It’s time to go back to the basics! Listen in to today’s episode to learn more about the effectiveness of showing your disappointment and walking away.


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Doug: I am unhappy and I’m walking away. In fact, I’m disappointed in what you just did, and I’m walking away. Can you say that to your kids? Can you walk away from your children? That’s the question we’re going to ask Dr. Leman today and hear what he has to say.

Doug: Hi, I’m Doug Terpening.

Andrea: And I’m Andrea.

Doug: And we are really, really, really, really glad that you are with us today. If this happens to be your first time, I want to let you know that 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: Well, for the next couple of weeks, we’re going to go back to the parenting basics as I call them. These are things that we did years ago that were foundational ideas, concepts that Dr. Leman has helped us understand and I hope he’s helped you understand. Well, we have a brand new small baby in our family. Not in our immediate family. Not in Andrea and I’s family. Andrea didn’t have a baby.

Andrea: No.

Doug: No announcement. But someone related to us had a baby, and we were thinking, hey, what would help them out if you were starting out again or if you had a small child? And then we’re like, boom, these are the kinds of things that Dr. Leman said that helped Andrea and I out, and we want to pass them on to you. So if you just joined us in the last year or two, that’s why we’re doing this.

Doug: So the first one up, Dr. Leman, is this. I have heard you say this phrase, and I don’t think you can say this as a parent. So I want you to tell us what this means and justify it to me. And that is I can walk up to my child after they’ve done something wrong and say, “I am disappointed,” and then I turn around and I walk away. I don’t think that’s legal. Tell me, what does that really mean and why is that legal?

Dr. Leman: Well, what you’ve done by going up to your kid and saying, “I’m very disappointed in what just went down here,” or something to that effect, is you’ve thrown him a curve ball right under his chin at about 86 miles an hour, which is pretty fast for a curve ball. You’ve knocked him down from the plate of life. You’ve got his attention. If nothing else, he’s going to say, “What was that all about?” Because you’re behaving differently. But what you have to understand is that there’s something inside of a kid that basically says I want my parents to approve of me, to love me. And when I find out that Mom or Dad is disappointed in what I’ve done, that gets my attention. It knocks me down and gets me thinking about, well, what have I done? Now, some kids are dumb as mud, and they might not even realize that what they said 20 minutes earlier was very surly, was very disrespectful, was way out of bounds. Sometimes it takes them a while to figure it out. But you’ve got their attention. That’s point number one.

Dr. Leman: So all you’re doing is stepping up to the plate and being the parent you need to be. You’re exerting your authority in your own home, which means kids are subject to you. Are you better than your kid? No. You’re not better than your kid. You have the same social equal value. God doesn’t love your kid more than you or you more than your kid. But you’re drawing a line in the sand, so to speak, and saying, “Hey, I’m unhappy.” And it gives the kid an opportunity to either respond or react. If they react to you, there’s going to be trouble for both of you. If he responds to you, you’re on first base in making that relationship just a little better. Does that make sense?

Doug: Yeah. Let me try and say it back so that I make sure I understand it. So by saying this, you’re making sure the kid understands that you are the authority there, you are exerting your authority. You’re getting your kid’s child… getting your kid’s child, oh, my gosh. You’re getting your kid’s attention about this, and you’re throwing them a curve ball. But aren’t I going to crush my kid? Isn’t it going to be bad to, A, hurt his self-esteem and, B, hurt our relationship if I do this?

Andrea: What is they feel rejected?

Doug: Yeah, boom, rejected, Dr. Leman. Now my kid doesn’t want to be with me.

Dr. Leman: Well, let’s put a little meat on the bone. You just found out he stole $20 out of your wallet. Okay? He’s a thief. What do you want to say to your son? Are you really that worried about his feelings at this point? Or do you realize, hey, this is a serious situation. I need to make a stand here. This guy’s got to understand that this is way out of bounds.

Dr. Leman: So again, parents tend to be way, way too concerned about a child’s self-esteem. That’s something that we’ve been sold a bill of goods from people in our community for a long time. And by the way, search for self-esteem. Those of you who are believers and you study the Bible, find self-esteem in the Bible for me, would you, and send it to me. I’d love to read about it. Now, I haven’t discovered it yet. Maybe it’s there. So again, we get way blown out of shape about what are my kids going to think of me? Are they going to… Of course, they’re going to love you. You’re the parent. I’m just asking you to be the parent God would have you to be. Stand up and be the parents. And that means sometimes calling a spade a spade. So if you’ve got a kid who’s stealing money from you or whatever, that’s just one example, I think you got to let them know on no uncertain terms that that doesn’t go in this home.

