Do you find yourself accepting responsibility for things your kids should be capable of doing? Dr. Leman talks about what it means to keep the tennis ball on your kid’s side of the net in today’s episode. Learn more about Dr. Leman at BirthOrderGuy.com.
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Doug: Hi, I’m Doug Terpening.
Andrea: And I’m Andrea.
Doug: And we are so glad that you are with us today. If this happens to be your first time with us, just wanna let you know this is for your education, and entertainment purposes only. If the subject matter raise any concerns for your child, please go seek a local professional for help.
So, Dr. Leman, Andrea and I are stumbling over here, and all sorts of things, because the book promo that people get from the 19th of September to the 25th of September … I’d better say 2018 so that if people go back and listen to it … is Sex Begins in the Kitchen. And don’t get mad at me! I don’t set the price, Dr. Leman … 99 cents for the ebook. No comments from you at all, hunh?
Dr. Leman: Well, I could say something, but it would generate way too many emails.
Doug: Probably the right response. Probably the right response.
Dr. Leman: Yeah. Yeah. So, let me just tell you that book has been around for ages. Actually, since 1981. It’s been revised. It’s in 32 foreign languages, the last time I checked. And it’s a basic communication book. More of a communication book than it is a sex book, for sure.
But people will enjoy that book. My goodness, 99 cents? Hello! Hello, Walmart! You got a deal on that one, folks. Download it! I mean, my goodness. Share it with your husband, your wife, enjoy it. It’s a good little book.
Doug: Yep. And you only get a couple of days to do it. So, get it between the 19th and 25th. And this is also why I encourage you to go to birthorderguy.com and send it by the email list so that when this podcast comes out, they’re gonna send you an email, as they come out, and they’ll show you which of these books are for this incredibly killer steal of a price.
So, I am going to jump into the main segment. Here we go.
So, Dr. Leman, one of your favorite phrases is … I’m gonna butcher it here … “Keep the tennis ball of life on their side of the net?” or “court?”
Dr. Leman: Either one’ll do.
Doug: Okay. What does that mean? What the heck does that mean?
Dr. Leman: Well, it means don’t own things that you shouldn’t own. Take a situation that looks like a lemon, and turn it into lemonade by saying to a child, “Honey, how did you solve the problem?” Now, notice the child’s gonna make it your problem. And one of the things we try to teach people is, “Don’t accept responsibility for things that are not up to you.” If a child can’t find his homework, well, who did the homework? Ostensibly, the child. So, who would have the best idea where to find that homework? But the kid is capable of coming in and going, “Mom! Mom! I can’t find it. I got … I can’t find it!” What do most parents say? “Honey, did you look in the bedroom? Did you look in the family room? Is there any chance you took it in to the washer and dryer area? Remember when you …” I mean, you try to solve it. Don’t solve it. “Oh, honey, that’s frustrating. Oh, my goodness! Hey, as soon as I’m done with these dishes, I’ll give you a hand. I’m sure you’ll find it, sooner or later.”
I mean, if you get dragged into that, parent, somehow it’s gonna end up being your fault. So, don’t go there. And keep the tennis ball of life on the other side of the net.
Andrea: So, how do you stay disentangled from that?
Dr. Leman: Well, sometimes, “Honey, I’m sure you can handle it,” works. That’s a great little pocket phrase. “Honey, I’m sure you can handle it.”
Dr. Leman: And-
Andrea: It’s hard to say.
Dr. Leman: Of course it is, because the kids have trained us that we’re part of the doggy pony show international. And so, let’s stay with something sibling related like, “Steven stepped on my homework paper. Now it’s all ruined.” “Oh, honey, I’m sorry to hear that.”
Andrea: And you-
Dr. Leman: Now, isn’t that a better response than dragging Steven in, and upsetting everybody, and choosing sides, and, “I’m sorry that happened.”
Andrea: But then, doesn’t Steven need to be … reprimanded?
Dr. Leman: Oh, he’ll be dealt with. Let’s say Steven’s 9, okay? And Christopher is 12. And the little one stepped on 12-year-old’s homework, and put a hole right through his … one of his math examples. Do you know, I really believe, and I’ll bet you that Mr. Doug Terpening would have believed, the 12-year-old is very capable of taking care of 9-year-old.
