It’s time to go back to the basics! Do you ask your kids questions or do you ask for their opinion? Do you feel like you’re talking at your kids and not to them? Today’s episode covers a simple but sometimes challenging aspect of parenting basics: “How to Have a Real Conversation with Your Kids.”

 

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Transcript

Doug: Hey Billy, how was your day?

Billy: Fine.

Doug: How’s your homework coming?

Billy: Good.

Doug: How was practice today?

Billy: Good.

Doug: How are you doing?

Billy: Good.

Doug: Does any of this sound familiar? Have you ever played this game with your children, where you ask them all these questions and you’re begging them to have some sort of conversation with you, and what do you get? The infamous…

Billy: Good.

Doug: Well, we get to ask Dr. Leman today, how do we communicate with our kids in a way that is meaningful and helpful for both of us? Hi, I’m Doug Terpening.

Andrea: I’m Andrea.

Doug: We are so glad that you are with us. I really am so happy that you are here. Thank you for being here and 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 child, please go seek a local professional for help.

Doug: Well, Dr. Leman, I must confess, one of my pet peeves of parenting is when I ask any of my children, but especially there’s a certain one, they will go do something massive. I’ll be like, “Hey, how would that go?” I get the same answer, good. How the heck do we stop the, good, statements from our kids?

Dr. Leman: Well, we start a pattern early in life with kids, where all we do is pepper them with questions, and kids get so tired of it. They just throw us a bone, so to speak. With grunts, a nod of the head, a shrug of the shoulders or it’s okay, fine, good, I don’t know.

Dr. Leman: By the way, the classical, I don’t know, means I don’t want to tell you. Every time your kid tells you, I don’t know, just say to yourself, he or she doesn’t want to tell me. You might ask yourself why? Maybe because if they really told you how they felt, they would get a lecture from you that would go on for 15 minutes. There might be all kinds of reasons why a kid would say that. But, the point is that we establish these patterns where we do all the talking and kids do all the listening.

Dr. Leman: Years ago, it was kids are to be seen and not heard. Now, I’m old enough to remember when parents were in authority over children, now children are in authority over parents, it seems like, but that’s a whole nother topic. But to answer your question, we create this scenario by just over-talking as parents. What you did, that little intro you did, Doug about, “How was your day?” “Fine.” “How is this…” That’s very typical, and then kids when get through that little drill, they disappear to some part of the home and they text all their buddies or they get on their cell phone and talk and they talk and they talk and they talk.

Dr. Leman: It’s certainly not that they can’t talk, it’s they really don’t want to talk to you and they don’t want to answer your questions. As kids get older, the questions seem to them like an invasion of privacy. They’re only going to tell you what they think you want to hear. They’re not going to tell you what’s really going on. Keep in mind that your kids, you have three or four kids, you’re going to have one that’s going to be more talkative. I’ll ask the Terpenings. I want you guys to think about your four children, who is the talker in your family?

Andrea: Got it.

Doug: Number three.

Andrea: Yep.

Doug: Our number three can talk-

Dr. Leman: Okay.

Andrea: But, if he doesn’t want to talk, he won’t talk.

Dr. Leman: Okay. She’s the more powerful one. You ever thought of that?

Doug: Wow.

Andrea: No.

Dr. Leman: I’ll think about it. We don’t want you to comment on it. Okay. We got one kid who was a talker in the Terpening family. What kid is most likely not to tell you what’s going on? The non-talker. Are you in agreement?

Andrea: Our number two.

Doug: Our non-talker tells us nothing.

Dr. Leman: I’m just saying to parents who are talking about getting your kids to talk to you, you just have to understand, some of the kids are naturally inclined not to talk. If we’ve got number… Is it number two child is a non-talker?

Doug: Correct?

Dr. Leman: Okay. That sets up on the birth order, number three comes along and is like a canary and a parrot combination. You can’t shut her up. You have to keep in mind that all kids are not going to respond the way you think they ought to respond, whatever that preconceived idea is, but one of the single best piece of advice I can give to a parent, try to get yourself out of the paradigm of always asking questions.