Andrea: So I have to be honest, Dr. Leman, if I picture that scenario for myself, instead of just saying one line and turning my back and walking away, I want to lay into them. I can feel myself wanting to explain, and teach, and describe, and give a story, a narrative of what’s going to happen if they continue down this line. And I can see it becoming an argument or one of those lectures.

Dr. Leman: Yeah, you have flunked today’s podcast, and I’ll tell you why.

Doug: Yes! Finally! Finally! I’m so happy.

Dr. Leman: Here’s the problem. If you continue to talk to him right then and there, the first thing he’s going to do is deny it. You’re setting your son up to lie. Okay? And that’s one of the reasons why I like just the terse I am very disappointed what happened here, turn your back and walk away. It gives time and separation so the kid can do a little soul searching and figure out how they’re going to face you. Because he or she is going to have to face you. It takes away the knee-jerk reaction that all of us do.

Dr. Leman: When I was hauled into the dean of students office many years ago at North Park University in Chicago, the guy says to me… His name was Elvin Erickson, and he said, “Hey, Kevin, do you know anything about the theft of the money over in Burgh Hall?” And I said, “I heard that some…” I forgot the adjective I used for the person, inferring that this person who was very bad and very dishonorable had stolen the money. I stole it. He asked me. My first reaction, “I didn’t do it. No, not me, Dean. It wasn’t me.” Well, he ended up throwing me out of school. So, so much for that. But my first reaction was what? “Oh, I didn’t do that.” Ask any parent. Who took the cookie from the cookie jar? Not me. You know that little rhyme, don’t you?

Doug: So, man, I love that. Right? When your brain is all on fire and you don’t know what to do to your kids, to say “I’m disappointed” and walk away? Boom! That’s such a nice tool to have in my bag so that I can calm down. But the second-

Dr. Leman: Okay. I-

Doug: Go ahead.

Dr. Leman: I think I’ve used this example before, but it won’t be long and pitchers will be reporting for duty here in late February I think it is, and baseball season starts March 26th. There’s a close play, okay, at second base. The runner thinks he’s safe. Unfortunately, the umpire thought he was out. He calls him out. The manager of the offensive team runs out screaming at the umpire and says, “Are you blind or something?” And the umpire does what? He tells him, “No, he missed the tag. He was high on the tag. He didn’t touch him.” And then what does the smart umpire do?

Doug: Walks away.

Dr. Leman: He turns his back and he walks toward center field, or left or right field, I guess, for that matter. But he walks away from where the majority of the players are, and he turns his back on the manager and walks away. Now, if the manager comes after him, and follows him out to center field, and talks about his mother in a disrespectful way, he’s going to wring him up. He’s going to throw him out of the ballgame. But my point is the smart umpire turns their back, walks away to give everybody a chance to just calm down. You questioned my call. I’ve told you why I made the call. This discussion is over.

Dr. Leman: And I think it’s great skill on the part of a parent because many of the mommies are just like Andrea. God bless her, she wouldn’t hurt a fly. They love their kids so much. They just want to be very careful about the words they choose to use because, “I don’t want my child ending up and not feeling like his mommy loved him.” You pushed for nine hours to give the little sucker life. What else do you want?

Doug: So, Dr. Leman-

Dr. Leman: Pardon my sense of humor. Go ahead, Doug.

Doug: So that’s great. Okay, I’ve walked away and I’ve told them I’m unhappy, but I’ve still got this elephant out there. My kid stole the money. I’ve missed my opportunity to make an impact. Right? I can’t go back to him now.

Dr. Leman: Oh, you made the impact by walking away. But the point that I think you’re making is, hey, we’ve still got a missing $20 bill and we’re going to talk about this. So we’ll go back to another principle of parents, and here it is. B doesn’t start until A gets completed.

Dr. Leman: Now, the A in this situation is the theft of the $20 bill from your wallet. And you found out because little sister ratted on him. Okay? So you know it’s true. Now, son comes and asks for… I don’t care what it is, anything. And the answer is no. And that’s the vitamin N. That’s another basic of parenting, that you have to give kids vitamin E, which is encouragement, and love, acceptance, a sense of belonging, a sense of competence. But the other flip side of that is vitamin N, which is no. “No, I don’t feel like driving you anywhere or giving you money or privilege or anything else. I’m very upset.” So we’re going to deal with A before we move on to B.

Dr. Leman: And see, that makes us, I think, as families accountable to each other to where we as parents follow through. What we say to parents all the time is don’t threaten your kids with things that aren’t going to happen. “All right, there’s no more candy for life. Do you understand me? No more candy for life.” Really? Stay away from the nevers. Okay? That gets you in trouble.