Andrea: So, you’re not having mom take care of 9-year-old, you’re having 12-year-old take care of 9-year-old.
Dr. Leman: Right. But I’m also saying is mom, “Oh, honey. I feel badly for you. And you worked so hard on your homework. That’s gotta make you feel bad inside.” Now, the question is, does that 9-year-old have the commonsense and wherewithal to go to his brother and say, “I’m sorry I stepped on your homework.” I mean, it’s not life and death. But don’t get dragged into situations where the kids can work it out themselves.
Now, if you see yourself as Judge Judy in your home, and you have the big mallet, you know, in your home, and the gavel, and you’re presiding over the case against the 12-year-old and a 9-year-old? Tell me how you’re gonna feel when that case is adjudicated? Not very good. ‘Cause they’ll drag you into it. “He said, she said. Well, you don’t know what he did to me,” and you know.
Andrea: And everybody feels bad in the end.
Dr. Leman: So, fighting’s an act of what, Terpenings?
Dr. Leman: So, the kids know what to say to escalate the battle. So, keep the tennis ball of life on the right side of the net. Don’t own what isn’t yours.
Doug: So, Dr. Leman, we have a special guest with us. We have Anna Terpening here.
Dr. Leman: Hello, Anna babe.
Doug: So, the question for you, Anna, is: How do you feel when your mother says, “I think you can handle it.”
Anna: Well, to be completely honest, I know what she’s doing now.
Dr. Leman: No one asked … Anna, no one asked you to be completely honest.
Anna: All right. Then I’ll make up some story. What are you looking for, Dad? Should I say … He’s nodding, “Yes, yes!”
No, I think it’s a much better response than … I don’t know what else you would say. But I think it’s an empowering response. Like, okay, I get what she’s saying. She’s saying that she wants me try this on my own, and it’s like, “Okay, yeah. I guess I probably can do this.” And it’s a much better way to say it than like making up some other way? So, I guess I … Yeah, I do like it like that better.
Andrea: So, it’s empowering to you?
Dr. Leman: See, if you were my daughter, Anna, and you came to me, and you complained about your little brother, what he did, I might say something … And again, just to lighten things up, “Anna, you probably wanna go in there and just kill that little sucker right now. But honestly, Mom and I need the tax deduction. Please don’t kill him.”
Anna: You sound like my dad!
Dr. Leman: You know what I’m saying? It’s … I know it was unfortunate, but it’s not the end of the world. And if we can show kids how we handle things with a certain easiness? They’re gonna handle things with a certain easiness in their life. They model us.
Anna: It also … One of the things that that makes me think of is it allows me to get out of my anger safely. Because now I don’t have to keep up my anger if I was ready to let it go. And it just … I don’t know. It makes it easier for me to be like, “Okay, yeah. You’re right.” It’s a much more natural transition, I think.
Dr. Leman: You know, Anna, we could rent you out. We could keep you very busy. You could be a rich young lady very soon with your astute observations about life. I mean that. You’re a great kid. Thank you.
Anna: Thank you!
Doug: So, what, Anna, when Mom fires up on you, and like gets on you like, “Anna!”
Andrea: Why Mom? What about Dad?
Doug: Oh, ’cause Anna and I never have fights.
Anna: He’s joking.
Doug: Okay, so maybe if Dad says to you, “Anna! Just get out there, and get this done now!” How does that make you feel?
Anna: Yeah. That’s a lot … a lot better, a lot better. Not at all. It makes me wanna fire up, and obviously, then it’s like, “Oh! Well, do I? I don’t want … I don’t think I can do that. I don’t wanna do that!” Yeah, it’s not as empowering.
Andrea: So, that creates more of a … more tension, and-
Anna: Yeah. And then, obviously, then there’s a broken relationship, which is never helpful, right? And then there’s fear, and frustration, and disappointment.
Dr. Leman: Anna, how old are you again? Remind me.
Anna: Ah, 16.
Dr. Leman: Yeah. Gosh, you sound like you’re 26.
Doug: So, Dr. Leman, now that we’re here, Anna and I can take fights from a 2 to a 10 at a drop of a hat. How come I don’t do a good job of letting it stay on her side of the net? Why do I just fire up on her? And Anna, of all my kids, the one I fire up the most on.
