullet for any of them, but you have to really take time for training and keeping responsibility where it belongs and helping kids through the bumps of life is important, but above everything else, they have to know you have their back and you love them. Don’t ever forget that.

Doug: Amen. I appreciate that close because that’s what Dr. Leman’s books are all about, to be honest with you, is he gives you a roadmap on how to do that. So we’re all trying to guess as brand new parents, because we’re all brand new parents the first time. And I’m telling you, as a guy who raises his hands and says best thing that ever happened to me was reading those books. Just do it for your sake. And I know I just mentioned it, but I’m going to mention it again because it’s brand new, fresh content, today’s issues, Why Your Kid Misbehaves and What to Do About It. I’m just telling you, you go get it, you read it, and then you can email me and say, “Wow, Doug, thanks. That really helps me.” So this just helps you love your kids more. If that’s what you want to do, it’s what it teaches you how to do it, to be honest.
So well, it was great to be with you today. We love being with you and adding to that parenting tool box so that you can love those kids, really, in an easier way.

Andrea: Have a great day.

Doug: We look forward to the next time. Take care. Bye-bye.

Andrea: Bye-bye.