Andrea: So what if the kid… You said that the kid has a choice to either respond or react, and I love how you’ve described this before. What is the kid most likely to do?

Dr. Leman: Well, a lot of kids who react will come after you, and they’ll try to put a guilt trip on you. “You don’t believe me. You don’t trust me.” Well, again, my message to parents is remove your sails from your child’s wind. So when they’re blowing, and they’re blowing all kinds of smoke your way…”You’re such a bad parent. You never trust me. You never believed in me. You like her better than me,” and all that… don’t get involved. Remove your sails because if it’s a power struggle, especially if it’s in front of other people, you’re going to lose. You’re going to look like a fool. So you walk away. You keep your mouth shut. You’re the umpire who walks into center field. You made the call.

Dr. Leman: Now once emotions settle down and your kid is done reacting, then the best guess is… I mean, this is about as predictable as A is to B… your kid’s going to say to you, Mom or Dad, “Mom, Dad, I’m sorry.” And that’s the beginning of the restoration of the relationship. You’ve got to forgive them. You’re going to forgive them. Just like almighty God forgives you and me. Again, if you’re into believing what the scripture says, it simply says real clearly if you don’t forgive others, guess what? I’m not going to forgive you. So we all know we have lots of things to be forgiven for. So if we’re going to move forward, we’ve got to move forward in a rational way that makes a kid understand, “Hey, that was a mistake. You understand it. It’s not going to be repeated, right? We love each other. Tomorrow’s a new day. Let’s start it out on the right foot.”

Doug: So after we did this I don’t know how many years ago, this topic, podcast, I had an opportunity to use it with a couple of my kids. And it is great for me and for them to be able to de-escalate things. But I’ll be honest, to Anna, our second, one time I used it in anger and I just wanted her to pound sand and just let her know… And I did it wrong. But you know what? I realized I did it wrong, and I could go back to her, and we had a beautiful conversation because she was in the wrong, but I was also in the wrong. The reason I’m telling you that… like okay, that’s so confusing. What are you trying to say? I’m telling you, A, I’ve used it and it works. It helped me calm down, helped my kid get a chance to know… And even if you do it wrong, you’re doing it calmly that you have a chance to go back and do it right. It’s so good.

Doug: Okay. We’re going to take a break, and then we’re going to do role playing with Dr. Leman. So I want to cover a few things. There is an e-book special that you’ve got just a few days to get. It’s What A Difference A Mom Makes, between now and the end of February of 2020 for $2.99. And if you’re at all interested in buying this book, you should go read the Amazon reviews, but Andrea’s going to read one for you right now.

Andrea: Okay. This one says, “Great book. Every mother of a son or sons should buy this book. It is well written and easy to read. You don’t have to read the whole book at once but can read the chapter that applies to the age of your son. It helps you understand how your son is different and how he sees you. Fantastic book.”

Doug: So there’s even a review in there about a dad who bought the book just to find out could it help him, and he even wrote this amazing review of how it really helped him. So my strong encouragement, if you’re a mother or you have somebody in your life that’s a mother, this is an incredible book. Between now and the end of February, $2.99, of 2020. Go wherever e-books are sold already.

Doug: And now, a no-nonsense parenting moment with Dr. Kevin Leman.

Dr. Leman: Okay, parents. Let me get your attention. Your 14-year-old daughter is all of a sudden interested in another 14-year-old. Or let’s make it even worse. He’s 16. I can hear the chills running up your spine. Hey, let me give you an idea. We’re talking about dating. My suggestion is invite that kid over. You say to your daughter, “Honey, you’ve mentioned this Eric a lot of times. Why don’t you invite him over for pizza some night. We’d love to meet him.” Just like that. Don’t make this bigger than it needs to be. Don’t make the proverbial mole hill into a mountain. And that way you’re showing your daughter or your son that this home is also their home and that you’re willing to change.

Dr. Leman: To take these curve balls of life in stride does a great deal to increase the quality of your relationship with your son or daughter. The good news? A lot of these little early puppy love type things, they have a lifespan of about three to six weeks. So be willing, make the suggestion, and I’m not suggesting you leave them alone for four hours, but don’t hover and make a fool of yourself either. This is just a stage of life. You can handle this, parents. Now do it.

Doug: All righty. Dr. Leman, here we go. We get to role play this. I’ll be the child and you get to be the parent. It probably works better that way. So I’m a 10-year-old boy and we were just over at a family gathering for some reason, birthday or holiday season, and I was rude to everybody. Aunts and uncles I was just dismissive of, and I even shoved an aunt out of the way, and I was just mean to my cousins and everybody. So we get home, what happens?