Dr. Leman: Well, there’s probably an awful lot of similarity between your personalities, number one. Number two, you’ve probably gotten to know each other so well. We’re talking daddy and daughter, which is usually a very key relationship, that you know each other’s soft buttons and hot buttons, like you know the back of your hand, so to speak.
So, in a democratic society, if you have the right to fire me up … I’ll use your term … then I’ve got the right to do what? Fire back. It becomes a quid pro quo thing. You know, I mean, it’s, “Okay. I’ll see your dime, and I’ll raise you a nickel.” It’s a, “Spit in your soup.” It’s behaviorally saying, “You can’t run my life.” And that’s true. We can’t run Anna’s life, but we can make a situation so real to Anna that, sooner or later, she figures out her pouting, or her anger, or her whatever she just did, it doesn’t pay off in the Terpening family. And, as much as she would hate to admit that to herself, she figures out, “Well, that probably wasn’t the smartest thing I ever said or did.” And lesson learned, and life goes on.
Whether she comes back and says, “Mom, Dad, I’m sorry about what I said,” that’s a bonus for her if she’s able to do that. Does it have to happen every time? No. ‘Cause that’s not how life is.
Doug: So, why is it so hard for parents to do this? Why do we take control, and exert in unnecessary ways? What is it within us that makes us do that?
Dr. Leman: Well, I think most of us, who are honest with ourselves, we know exactly how our kids ought to be. And the reality is we think they ought to be, they’re not. And a lot of us think we understand how our kids think. And I think, upon closer examination, you figure out that, “Well, you know what? I may not be so smug. I may not be so sure of that. Maybe I misread that situation,” whatever.
You know, sometimes it takes me longer than normal to get in touch with my feelings, and realize I’ve made a horse’s tail of myself. But I’ve always been good enough to say … and I have to admit there’s been times where Mrs. Uppington has sort of nudged me I the right direction, and said, “Honey, you know, I think you sort of snapped at Hanna at the table.” It’s a reminder, you know. Now, if my wife says, “All right, listen up, bucko!” Well, that’s probably not a real good way of reaching into a man’s heart. So, it’s a smart, wise wife who can bring a gentle tongue to a situation. And dads can have gentle tongues too. And they have soothing effects on everybody. But you can’t beat, “I’m sorry. I was wrong. Would you forgive me?” It’s real simple to say.
Doug: So, Dr. Leman, let’s role-play here for a moment. Let’s pretend that you’re a 16-year-old girl, and you’re first name is Anna, and you’re responsible for doing laundry around the house. And it’s normally done on Friday, late afternoons, and it’s now Saturday, at 3:00 p.m. and the laundry is still not done. How would you handle that? Why don’t we role-play that? How about … We find anybody here named Anna? How could role-play that one?
Dr. Leman: Hey, Anna! Anna!
Dr. Leman: Do you have a minute?
Dr. Leman: There’s a chance that some recent trauma has come into your life that I’m unaware of. But when I walked in, and I saw the laundry all piled up, the first thought I had was, “Anna! Hello? That was supposed to be done last night.” So, I’m sure you have an explanation. And I’m sure it’s gonna make all kinds of sense. And I’m probably way off base here, but I think, in all fairness to you, I need to give you a shot. What’s going on?
Anna: I think that, because the laundry machine is in the schoolroom, and a lot of the time I’ll do my school in my bedroom, or maybe in afternoons, I’m outside, I don’t hear when the washing machine stops. So, I totally just … I forget to rotate it, and then it ends up carrying into the next day, and the next day. And most of the time I start it late because someone’s gone, or I know that not all the laundry’s there. And then I kind of push it off, ’cause I forget about it, and I get my day started. And I’m used to starting it in the morning.
Dr. Leman: Anna, I gotta tell you the truth. I don’t have the foggiest idea of what you told me, but it sounded like a lot of words. But the fact is, the laundry is still there, it needs to be done. I want you … I’m disappointed that it’s not done, okay? I’m gonna cut you a little slack here. I’m gonna give you some time to get on it, and I expect it to be done shortly.
Dr. Leman: Now, what you could have done, Anna, at that point, is say, “Dad! I can’t do it now! I have to go over to my friend’s house.”
Dr. Leman: At which I’m gonna say what to you? We’re still role-playing. What would I say to you if you said, “But Dad, I can’t do it right now, because I have to go over to whatever.” What would Dad say, as a responsible dad?
