Does fixing everything for your kid skyrocket them to success or deprive them of foundational life lessons? Dr. Leman talks reality in today’s episode.
Learn more about Dr. Leman at BirthOrderGuy.com.
NEW: The Intimate Connection –Dr. Kevin Leman
Show Sponsored by Revell, a division of Baker Publishing
Produced by Unmutable™
Dr. Leman: (singing)
Dr. Leman: That’s an old song. I shouldn’t sing on a podcast, should I? Thank you very much. But I learned a long time ago working with children, when they tell me they can’t do something, well I can’t tell you something. I always say, “Wait a minute, you could tell me something, but literally you’ve chosen not to tell me something, and that’s why you’re saying you can’t.”
Doug: Hi, I’m Doug Tripani.
Andrea: And I’m Andrea.
Doug: And if this is your first time with us, we are so glad that you’re here. If this is your first time, this is for education and entertainment purposes only. If the subject matter raises any concerns for you or child, please go seek your local professional for help. Sorry to stop you there, Dr. Leman, but now you can tell Andrea how much you love her.
Dr. Leman: (singing)
Dr. Leman: Yeah, I shouldn’t sing on the podcast ever. That’s for sure. Well, I can’t. I love the word I can’t. Adults in general, parents have a fixation. I love the play on words here. A fixation to fix everything. Men try to fix things for their wives. My experience with wives is they really don’t like it when you fix things for them. They want you to understand what they’re up against. But it’s part of the male gene to try to fix everything in sight. It seems like you mamas, because you’re the relational wonders of the world, you try to fix not only your husband, but also your kids. And you follow them around, you pick up after them, you make excuses for them. I mean, you gotta make sure your son or daughter has a life of their own, that the home is a place where you teach kids that it’s okay to fail, it’s great to try, it’s okay not to know everything.
Dr. Leman: And there has to be a softness in that delivery of those facts of life to kids. The kids are always watching you. They see how you’re handling things. And they’re gonna model, quite frankly, the kind of behavior they see in you. The tendency to snowplow the roads of life for kids, to do homework for children, to help significantly with a science project. I mean, do you really dislike your children that much that you want to weaken them to that point where a kid figures out early in life that I can’t do anything in life without mom or dad interceding? I mean, what do you do on a cold morning and you see your son walking out the door to school without his jacket? I know what you say. That’s part of being a mother. “Hey, come back and get your jacket.”
Dr. Leman: You know what, do you really think you could say to a child nothing at that point and just sort of shake your head and realize that the reality of the situation is gonna be the teacher to a child, and when he gets down to that bus stop and the bus is 10 minutes later than it should be and he’s freezing his tail off and all of his other buddies got jackets and sweaters on, and some have scarves on, do you think he’s gonna figure out that maybe he should’ve brought his jacket along? I think so. How many lessons in life does he need before he realizes on a cold morning you wear a sweater, a jacket, or something? Do you see what I’m saying? So, you don’t have to jump in and fix everything, make everything right. Let the reality of the situation become the teacher to the child.
Dr. Leman: If you could memorize that little phrase, let the reality of the situation become the teacher to the child, and then employ that on a daily basis, your life, parent, would be hassle free. You wouldn’t be as haggard and frustrated as you are. “How many times have I told you, John Robert?” Well, how many times have you said that to your son or your daughter? “How many times do I have to tell you?” Apparently telling your kids repeatedly doesn’t help.
Dr. Leman: When I was first married, this is a confessional now, my first job was a head resident in a resident’s hall. And I was the baby of the family, youngest of three. I had a great mom. Oh, she took care of me. She was a nurse, which I played into real good. I’d tell her in the morning, in fact I wouldn’t even tell her, I would just act like I didn’t feel good and she would say, “What’s wrong, honey?” “Oh, nothing, mom.” “No, no. What’s wrong? Are you okay?” “Well, I got a stomachache.” And she would always ask me, “Does it hurt high or low?” To this day, I never knew why she asked that question, but some days I’d say hi and some days I’d say low. I’d play along. And I ended up staying home from school. My mother was a working nurse, so she’d go out the door to the hospital to work and I had a miracle recovery, went down to the creek and went fishing, and blew off school in Huck Finn style.