Dr. Leman: Dougie, I want to talk to you.

Doug: Yeah.

Dr. Leman: You know how your teacher gives you a grade in school-

Doug: Yeah.

Dr. Leman: … on an exam? I’d like you to tell me what kind of a grade would you give yourself when you were over at Uncle Harold’s home?

Doug: B, I think maybe. Something like that.

Dr. Leman: B. Okay, B. Does that stand for bad behavior?

Doug: No. I didn’t light the cat on fire or anything. I wasn’t that bad.

Dr. Leman: Do you think when you told Aunt Harriet that she was fat was a cool thing to say?

Doug: Well, she… no, probably not.

Dr. Leman: See, I don’t know. We all have bad days. Okay? I’ll be the first to tell you that, Dougie. Mom has bad days. Dad has bad days. Your day today was not a good one. We were very disappointed in your behavior, and quite frankly, we were embarrassed. And there’s been very few times in my life when I’ve looked at you and your behavior and said, “Boy, I’m embarrassed.” But you embarrassed both of us this afternoon. You complained about the food that Aunt Marie brought. You said, “Yuck, I don’t like that.” If you don’t like something, I think there’s probably a better way to say it than yuck, I don’t like that.

Dr. Leman: But anyway, I want to hear from you. You had a mouth going on with Aunt Marie. You weren’t very nice to the younger children. I saw you take toys away from them. So you’re on. I want to hear from you. What was going on in your head today? Because, again, we were very disappointed in what we saw.

Doug: Well, Dad, it’s just the worst place in the world to go to, and those people are mean to me, and it’s so boring. And Aunt Marie is fat, and what’s wrong with just saying it? I hate being there, and I don’t want to be there, and I just… Why do we always have to do these stupid things that I just don’t want to do?

Dr. Leman: Okay. So far, Dougie, all I’ve heard is you whine. Life’s been unfair to you. Poor me. These people don’t like me. All of which I think are excuses or flat out lies, which makes me even more disappointed about today. Not only your behavior over there, but your behavior right now in front of your mom and myself. We’re just trying to get to the bottom of things, and you sound like a little whine maker. And the little whine maker is making excuses. Excuses don’t cut it. It doesn’t help.

Dr. Leman: So, I can tell today is not the day for us to have further discussion on this. We’re going to take this up tomorrow, but in the meantime, don’t ask for anything. Okay? If you require assistance of Mom or Dad, the answer is no. So save your breath. We are very, very upset and I want you to know how upset we are. So you can turn around, you can spend the rest of the day and the evening in your room. Okay? There’s no need for you to come out. I don’t want to see you until tomorrow morning. But I want you to think about what you just said: Everything’s boring, people don’t like me, and all that crap, to put it bluntly. That doesn’t cut it with Mom or Dad. That’s just excuses. We think more of you than that. I expect more of you. Do you understand me? Do you understand me? I expect more of you.

Doug: Yeah, but what about dinner? I’m going to be so hungry tonight.

Dr. Leman: Yeah, you might be. It might be a good reminder of how you behaved today. Trust me, you’ll live.

Doug: This is unfair. This is totally unfair. It was just a few things I said. Totally unfair. You are the worst parent-

Dr. Leman: There’s a lot of things unfair.

Doug: You are the worst parent ever.

Dr. Leman: Okay. I can see we’re in the reacting mode, the fighting mode. So this discussion for tonight is over. To your room.

Doug: Ugh.

Doug: Well, that’s the end of the role playing.

Dr. Leman: And I would add if he needs some help at age 10 to get to his room, I’ll help him at that point. I’ll take him by his arm, and I’ll walk him to his room, and I’ll give him a look that says, “Hey, I mean business. Don’t test me.”

Doug: So Andrea, as you heard that, what did you think?

Andrea: Well, I was surprised how much, Dr. Leman, you actually engaged him. I thought that it was going to be very short and quick and that you were just going to say, “Your behavior today was out of line, and we’re disappointed, and to your room for the rest of the night.” So I was surprised how much conversation you actually did have with him about what happened.

Dr. Leman: Well, they’re 10 years old. Okay? And they’re dumb as mud. Okay? And I’m saying that with tongue in cheek. Some of these kids who are dumb as mud are wizards at math in the classroom. They’re great little artists. So for those of you who are a little on the touchy-feely side, don’t get too blown out about today’s podcast. We’re just trying to demonstrate that you need to stand up and be the parent, and you got to understand that what the kid’s going to throw your way for the most part is excuses and lies. So we’ll deal with it. And his poor little tummy’s going to be empty all night. I feel so badly for him. If the kid’s half as smart as I just said he was, in the middle of the night he’s going to sneak down and get something out of that refrigerator.