Anna: “Well, I mean, rotating the laundry doesn’t take that long. So, that can happen before you go.”
Dr. Leman: Yeah. And that’s the simple principle that we talk about on these podcasts, and that is, B doesn’t start till A gets completed. So, you don’t have to get mad and angry, Dad. You don’t have to name-call. You can say, and you heard me say I was disappointed. Now, usually, when a parent says to a child, “I’m disappointed.” Again, you correct me if I’m wrong, Anna. Most kids actually wanna please their parents.
Dr. Leman: True? Yeah.
Dr. Leman: So-
Doug: Well, thank you, special guest, Anna.
Anna: Mm-hmm (affirmative). You’re welcome.
Dr. Leman: I was a lot better parent than your father would’ve been, Anna.
Doug: That might be true. I love her to death, but oh, man, I can get her … I can take the tennis ball of life and-
Dr. Leman: So, listen. You’re gonna be saying goodbye to her in a couple of years here.
Andrea: Oh, don’t go there.
Doug: Stop it. Stop it.
Dr. Leman: Yeah, you will.
Anna: He’s already told me that I have a wide range. I can live up to two miles away.
Doug: There’s lots of houses within a two-mile radius, don’t you think?
Dr. Leman: The bad news, Anna, is it could start tonight, honey. So, be careful what you say to those old people you live with.
Doug: Well, thank you, Anna, for jumping in the middle of this. She’s obviously a great kid. I knew she could do this. She just placed in a speech competition, so I knew you could jump on the podcast, and do pretty good.
Dr. Leman: Oh, wow! Good for her!
Doug: Yeah. So, okay. Enough about Anna. I should stop bragging about her.
Well, again, anything … Any concluding thoughts?
Andrea: Oh, I just want to remember the phrases, “I think you can handle it,” and, “I’m sorry. I was wrong.” Those are two things that I can use with my kids to help deflate and put the tennis ball back on their side.
Dr. Leman: Again, parents, you could acknowledge how terrible it was, whatever the thing is. You can say, “Oh, that had to hurt. I’m so sorry.” But the reality is you can’t undo what was done. You know, she ripped the dress she was gonna wear. She spilled something on it. You know, in the moment, in the heat of the battle, it’s tragedy. And you show empathy, you show concern, and watch how a kid will paint themself in the corner, and say that, “Now, I’m never gonna be able to do this. I’m never gonna be that.” Well, that’s when a parent says, “You know, I know what you’re saying, honey, but I think that’s sort of a lie you tell yourself. The truth of the matter is you have quite a few other outfits. And go find something. I know it’s not exactly what you want. I know that was a change, it was a curve ball, but I’m sure you can handle it.” There’s your vitamin E, “I’m sure you can handle it.”
Andrea: I’m sure you can handle it.
Doug: Well, this was one of the phrases that you gave us that has helped Andrea and I the most. It’s just to tell our kids, “I think you can handle it.” The funny thing is, our kids have said, “Oh, no. That’s one of those Leman phrases again.” Hunh, Anna?
Anna: Mm-hmm (affirmative).
Dr. Leman: Well, you gotta admit, it’s a little better than saying, “I don’t give a rip, Anna.”
Anna: That is true. It is true.
Doug: So, I … If you haven’t ever used this, parent, I highly encourage you to try it out. I highly, highly … You’ll be surprised. And walk away.
Anna: Your kids will be surprised too, when you say it.
Doug: And if you just walk away. “I think you can handle this,” and walk away, it’s amazing what happens. And like Anna said, it diffuses … They don’t have anyone to be angry at now. So … Okay.
Well, I also … Thank you, Anna, for being our special guest. Love you. Glad you’re here. I also wanna thank our friends at Baker Revel, Revel Books, Baker Publishing, for making this podcast happen. Without them, it doesn’t happen. And incredible folks over there … I was just on a call with him today. They are so great, and on top of it. So, thank you, guys, for all that you’re doing.
And go get that ebook. You only got a few days to get it. And we look forward to hanging out with you again, to add into your parenting toolbox, so you can just love those kids more and more. You only get them for a few years, then they turn 16. Ew, ew, ew.
So, love you guys. Take care.
Andrea: Thanks for joining us. Have a good week.