Today’s episode is all about responsibility, failure, and reality discipline. Learn about one of Dr. Leman’s favorite sayings on this episode of Have a New Kid by Friday Podcast.


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Doug: I love tennis. In fact, I love watching it with my kids and my mom. And so this phrase when Dr. Lehman gave it to me the first time, I thought, “What the heck is he talking about?” And the phrase is keep the tennis ball of life in their court. Keep the what in the where and the what? We get to ask Dr. Leman, what does that phrase mean and how does it help us parent?
Hi, I’m Doug [Terpening 00:00:30].

Andrea: And I’m Andrea.

Doug: And we are so glad that you are with us today. And welcome, welcome, welcome. If this happens to be your first time, we want to let you know that this is for your education and entertainment purposes only, and if the subject matter raises any concerns for you or your child, please go seek a local professional for help.
Well, Dr. Leman, either you were a tennis player or you were a psychologist and maybe you were both, but what is this phrase keep the tennis ball of life in their court and what does that look like and what does it mean?

Dr. Leman: Well, first of all, for the sake of transparency, I hate tennis. I never could play tennis. I excelled in the sports I played, which was the traditional baseball, basketball, and some football, but tennis is one of those things I couldn’t get. But I love the idea of taking that ball and watching some pro make an unbelievable shot and puts it right back in the other guy’s court. There’s something inside of you, even if you hate tennis, that says, “Yes. Oh man, that was great.”
I’ve shared this with people before, but it’s just one of my all time favorite scriptures. If you’re a heathen, you can tune out for a minute. You don’t even listen to this. But in John 2, where Jesus changes the water to wine, Jesus’ mother, Mary, comes to Jesus and says, essentially, “Hey son, do your thing. They’ve run out of wine.”
He gives her the look and he says to her, “Woman,” calls his mother woman just to show as irritation, “What have you to do with me?” Well, she turns and says to the servant, “Do whatever my son tells you to do.”
Do you realize that Mary slam dunked the tennis ball back into the Lord’s side of the net? All she said was, Do whatever my son tells you to do.” Jesus already said no. In fact, I’ve asked theologian friends to explain that to me. They couldn’t explain it, but she put it back in Jesus’ court. Jesus does what? For whatever reason, and I don’t know that reason, he turns the water into wine. He performs his first miracle right there.
You have to keep the responsibility with kids on their side of the net. They’ll try to weasel out of it. They’ll lie. Don’t flat out lie. They’ll yell for their mother or their father, whoever is the softer one of the two of them. They’ll try to get out of things. That’s just the way it is. It’s called immaturity. That’s why God gave us parents to help guide us in the right ways.
But that whole concept is so foreign today in our society. Nobody owns up to anything. It’s somebody else’s fault. It was my poor upbringing. I didn’t have a father. I know a lot of fatherless men who’ve done great in life and women as well. Is it ideal? No, but life is full of excuses and excuses make the weak weaker. So don’t be afraid to serve that tennis ball back in your kid’s court. Again, they’ll make excuses, they’ll lie, they’ll point fingers. But the reality is if it’s on them, keep it on them. Don’t let them squirrel you away from it.

Doug: How does this actually play out in life? Let’s say the kid got called into the principal’s office, and the principal says, “Hey, your kid was caught doing something XYZ wrong.” And when you get home with your kid, your kid says, “Hey dad, it was totally unfair to me. I was just standing there and this other kid, Bobby, he’s the one that did it. And they just swept me in with it.” I mean, what you do next, does that apply in the tennis quote?

Dr. Leman: Sure. What I would say is, “Oh, is it that unfair, honey? Oh my goodness. So we need to take action here. Oh, you know, I misspoke. You need to take action here. You need to go back to Mr. so and so down at school and tell them how unfair that was to you. But let me tell you that one thing, honey, based on my experience in life, if you do that, you better come prepared.” In other words, “Hey, it’s great to come home here and tell me how you were just standing there. You didn’t do a thing. And if you were so poorly treated and this is so unfair, man, you need to take action. You need to go back to the principle.”
That kid is not going back to the principal’s office. He’s working yet. He would love you to pick up the phone and run interference for him. And that’s part of just keeping the ball on the right side of the court. That’s his job. That’s his problem.

Doug: Right. You brought it up at the beginning that it’s always somebody else’s fault in our culture. How as a parent do we … We do feel this ominousness of like, I have to defend my kid. I have to stand up for my kid. I got to stand with my kid. How do you find the balance in not stepping in at the wrong time versus letting them deal with their own issues that they’ve created? How do you know when it is?

Dr. Leman: I didn’t cheat on the exam. I didn’t steal the money. I didn’t lie. Honey, I’m hearing your tale of woe, but I got to tell you that much as I love you, I’m unimpressed. It sounds like what you’re trying to say is what you did was somebody else’s fault. Did I read you right? Is that what you’re telling me? Because if you’re trying to sell that anywhere, nobody’s going to buy it.

