It’s time for another Ask Dr. Leman! What do you do when your kid needs attention for good behavior? Listen in for Dr. Leman’s answer.


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Doug: So you’ve been listening to this podcast and reading Dr. Leman’s books and you’ve applied a couple of the principles here and there and you’re like, “Woo hoo, I’m starting to see some change in my kid. This is great.” But all of a sudden this other problem pops up. What do you do about that? That’s the question Alyssa asked that we get to ask for you today.

Doug: Hi, I’m Doug Terpening.

Andrea: And I’m Andrea.

Doug: And we are so glad that you are with us today. Welcome. If this happens to be 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. Well, Dr. Leman, this is being released on January 7th of 2020. The year 2020. And I think it’s been quite a while since I’ve done this, but I think it really helps people understand the context of… If they’re sitting there scratching the chin like, “What does this guy Leman really know? Like what has he done?” Can you tell us just briefly how many books you’ve written and how many years you did private practice as well?

Dr. Leman: Oh gosh. Well let’s start with, I’m old as dirt, okay? I’m a little like Farmer’s Insurance, I know a few things because I’ve seen a few things. I was in private practice for approximately 40 years, so I saw families, kids, marriages, individuals, did a little bit of everything. Worked in a mental health clinic, taught at the university for 10 years. I was a Dean of Students from 1971 to 1981, handled all the discipline problems of college students. That was a great job by the way. When I took that job, I was 6 feet 11, I’m now a 5′ 10″. Anyway, I’ve written lots of books, 64 of them last count.

Dr. Leman: And my whole thing is to teach people, Doug and Andrea, that these people problems can be worked out. Most of the behavior that kids exhibit in our lives is learned behavior. They’ve learned to be the person they are. The question is, can they unlearn them, those negative behaviors? Can kids change? Can people change? Of course they can, but you don’t always have to run to your neighborhood shrink and see them for two years and pay an awful lot of money for those sessions to have that happen. And that’s why I pride myself on the books that I put out, that they are practical and they give you lots of options as a parent. They just don’t tell you what they do, but they give you options as a parent based upon your situation which way to go.

Doug: Well thank you for that background. And I know I’ve said this before, but also I think the proof is in your own personal family. Andrea and I can tell you from experience their kids want to get together for holidays, their kids want a vacation together. Their kids have succeeded in life. So he just doesn’t talk from principle, but from also actual life.

Dr. Leman: Five kids help that. They help bring a reality to life. They’re not all the same and they’re all going to see life differently and your job, parent, is to get behind those eyes of those kids and try to figure it out.

Doug: Amen. Well to that, we get to hear Alyssa’s question about her nine year old and let’s hear what Alyssa has to ask.

Alyssa: Morning Dr. Kevin Leman. My question for you is my nine year old son, he is an only child. He was born powerful. No, we lost a lot of control and power in our parenting over the years. And when he was eight we decided to get some help and we’ve taken the power and control back in our home. My question for you is when we asked him to do something, he likes to debate it or try to divert and do something quickly before he needs to do what he’s told. So it could be like I’ve asked him to unload the dishwasher and he wants to hug the dog and then hug me and then hug his dad. And then it’s like all these little things. And for us it’s frustrating because we know he’s doing it just to take up a little bit more time before he needs to do we do what he’s told.

Alyssa: My other question is, while he’s doing his task, there’s a lot of attention seeking. He can get very loud and obnoxious unloading the dishwasher or anything that we’ve asked him to do. So my question is how do we correct that? How do we correct a child who is listening, but while they’re doing their chore, they’re still attention seeking or while they’re doing their schoolwork, they’re still seeking attention. So I really appreciate your feedback. I hope you understand what I mean.

Dr. Leman: Yeah, I think I get it. Only children are in a class by themselves. They’re little adults. Certainly by age nine a child is fully personality wise formed. In other words, they have a mantra in life that might say, I only count on life when I win, when I dominate, when I control, when I get other people’s attention, when I put people in my service, when I avoid conflict, I mean there’s hundreds of those, fill in the blank for your kids. So you’ve already diagnosed your child as a powerful child, which I think is true. He’s been a powerful child. Now we’re seeing attention getting on top of that. There’s a little plus on that in that we’re moving from powerful to attention getting, which is at least a positive moment. But when you talk about delaying things and I need an extra hug and I need to do this and that, and he builds in other activities, he’s still showing you that he’s powerful.

Dr. Leman: So it’s a combination. And again, when you go from attention getting to power, you just don’t end up powerful. I know you said something like that, but actually a kid doesn’t just start powerful. They start with attention getting. And when that doesn’t seem to work and they don’t get enough attention, then they become powerful. But a couple things, with kids like this, they’re certainly smart enough to really talk to. They are certainly able to reason. And in quiet moments when your nine year old is not being obnoxious or whatever, you slip him a commercial announcement and you say something like, honey, you know I’ve been thinking about you quite a bit today and it seems like you have an insatiable need to garner our attention. It seems like all the time. In fact, you’re really good at making us pay attention to you. For example, when you get real obnoxious, it’s hard not to pay attention to you.

