It’s time for another Ask Dr. Leman! When your 9 year old calls you a bad mom, how do you handle it? Learn what Dr. Leman has to say about powerful children in today’s episode.

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Doug: Does your kid call you a bad mom every day? How do you deal with verbal attacks from your children? That’s the question that we get to ask Dr. Leman, and get you that answer.

Doug: Hi, I’m Doug Terpening.

Andrea: And I’m Andrea.

Doug: And we are so fantabulously glad that you are with us today. And I just want to let you know that if this is your first time with us, 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.

Doug: So on today’s episode we get to do one of my favorite things, which is answer your audio question that you leave. And if you’re wondering, “Hey, I want to leave an audio question,” you can do that by going to to leave your very own question. Let’s get in today’s episode and hear what Kathy has to say.

Kathy: Hello Dr. Leman. My question is, I have a nine-year-old who has some very ingrained, set behavior patterns. My husband and I divorced two years ago and he’s been very angry about that. And he gives me a very hard time and tells me that I’m not a good mom pretty much every day. I’m a Christian and I’m constantly working on bettering myself. However, reading your book and even applying your tools just never seems to fully get his behavior to change and turn around. And I don’t know what else to do. The main issue is that he is very unkind to his younger sister. He’s nine and his sister is six. And I tell them that that is not allowed in our home, and there’s consequences given, but … He’s gotten better. However, he still does it all the time. And then he accuses me of being mean to him because I’m parenting him, and it just gets this vicious cycle, and it’s very exhausting.

Dr. Leman: Yeah, well it is exhausting. They wear you down. Well, there’s so many things going on here. First of all, he’s nine years old. Okay? And the divorce two years ago, and he’s bitter and angry about it. I mean, you have to understand what’s happened to him. You took his world and you shattered it when you guys divorced. He was just seven years old. And I realize there’s reasons for divorce. I don’t want to make you feel worse by saying what I just said. But you have to understand the reality from behind his eyes. Life has hurt him. It sucker punched him right in the stomach. So if I feel hurt by life as a 7-year-old, how do I behave toward other people? And of course you always hurt. This is the name of a song. you always hurt what? The ones you love.

Dr. Leman: And so he is striking out. He is saying behaviorally, “I am so angry that you two couldn’t keep your act together and give our family a solid foundation.” He’s angry about it, and you’re available, so your number one target. Guess who number two target is? Six-year-old sister. So he rips on her. You have to get good, Kathy, at verbalizing what you think your son feels behind his eyes. And in fact, this might help with the six-year-old. You can pull him aside and have a talk along the lines of, you know, “I’ve noticed something about your sister. She’s really sort of a pain, isn’t she? I can see she does things that upset you and sometimes there’s little things that maybe she does do that I don’t even see. And then I think I get mad at you because you’re older than she is.”

Dr. Leman: If you talk to your nine-year-old like that, he’s going to start figuring out, “Wait a minute. Mom’s a little smarter than I’ve given her credit for, here.” But you can, and I think you said you can’t implement some of these things. You can. You can do this. You need to be in authority. But what you have to understand is this little enemy of yours who you love with all your heart … I say the enemy because right now he’s hurting and he’s striking out. He knows how to punch your buttons. He knows how to punch your guilty buttons. And so you say there’s consequences. Well, I’m wondering what kind of consequences. Next time he tells you that you’re a lousy mom, I would simply say to him, “Excuse me, I want to make sure I understood what you just said. You said, I’m a lousy mom? A bad mom?” Just clarify it. Okay? Give him a look, that, “I get it.” Okay? And count the seconds or minutes before that nine-year-old wants something. Whether it’s, “Mommy, would you tuck me in now?”

Dr. Leman: “Dr. Leman, you’re not going to tell me not to tuck my kid in, I hope.” Yes, I just did. You need to show that you’re a human being; that you’re worthy of respect as a woman and as a mom. And he can find someone who’s not a lousy person, who’s not a bad mom to tuck them in at night. You say, “Well, there’s only my six-year-old and a dog here.” Well, those are your choices.

Dr. Leman: In other words, you have to play hardball. This is a powerful kid. Number one, he’s developed … He’s gone from attention getting to powerful. In fact, there is obviously some hurt feelings on his part, and so he’s striking back.

Dr. Leman: And so you can do this, Kathy. You can be firm. And what happens is, the guilt overwhelms you and even some of the things that I brought up in my response today is making you feel guilty, about what I said about divorce.

Dr. Leman: Well, I got news for you. Divorce hurts everybody. It rarely solves a problem. But you have to deal with what it is, and I don’t know all the circumstances of … If he was abusive to you in any way, I’d be the first to say, “Kathy, you need to get a divorce. You need to get out of there.” So I’m not anti-divorce completely, but divorce usually doesn’t solve things.

Dr. Leman: But when you draw a line with this nine-year-old, he’s going to see you mean business. And your stock, so to speak, is going to go up in his eyes when you stop doing the things you do for him every day. For example, do pack a lunch for him? If you do, why don’t you stop? “Mom, where’s my lunch?” “I didn’t feel like making a lunch today.” “Mom, I need something to eat.” “Well, honey, the school bus is going to be here in seven minutes. So you better grab something and put it in a bag.” That’ll rock him. He won’t know what hit him. At least you get to a point where you can talk.