Doug: What about I tried out for the football team and I got cut and the kid comes home and he says, “That coach, she just, that he had it out for me and he didn’t like me.” The reality is your kid didn’t run during the summer and he didn’t lift weights and he didn’t prepare himself to even try and make it. What do you say when he comes home? About how unfair that is?

Dr. Leman: Everything you said, honey, might be very true, but the reality is that coach wants the best 45 guys on that football team. And for whatever reason, he cut you.
I’ve told the story of JV basketball. I was a little hot shot basketball player, but I’d have to admit, I was always fooling around. I didn’t take basketball very seriously. I was a pretty good ballplayer. And Mr. Power reads the list of guys and I’m so stupid. I go up to Mr. Power. I said, “Mr. Power, you skipped over my name.” He said, “I didn’t skip over your name Leman. You got cut.”
I grabbed my clothes out of my locker and I ran home in my shorts in Buffalo, New York in November, crying all the way home. I mean, I’m old, on Social Security. I remember it like it was yesterday.
I got one better than that. A guy who was trying to get me to realize that there’s something more important than myself in life, and he worked for Campus Crusade for Christ. He took me to lunch and he said to me, you’re get to love this, he says, “Hey, Kevin, let me ask you a question. When are you going to stop making an ass of yourself?”
Now, when somebody says something to you like that, you tend not to forget it. I was 19 at the time. Again, I’m an old guy now. I haven’t forgot it. Did it endure me to this guy? No, it didn’t. But it did get me thinking because the reality was that’s exactly what I was doing at that stage of my life. As a reminder, I was a janitor, I smoke on my Salem cigarettes, had my greasy hair, thought I was cool, thought I was the Fonzie of the time. And in reality, I was a dumb jerk.
You know the story. I met my wife and she was the trigger God used in my whole life, did a 180. But anyway, sometimes the bare truth is what your kids need to hear. It’s called reality. And sometimes you get people’s attention.

Doug: How do you administer reality without crushing the self esteem or crushing the spirit? How do you do that well?

Dr. Leman: I think you preface it with something on the line of, “You know honey, I love you. And that means I’d take a bullet for you, but I have to tell you that what I’ve seen from you in the past few months sickens me because you’re worth a lot more than what you’re showing. And you’re disrespect for myself, your mom, your sisters, it’s disgusting to tell you the truth. We think more of you than that. We’re very disappointed in your behavior. And I can tell you that changes will be forthcoming if you don’t make some changes in your life. I can’t make you do anything. If you want to have further discussion on this, I’d be more than happy to talk to you. I’m all ears. If I’m missing something, let me know what I’m missing, but I just want you to know how disappointed I am on what’s going on in his home. And I expect things to change quickly.”
You bury the bone with them, but you preface it with, I love you and I care about you. But if the kid’s 14 years old and knows everything and you know nothing, when they’re 19, like I was, don’t expect a miracle before your eyes. But sometimes you have to tell kids things that are very unpleasant. They love you. They want to please you actually. Behind all the facade of all the crap that they’re giving you, they actually want you to be approving of them. Well it’s hard to be approving of a kid who’s just nasty to everybody in the home.
You take the little buzzard by the beak, so to speak, and you pull them in and close to your face and you give them focused attention, and you say, “This is serious. You got to hear what I’m telling you because this does not bode well for you continuing to live in this house.” I mean, whatever the straight talk has to be, let it be firm, don’t draw, don’t leave anything unturned, say what you need to say, and then back off, reassure them that you love them and you really hope and pray that they’ll be able to make some changes. And if I can help you make those changes in any way, let me know.
The reality is, by the way parents, there’s nothing you can do. He has to make that decision, she has to make that decision.

Doug: That’s so good, Andrea, or not Andrew. You’re Dr. Leman. You’re Andrea. Dr. Leman, well …

Dr. Leman: Let me say this about that Doug. I can be Andrea if you want me to. I’m not as pretty as her though.

Doug: No, you are not, no, by a long shots, by long shots, no.

Dr. Leman: You know what would be fun to do on our podcast is ask people just to call in and give a description of Doug Terpening and Andrea, what do they look like? Wouldn’t it be fun to do? Because people hear your voices and they have a picture in their mind of what you look like. And that would be fun to hear what people think Doug Terpening looks like, what Andrea Terpening looks like. So if you want to take us up on that call in and describe Doug or Andrea or both.

Doug: I probably have fangs and long fingernails and Andrea has perfect hair and it’s flowing [crosstalk 00:12:59].

Andrea: Not at all.

Doug: That’s so funny.

Andrea: It’d be hilarious to see what you think.