Dr. Leman: Well, I could work my mom. And I’m telling you that parents are fools. They get sucked in. They get played like a violin by their kids. And back to when I was first married, we lived in this tiny little apartment in a dorm and I was the head dorm rat. And again, I married a first born who likes things just so. I’m not of that ilk. I tend to be a little slob like at times. And I was very good at leaving my sweater, my shirt, my shoes thrown around our small apartment. And I knew it drove my wife a little wacky, but I guess I didn’t pay much attention to it. And one day I came home and I opened our little apartment, and I used my key, and I went to push the door open, and it had all kinds of resistance behind it. I thought, “What the heck is this?” And all my clothes as well as a pair of sneakers were in this pile that she put behind the door.
Dr. Leman: I assumed that was for effect. The message was what? “I’m sick of picking up after you, Lemy.” And in that same first year of marriage, I ate peas and corn, those were the only two vegetables that I ate. Again, I was the baby of the family, a picky eater. And my nurse mom took good care of her baby cub. Well, momma bear, the woman I married, Mrs. Uppington, decided enough is enough. And one day she said to me, “Lemy, I’m so sick of canned peas,” they had to be Del Monte, by the way, “and corn I could hurl. From now on, I’m cooking dinner and you can either eat it or not eat it. I love you, honey.”
Dr. Leman: In 1984, I coined the term reality discipline. My wife was using reality discipline on me long before I coined that word. So, you let the reality of the situation become the teacher to the child. It’s a great way to keep the tennis ball life on the right side of the court.
Doug: So Andrea, you’re the resident mother here again. Now we have to allow the reality of the situation to be the teacher to the child. Your son, it’s 31 degrees outside, your son’s gonna go out without a coat. Why can’t you let him go outside without a coat?
Andrea: Well, because what if he gets stuck out somewhere and he gets really cold and he gets sick? I have lots of reasons.
Doug: You have lots of reasons.
Dr. Leman: It’s a mother thing, Doug. It’s a mother thing. It’s momma bear. She’s gonna take care of her cups. It’s fighting against nature. The nature for a mother is to protect that little cub, and I’m just saying if your kid by your own admission is somewhat, I’ll just say somewhat irresponsible, non-responsible, I guess irresponsible is not a word. If your kid is not responsible, could it have anything to do with the fact that you’re too responsible? That’s my point.
Andrea: So, we start when they’re young.
Dr. Leman: That’s called training.
Andrea: And the parent can either be trained to always follow around and make sure that things are right for that kid and they set up this situation where they’re teaching their kid to be irresponsible and dependent on them. Or they can start out by training them to let the reality of the situation teach them.
Dr. Leman: Yep, it’s as simple as that. As simple as it is, I’m here to tell you, that’s a tough thing to do for a parent. But then again, if you want changes in your child’s behavior, then you have to understand that there has to be a lot of changing within the realm of your life and your everyday living, and your relationship with them.
Andrea: How do you suggest that a parent who has middle school or teenage kids and they’ve been doing this all their life, going around and fixing things, and watching them, and helping them, and they want to make this change now, what would be the first step?
Dr. Leman: Well, you could announce at dinner that mom’s going on strike and let it go at that. You’re not gonna do things that you normally do. But what I think is fun is don’t explain it. Just make the statement, “I’m going on strike.” “Mom, what do you mean you’re going on strike?” “I don’t want to elaborate. I’m just telling you, things are gonna be different and I’m going on strike.” And say it with a little attitude. And believe me, the kids will have a conversation in the back bedroom. “Hey, what’s with mom? What’s going on? What’s that all about?” “I don’t know. You should know. You’re smarter than I am.” “No. Well, you’re better looking than I am, you figure it out.” “I don’t know. I don’t know what to make of anything. I wonder if she’s losing it.”