Dr. Leman: But I want you to look around. Stop right now, just look around the house. Do you see any other children here? There’s not another one in sight, you’re it, so you get all of our attention. And I’m wondering what’s going on in your head that makes you think that you need more attention. Do you think we’re going to run out of hugs and kisses or money or freedoms for you? No, we love you but when you make a fool of yourself, quite frankly, we sort of shake our head and we feel a little sorry for you to tell you the truth because this isn’t going to work in our home and it’s not going to work in life. So both dad and I feel bad about the situation you find yourself in and yet I think we both think are smart enough to figure out a way to handle this differently.

Dr. Leman: Now what we just did there is we’ve taken the tennis ball of life that I like to talk about, we placed it back on his side of the court. We’ve used what we call psychological disclosure to tell a child rather nicely that what you’re doing isn’t working and it’s not good for you. Yeah, it’s irritating to us, but it’s not good for you, but we believe that you’re going to be able to handle that. That’s the first thing I would do with a kid like that. If you want to have some fun with him when he’s tuned in to his favorite TV program or maybe at nine he’s on his computer doing something, you can stick your head five inches from his space so he can’t see the TV or he can’t see the computer and just say, I need your attention. I need your attention now. Really, would you just look at me? I need your attention. I need your attention.

Dr. Leman: And get them to the point where… Now again, this isn’t fun, so you’re not doing this in spite, you’re not trying to create more of a power struggle. We’re just making a point that that’s sort of how it feels sometimes on our end when all we’re trying to do is get out the door and you insist on a petting the dog and making sure her fingernails are okay or toenails are okay or whatever. So what I’m saying is you give the child some knowledge, you back off. You’re expressing faith in the kid that he’s going to be able to do some changing here.

Dr. Leman: It sounds, again, like you’ve had some positive changes in your home, you need to go back and rethink how did that work, why did that work so good? What do we do to create a situation where your child begins to change their behavior? Again, keep in mind, I wrote the book Making Children Mind Without Losing Yours, but you really don’t make a child mind do you? But you set up situations where a kid figures out I’m better off to go with the flow than I am to do what I’m doing. So that’s sort of the short term goal here.

Doug: So here’s my question. If I’m a parent listening to this, I’m like, what? There’s no way I’m walking up to my child and saying, you are making a fool of yourself. That’s degrading. That’s not thoughtful. That’s mean. How would you answer that question, Dr. Leman?

Dr. Leman: I would say parent, then enjoy your powerful child. I mean you need to call a spade a spade. Telling the truth in love is a great principle to live by. Telling the truth with love. You’re not doing it to be mean spirited. You’re just saying, this dog and pony show is getting really old and you’re making a fool of yourself. It’s not being received well by us. We talk about the purpose of nature of behavior. What’s the purpose of nature of a kid being obnoxious, of being silly? I mean, they’re kids, they’re going to do that from time to time, but Alyssa’s called in because it’s getting to be too much.

Dr. Leman: We have people at our school… We give awards to kids for their academic achievement and we’re a classical school, so we give crowns. And of course does everybody get a crown? No, but we’ll have parents who just, they feel so down and so bad because their kid didn’t get a crown. That’s just the way it is. Everybody doesn’t get a raise. Everybody doesn’t get advancement. It’s life. And if a parent’s really concerned about their kid not achieving, I would ask the parent to think about what do I do in my home to enhance the probability of my son or daughter doing better in school? So again, are parents a little over the top today? Yeah, they are. They’re a little too sensitive and I think a few of the bumps and bruises kids get in life gives them psychological muscles to deal with the realities that’s coming down life’s way for them.

Doug: When we come back from this, before I give the eBook promotion, I want to let people know we’re going to come back and I’m going to ask you about the parents be in the induced bumps and bruises. But so I don’t forget the eBook right now for you, which again, I can’t ask you enough to go get this book is The Intimate Connection. You can get it now until January 13th and this is incredible, for only $1.99. So now until January 13th of 2020 wherever eBooks are sold. Dr. Leman, if I’ve never heard anything about The Intimate Connection, what is that book about and how’s it going to help me?

Dr. Leman: Well, if you’re married or in a relationship, it’s going to help you understand the person that you love. It’s going to help you understand yourself. It’s a complete guide, in my opinion, to marriage. About everything that you can think of that invades your marriage is talked about in this book. It gives women, I think, a new perspective of what this man is all about and men who are not usually great communicators are going to learn how to communicate to a woman a little differently and they’re going to understand the need for women to be watered like a plant with words. Men avoid words. Men love grunts and I don’t know and I don’t want to tell you and we’re just not the wordsmiths that women are, but this book will encourage men to use words to learn what true affection is all about.