Andrea: So Dr. Leman, I’m wondering, is she supposed to … The first thing that he requests after he tells her that she’s a lousy mom, that’s when she’s supposed to start this, “I’m not doing that”? So say he says, “You’re a lousy mom,” and it’s right before bedtime. And then he says, “Who’s tucking me in? Are you going to tuck me in?”

Dr. Leman: Yeah. “I don’t feel like tucking you in.”

Andrea: So not just out of the blue.

Dr. Leman: Let me ask you a question, Andrea. Was, “You’re a lousy mom,” out of the blue?

Andrea: I guess it was, yeah.

Dr. Leman: Yeah, right. So you respond in kind. [crosstalk] play on words.

Andrea: So just as soon as she hears this podcast, first thing she sees him, she just starts …

Dr. Leman: Well, here’s the question. Okay? We’re on live TV right now. We’re doing a talk show. And Kathy says, “Well, Dr. Leman, I don’t know if I can do that.” And I’d come back with, “Kathy, well let me ask you a question. How are things working out for you right now?” And she says, “What? Well that’s why I’m here. I need some help.” Well, then you have to listen to the help. He’s a powerful kid, so he won’t like it when you’re powerful back; when you’re decisive back with him. But he will respect it, and he’ll figure out real quickly, “You know what? I need my mommy, and what I said was wrong.”

Dr. Leman: And so it gets you to a point where you can at least talk turkey. I mean, as Helen Reddy said years ago, “It’s you and me against the world.” And there she is now, a single mom with two little kids, and I’m assuming she’s working for a living and trying to do all those things single moms do at once, which is near impossible to pull off. Hard enough to do it when you got a help mate. But I’m just saying, you got to cut to the chase and you need to get to a place where we either have a relationship, honey, or not.

Doug: So Dr. Leman, what I think a lot of moms are asking themselves is this: If I don’t talk my kid in, or if I say no, what is it going to do-

Andrea: Is it going to be worse? Is he just going to blow up?

Dr. Leman: Well, is it better to slow leak the relationship to death, or have a blowout? That’s one question I would ask our listeners. I think it’s better to have a blowout. But here’s what you have to understand. Guilt … And I’ll bet you guys can recite this, because I’ve said it so many times. Guilt is the propellant for most of the lousy decisions you make as a parent. And women tend to be the guilt gatherers of life. Men don’t gather guilt in great amounts. It’s the women who are the guilt gatherers. So this little guy has figured out ways of making you cringe inside; to make you buckle; to make you not follow through, which isn’t good for your family, Kathy.

Dr. Leman: So you know, if you feel like I’ve been beating you up on the podcast today, I want you to know that if that’s your perception, I’m beating you up out of love because you need to change your behavior and no one but you can change your behavior, Kathy. No one. And so this is a tough decision on your part.

Andrea: So what’s he going to do when she pulls this out the first time? I know you’ve talked before about the fish out of water idea. Is that what she’ll be experiencing?

Dr. Leman: Yeah. He’s going to have a meltdown. He might throw a giant temper tantrum. I mean, go to your bedroom, lock the door, go to sleep, turn the music on, whatever it takes. If you engage in battle, you’re telling him that his tactics are working and it’s going to do nothing but get worse and continue.

Doug: Well, Kathy, I really hope this helps you a lot and all the other moms that are out there listening. And again, I can’t say it enough, go get the book Parenting Your Powerful Child by Dr. Kevin Leman. I’m just telling you, read this book. It will give you the confidence so … You can hear these words, and I bet you in your mind you’re like, “I want to do this,” but in your heart you don’t have it yet. Read that book so that it’ll help get it from your head to your heart so that you really can have the freedom to have the relationship you want with this kid. And I’m just telling you, it works. I’m telling you. Dr. Leman, one of his favorite phrases is step over the child, not on the child. We’ve done it and it works.

Dr. Leman: Yeah. Let me say one other thing to you, Kathy. Our sweet Andrea would love to send you a teddy bear of, a bouquet of flowers, and a day trip to the local spa. I know this woman’s heart, and right now, in her heart, she’s praying for you. Okay?

Andrea: Really, we’re not all here to beat you up.

Dr. Leman: Yeah, she’s not the tougher side of the terpenes. Let it go at that.

Andrea: How do you know that, Dr. Leman?

Dr. Leman: I love you. You know that, but I do know you.

Doug: Well, Kathy, Andrea’s got that teddy bear and flowers coming, and to the rest of you, we love answering your questions so much, and we’d love helping you. So one of the ways you can do that is you can subscribe to the podcast so it comes to you, and you can also go to to get more resources, or you can leave your own question there. So go to and leave it there.

Doug: Well, we love being with you and we’d love adding to your parenting toolbox so you can love those kids more and more and more. We look forward to the next time we get to be with you.

Andrea: Have a great week.

Doug: Bye-bye.