Dr. Leman: They’ll have that conversation. And let them see. Let them see that you’re the one that reminds her to take her violin to school on Tuesdays and Fridays. It’s a Tuesday and she walks out the door and you see there’s no violin with her. Then you’re gonna have to say, “Okay, do I want to be a responsible parent or a non-responsible parent?” “Well, Dr. Leman, if she doesn’t have her, her teacher gets very angry and upset if a child doesn’t bring their instrument.” Ooh. And I’d say to that, “Great. Great. Because once that violin teacher gets upset, do you think it’s gonna make a difference in your daughter’s life? I do. I think it increases the probability of her never forgetting the violin for the rest of the semester.”
Doug: For our podcast listeners, I’m gonna take a moment here and just tell you about the latest ebook special before we finish the podcast here. The one that we have today is so appropriate that we’re talking about, it’s What a Difference a Mom Makes for $2.99. You can get it on ebook wherever ebooks are sold April 9 through 15 of 2019. What a Difference a Mom Makes.
Doug: And before we jump into the straight talk with Dr. Leman, in three weeks, there’s a very important book that’s coming out called Intimate Connections. Dr. Leman, what’s that book about?
Dr. Leman: Well, it’s about what most of you as couples don’t have. Most of you as couples don’t have the intimate connection. The intimate connection is something really wonderful. It means that two hearts are joined together, that you can almost anticipate what your mate’s gonna say. You can almost feel what your mate is feeling. You have really traversed over that mountain. You’ve got to that oasis, that valley of richness where you can communicate and tell each other exactly how you feel, and have the assurance that no matter what you say or what you do, that that will be received and listened to. Not always agreed to, but listened to at a intimate level. It’s a wonderful little book, whether you’re just starting out in marriage, by the way it’s a great marriage gift for young couple. Gets them off on the right foot.
Dr. Leman: But you might be one of those that’s been married 25 years, and yet you sit in a restaurant and have lunch or dinner together and very few words are shared between you as a couple. You’re the couple I wrote this book for, The Intimate Connection. Is it a test in bravery? Yeah, in a way it is. It’s easier just to sweep things under the emotional rug and not talk about them. But if you’re like most couples, you’ll agree there’s some things that you swept under the rug that need to be talked about. There’s old hurts that resurface from time to time that need to be talked about. And some of you, of course, are bone diggers. You love to go back and dig up old bones and throw them in your mate’s face when you’re angry. Doesn’t help your relationship and it certainly doesn’t help your kids.
Dr. Leman: So, The Intimate Connection. Yes, it’s out this April, right now. And it’s well worth your reading. You will enjoy it, I guarantee it.
Doug: Thanks, Dr. Leman. And now, Straight Talk with Dr. Leman.
Dr. Leman: The late breaking news, folks, your marriage makes a difference. In whose life? Well, obviously in your life or your mate’s life. But how about your children? Do you realize those little suckers are taking emotional, spiritual, psychological notes every day of their life? They’re looking up at you. So, if your words are encouraging to one another, wow. That goes right into the heart and mind of that youngster. Do they hear you fight, dis, put each other down? Guess what? That goes right to the heart of your child as well. Kids need to feel safe. And when they hear parents going after each other, fighting, putting each other down, that forms dissonance in the child’s life. That’s a little bit like what psychologists do to laboratory rats. They run them down a T maze and they give them electric shock to their feet when they turn left. So the little rat soon learns to turn right and get the pellet of food.
Dr. Leman: Well, these sick, demented psychologists then turn tables on the poor little rat [inaudible 00:13:13], and they give him electric shot to his feet when he goes the other way. So, he figures out, “Wait a minute, I gotta go back the other way if I want a pellet of food.” And then again, these horrid psychologists, what do they do? They give that poor little rat electric current to his feet no matter if he turns left or turns right. So, guess what the little rat does? In utter frustration, there he is at the end of the T maze, and he jumps up and down to try to keep away from the electric current in pure frustration. He’s like the proverbial deer with the headlights on him. He doesn’t know what to do. That’s what you do to your kids when you fight, when you put each other down, call each other names. Or worse yet, call them names as well.