Doug: Well, here’s the thing-

Dr. Leman: I was sleeping. I didn’t hear it.

Doug: Yeah. Here’s the thing. I’m clearly not a kid, but even as I was role playing, I could feel myself inside going, okay, am I going to go, “Dad, you’re right. I’m sorry.” Or am I going to power up and keep fighting?” It was interesting. Wow, you really did give me the chance to say, “You’re right, Dad. I screwed up.” Right? You did, and yet I chose to fight, which is-

Dr. Leman: As soon as I know there’s a fight… Remember, fighting is an act of cooperation. So I’m not going to cooperate in fighting. If you want to fight, we’re done. We’re done for today. We’ll face tomorrow tomorrow. Now to me, that makes all kinds of sense.

Dr. Leman: In fact, it was really funny. Once in a while I go on Amazon and I read the reviews. The book, Have A New Kid By Friday, is arguably one of the best books on parenthood you can find. If you look at the reviews, the reviews are glowing and wonderful. It’s just short of a five star, which is impossible to get it seems like. And I looked the other day and the first two that Amazon puts up are one-star reviews, and one of them says, “Oh, this book is worthless. I mean, it’s just worthless.” They were quoting me where I say things like an unhappy child is a healthy child. That lady sure didn’t like that. She wanted facts and figures, and she wanted this and that. And the other one was equally as bad. It’s a horrendous book. There wasn’t one positive thing that either of them said. So they give them one star.

Dr. Leman: And I’m thinking, okay, one-star reviewers, would you tell me why this book is a New York Times best-selling book? How did that book get those rave reviews from all these thousands of parents, hundreds of thousands of parents? I mean, I just shake my head. I’m telling you that when it comes to parenting, everybody’s a parenthood expert. Okay? Everybody. And with clicker in hand, computer before them, they can spew out some really nasty reviews. There’s nasty reviews on everything. On the Bible for sure, on Jesus himself. So it comes with the territory. But what makes that book so popular with parents is it keeps you out of battles. It helps keep your emotions in check. You certainly are able to deliver a message with love and compassion but also with accountability, which seems to be strangely missing from our society.

Dr. Leman: So parents, you got to pony-up here and be the parent you need to be. It’s not an occupation for cowards, because there’s times you really earn your keep as a parent.

Doug: Well, and that’s what I would echo, too, that you give us the tools to not fight. Right? And what we’re trying to give you, parents, with this phrase that I am disappointed and walk away is that you can walk away. You don’t have to solve that problem today, and you can let your kids know that.

Doug: So, Dr. Leman, like you saying in that role playing, “Tomorrow we’re going to talk about this.” Great. If you need to say that, say that. But I totally agree that there are so many times we instantaneously want to deal with something and we can deal with it later. I mean, even think about your marriage at times when you say things that are at the worst time possible and you regret it. But you can say to each other, “Hey, we’ll wait.” And that’s what we’re trying to get you parents to understand is, A, you can say I’m disappointed and walk away. It is a fabulous tool when you don’t know what to do. Fabulous tool.

Dr. Leman: Yeah, look at the principles that we just talked about. Let your yes be yes, your no be no. We haven’t said those words, but there’s a principle. We’ve talked about fighting’s an act of cooperation. We talked about turning your back, using action not words. Fighting’s an act of cooperation. In this one little podcast, parents, if you’re looking for little nuggets, there’s probably six or seven of them in this little podcast. And you can implement those in your life today.

Doug: And that’s what we’re trying to give you guys is all… This is why we’re going back to the parenting basics and saying okay, we’ll start here and you can build off this one for that. So we’re going to keep doing a couple more of these, and we’re actually going to cover B doesn’t happen until A is complete, and we’re going to do a couple more like that. But honestly, What A Difference A Mom Makes is only available until the end of February. And you know me, I am an unbelievable fan boy of Have A New Kid By Friday. It’s the book that launched me into changing my parenting as well. If you want a great book and you want practical… If you’re one of those people that’s an engineer that’s like, “I want to know what I’m supposed to do,” it’s great. If you’re a touchy-feely, it’ll give you the confidence to do the right things. I can’t recommend that book more.

Doug: Okay. Well, it was great to be with you, and we look forward to keep giving you some more of these parenting basics so that you can just add to that parenting toolbox and love them kiddos more and more. Can’t wait to be with you until the next time.

Andrea: Have a great week.

Doug: Bye-bye.

Andrea: Bye-bye.