Dr. Leman: And like I say, I don’t want to use basic as a term because it’s more than basic, but it covers the waterfront in terms of emotions and feelings and where you want to go as a couple. And I think it challenges you to work toward oneness. Because if you get that intimate connection in your marriage, quite frankly you have haven’t made. Nothing will tear you apart if you have the intimate connection, it’s hand in glove. It’s one relating to two, two relating to one. They’re inseparable and it’s for $1.99, my goodness. Download it. Offer to buy one for your adult son or daughter who’s married and you’re suspect that maybe things aren’t everything they should be. That’s a wonderful gift for people to start the year 2020 off in fine fashion.

Doug: So you can get it wherever eBooks are sold between now and January 13th of 2020. So Dr. Leman, there at the last thing you were saying, well, bumps and bruises are a part of life, but nowadays as parents, we’re not supposed to bring the bumps and bruises, that we’re supposed to help sooth the wounds and help them. But yet you’re telling me that. How do I balance those two problems?

Dr. Leman: Right. Let’s start off with most parents stick their head in the sand and make excuses for their kids. I’m not saying to brutalize the kids in any way, I’m telling them to tell them the truth. The kid’s moaning over the fact they got a D in a class. Well, honey, could it have any to do with the fact that you don’t do homework on a regular basis? I mean, duh. Honey, I can’t do your homework for you. These are your grades. You got to get it out of your head that somehow these are my grades. Do I feel bad that you’re not doing well in school? Yeah, I’ll give you that. I feel bad because I’m older and I know that you’re going to pay for this later on in life. This is going to determine what kind of apartment you have, what kind of house you have, what kind of car you drive someday. Education is important and you seem to have a nonchalant attitude about it like everything’s cool. Well, I’m older than you are and you’re going to have to trust me on this one, everything isn’t cool because education is important in life. So you need to man up, pony up, whatever term you want, and you need to attack this.

Dr. Leman: So I’m known for not sugarcoating things. I wouldn’t sugarcoat anything. And if your son or daughter gets an emotional bruise over you being brutally truthful with them, so be it. It’ll heal. It’s not the end of the world. But it sure beats blaming somebody else or sticking your head in the sand and pretending a problem doesn’t exist.

Doug: As our children have launched out, a couple of them have launched out into life, you used the term that we need to, what does it, Andrea, develop their…

Andrea: Psychological muscles.

Doug: Psychological muscles. And I heard you use those terms and I didn’t fully understand it until I saw my children in action out there and how important it is. You’re right that the real world isn’t Pattycakes and rainbows and yeah, we should do a whole episode on preparing your kid’s psychological muscles. But all to say thank you, Dr. Leman for that.

Dr. Leman: Well, think about it this way. When your son or daughter goes off into life, okay? How many of the people that they interact with every day really give a rat’s tail about them? Think about that. How many people that interacts with your kids really care about your son or your daughter? I mean, put a number on it. I’m curious to know what people are thinking as they listen to this podcast. I’m going to say not many. The building blocks that you have given them, and I always say you build a beautiful cathedral one brick at a time, as Doug and Andrea has cemented those bricks into the foundations of who those kids are when somebody becomes snarky or nasty or mean to James or one of the other kids, that work that you poured into them, that foundation is what’s going to keep them strong. Do you see what I’m saying?

Dr. Leman: So we prepare our kid for a world that’s not exactly a nice world. So if you sugarcoat everything in the home and you make excuses for kids and you continually let them off the hook and I mean what are you doing? You’re diminishing the chances of your kid developing the kind of protectance that they need as venture into a world that’s not exactly kind.

Doug: Well, Dr. Leman, as someone who’s got kids that have launched now, I just, if you’re listening to this as a parent, this is why we beg you, especially if you have smaller kids, go get these resources, go read these books. Help yourself get these kids ready. Because man, they go from five to out of your house in a blink of an eye. And I know I sound like an old person now, but I’m like, man, do it now. You’ll never regret it. I’m just telling you one of the greatest joys Andrea and I have because we’ve changed our parenting is our adult children are now coming back and asking us, “Well, what do you think about this?” Not all the time, but on enough that it’s like, Oh my gosh, this old crazy guy was right. He says they would and they do. And we don’t ask questions. We never ask questions now, like you said.

Doug: So for your sake, go get that book Have a New Kid by Friday. Download Intimate Connections for your sake, not for mine, but for yours. Okay, well it was great being with you. Alyssa, thank you for having the guts to leave us that question. It was fabulous. You can go to to leave your podcast questions there and we love being with you and we love that you’re taking the time to invest in your kids so that you can have more tools to love those kids better and better.

Andrea: Have a great week.

Doug: Have a super one. Look forward to the next time. Take care. Bye, bye.