Dr. Leman: So, your words matter. And your marriage matters. Every day, make that conscious effort to be respectful to each other. The dividends are better than gold in your bank account.
Doug: One of the questions I have burning in my head is what’s the damage I’m gonna do to my kids if I’m always fixing everything for them?
Dr. Leman: Well, the kid walks away with a lack of self confidence. He tells himself or herself, “I can’t do anything without mom or dad interceding. I can’t stand on my own two feet.” You weaken your child. So, if you really want to weaken your child, parents, just continue to do things for your child that your child could do for himself.
Doug: So Andrea, what do you think you need to mentally or emotionally change to be able to stop doing everything for your kids?
Andrea: Well, I think I need to change my thinking that it’s okay for the kids to fail. It’s okay for them to get a bad grade. It’s okay for them to have a teacher write demerit or for them to have to stay after school for some reason. I have to allow myself to see them “fail” a couple of times so that they can learn these lessons.
Dr. Leman: Here’s the problem for someone like Andrea, Doug, and I’m speaking about your bride, the love of your life, so I’ll be very careful how I say this. But I’ll tell you the truth, she is such a lovely lady, and I mean that. She is a classy lady. She has such a heart and a compassion, not only for her children, but for other people, that it’s hard for people like that to do a 180. They’re gonna have to invent some baby steps in their life and that’s gonna be difficult for the Andreas of the world who have been busy being a mom and taking care of her little cubs in the den and all of a sudden some shrink shows up in Tucson, Arizona and says, “Don’t do things for kids that they could do for themselves.” And that sounds sort of rough, and a little sterile, and maybe a little too hard.
Andrea: I’m loving. That’s what we do. We take care of our kidlets.
Dr. Leman: Yeah. You gonna go to college with them?
Andrea: No. Might’ve been fun, though.
Dr. Leman: That’s a step in the right direction. Well you know, I’ll never forget, I think it was our pediatrician, we were talking about nursing children, okay? And he was saying at one year, you stop. Now, as soon as I say that, I’ve just invited all kinds of emails from [inaudible 00:16:20] people who want to tell me that they love nursing their children at ages three and four, and you may have your opinion and I have mind. You’re nuts. Don’t do that. A year on the breast is plenty. But again, you can’t go to school with them. You can’t do things for them. You can’t walk through life with them holding their hand. We made this point on our podcast many times that we’re not really rearing a child, we’re rearing an adult.
Dr. Leman: As Steve Cubby said once, “You start with the end in mind.” Well, what’s the end in mind? You want to rear a responsible child who’s gonna be a great citizen in the United States or in Canada, wherever you may live. How do you get there? By snowplowing the roads of life for them? No. By letting them experience life. And again, a reminder, the best place for your kid to fail is right in your own home. So, lighten up. Be a difference maker. Don’t be afraid to back off and let your kids experience life.
Andrea: And I love the “Mom is going on strike.”
Doug: I don’t know if I like that one.
Dr. Leman: It’s a reminder. It’s sort of shocky, but it helps you make the commitment, “Okay, I’m gonna do this.” That’s why I suggest that seemingly off the wall pronunciation at the dinner table.
Doug: It did shock our kids. Well, thank you Dr. Leman for that one, and I just want to give a quick reminder that we’ve talking mainly about a mom and there is a fabulous Leman book, What a Difference a Mom Makes for $2.99 on ebook April 9 through 15. If you’re a mom, you want that confidence, you want to know steps to do and what we’ve talked about, get the book and you’ll love it. As always, we’d love for you to subscribe to the podcast and pass it on to your friends, those that you hear things about and think, “Man, I think this would bless John or Sally or whoever else,” always feel free to do that. And we look forward to being back with you again. [inaudible 00:18:14] so you can love those kids more and more.
Andrea: Have a great day, mom on strike.
Doug: Take care. Bye bye.