Doug: That would be hilarious to see. Well, that would be fun. I would be remiss not to tell you this, because honestly, this is one of those things, we’ve been doing this ebook promotions for awhile. I know I say this every now and then, but I just got to tell you, this one that [Revel] has given you is gold and that is making children mind without losing yours for $2.99 from now until the end of June of 2020, wherever eBooks are sold. This book has sold millions for a reason because it has helped so many parents. I’m just telling you, when we recommend books to people, this is one of them that we tell them, get this one. It’ll give you the roadmap to where you want to go.
I wish next time we do this, Andrea, we have to start reading the Amazon reviews for people so they can see it for themselves.

Andrea: I agree.

Doug: We just didn’t come prepared for that today because you’ll see what people are saying about this book and say, “I should absolutely get that.” You get that book and you go get Dr. Leman’s new book, “Why Your Kid Misbehaves and What to Do About It, you put those two books together and you’ll be like, “Honey, our parenting is going to be so much better. We’re going to have the freedom to know what to do. We’re going to have the confidence on what to do,” and it’s just going to help you so much.
Please, for your sake, $2.99 is not a lot of money. And it is like, trust me, it’s worth it. Even if you don’t agree with Dr. Leman, just to wrestle with this and then try one or two of those things and you’d be like, “Oh, that was well worth it.”
Between now and the end of June, Making Children Mind Without Losing Yours, great companion to the new book, Why Your Kid Misbehaves and What to Do About It. And now a no nonsense parenting moment with Dr. Kevin Leman.

Dr. Leman: I love to ask families, particularly parents, do you have a port of call on the ocean of life? Do you know where you’re going? So many times we get caught up in the minutia of getting kids to their orthodontist appointment and getting them to their activities that we fail to really show our children hey, we do have port of call. We know where we’re going as a family.
Now this goes back to articulating your family values to your kids. Hopefully that’s done through your church, whatever that faith might be, the values that you instill in your children ought to be the ones that you hold the dearest. It’s always a reminder.
I remember when our kids were growing up and they went out for an evening, I’d always say to them, “Remember, you’re a Leman.” Someone once asked me at a seminar, “What does that mean?” I said, “I don’t have a clue what it means, but remember, you’re a Leman.” In other words, there’s an expectation that you will conduct yourself in a way that’s consistent with the family values that we adhere to.
Do you have a port of call? What are you going to do when these kids leave the nest? Are they going to leave as giving, caring individuals or hedonistic little suckers who care only about themselves? That’s the question. All right. Do a good job, not a great job, just a good job and I’ll be happy.

Doug: Dr. Leman, this actually is one of the concepts that’s helped us out a ton, Andrea and I, but here is where we still trip up on this concept, and that is that we get afraid that if we leave the tennis ball on their side of the court, they’re going to whiff and fail. They’re going to fail the science project that they just forgot to turn in and they’re going to fail at this. How do I deal with that overwhelming sense that they’re going to miss the ball?

Dr. Leman: You just need to know the Christian home was a place where kids ought to learn failure. If they fail, it’s not the end of the world, it’s an experience. It’s one strike. They’re still in the game. So don’t get hung up about that. Okay parents? I know it’s hard for you to see that, but talk to anybody who’s successful, they’re going to tell you there was failure in their life. So hang in there, be a support to your kids, love them anyway, and remember it was their non-effort that got them that grade. It was their non-being involved. It was their non-doing the research. It was non-putting the time in. I mean, there’s a reason for it. It’s not a conspiracy.

Doug: That’s really good.

Andrea: That’s really good to remember.

Doug: Dr. Leman, in your experience, the kid gets the bad grade once, what happens the next time?

Dr. Leman: He may get a bad grade again, or he might improve, and that’s where you pull your vitamin E and say, “Wow, I’m really impressed. You moved up two letter grades.” That’s the vitamin E.

Doug: It’s like in our experience, I know we’ve told this story before, but our kids make 4H projects and we’ve learned, let it be crooked and let it be unpainted and they learn because somebody comes around and critiques it and says, “Here’s all the things you’ve done wrong.” It helps them. It’s a third party, not us, that has to tell them be thoughtful and caring.

Dr. Leman: It’s better for somebody else to do that. Yeah, you’re right.

Doug: Keep the tennis ball of life in their court and it just relieves a lot of pressure from you. As a reminder, again, I know I just said it, but I can’t encourage you enough to go get Making Children Mind Without Losing Yours, between now and the end of June, where ebook is sold. You will not regret it. And as always, the brand new book is written, so for today, for us parents that are dealing with these new realities, Why Your Kid Misbehaves and What to Do About It, can’t be any simpler than that. That’s the question you’re asking. That’s [inaudible] solve it.
Thanks for being with us. We love helping you add to that parenting toolbox to have the confidence on how to parent. Take care.

Andrea: Bye bye.

Doug: Have a good day. Bye.