Dr. Leman: With older kids, the simple asking a kid an opinion, will usually get a kid to talk, because kids have opinions. I’ve used this in marriage seminars for years, because so many times you’ll hear from women that my husband, he just shuts down. He’s not a talker. I get it. I understand why men do that, but I think if you’re smart ladies and you learn to say things like, “Honey, I’d love your opinion on this, what do you think?” He’ll talk your ear off.

Andrea: What’s the power of asking their opinion?

Dr. Leman: What’s the power in it?

Andrea: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Dr. Leman: It doesn’t raise the defenses. The defenses come up when you ask a question in a man. His mind, what’s this about? What am I in trouble for? Kids just tire of us so quickly with questions. If you just don’t even try to implement the change if you’re listening, parents, to this and find this of interest to you, don’t start today, just take stock today of how many questions you ask your kids and how many of them are, assume your kid’s stupid. “Have you brushed your teeth yet?”

Dr. Leman: All those little task oriented things we ask kids and you ask them every day on top of that. Again, to foster communication, getting into that kid’s mind by asking opinion will open up channels of communication. Simple statements you can make like, “Wow, you seem happy. Wow, you look like you had a rough day.” Don’t comment on it, walk away. It might be two hours later before your son or daughter comes in and says, “Hey dad, can I ask you something?” Now your kid’s asking you a question. But, I’m just saying, you got to be half shrink to raise a kid today, but just keep in mind that all these kids are not going to be talkers.

Dr. Leman: Usually, you’re going to find that talker and that non-talker, just like in the Terpening family, they’re next to each other, because they see the role as filled of a non-talker, so somebody becomes the talk master. All kids are different. You get behind their eyes, see how they see life, try not to be too intrusive with your comments, and comments are okay. Like, “You seem happy. Wow, you had a good day, I’ll bet.” Don’t go further than that.

Dr. Leman: Parents say, “Well, I feel very uncomfortable because when I pick up my kid from school, it’s just automatic.” Well, what would happen if you just smiled and just started driving home? “Well, I think we’d sit in silence all the way home.” Well, would that be the end of the world? I bet it wouldn’t happen a second or a third time.

Doug: I want to go back to an experience that literally we just had last week, we were at a debate tournament with our kids and driving home. They were reliving things, and I started to say something and one of my kids said, “Dad, please don’t, I don’t want to hear criticism right now.”

Doug: I was like, “Oh no.” It really got me thinking about this and I realized that I am a critic, and I have since that time been trying to lock up my critic. Are we all parents more critical than we realize towards our kids?

Dr. Leman: I think so. I think we need to listen to ourselves sometimes. I think we have to have conversations with our kids that are brave enough to say, “Honey, I was just thinking about something silly, but I’d really like your opinion on.” If you could have a magic wand and you could change anything about your mom, what would it be? I’ll start with mom, okay? Because you’re asking the question and your kid comes up with something. Say, “Wow. That’s interesting. All right. Hey, let me get really brave and say, all right, now the magic wand’s on me. What would you like to see me do different in life?” “Well, I don’t know.”

Dr. Leman: “No, I really want to know. Tell me. I promise you won’t get in trouble, you can say anything, I’d really want to know.” The kid tells you something. You say, “Oh, that’s something for me to really think about. I appreciate you sharing that with me.” That’s all.

Dr. Leman: You want an authenticity in your talk with your kids. A lot of the stuff we’d say to the kids is just perfunctory stuff. I can say, “Have you got your homework? Did you get your notebook. Did you bring your tennis shoes, do you have your backpack, do you have your flute?” All those questions that we ask kids say essentially to a kid, I think you’re so stupid that you forgot your flute. You didn’t brush your teeth, you didn’t bring this and you didn’t bring that note that you have to give your teacher. Just listen to yourself a little bit, parents.

Doug: The reason I ask that question is that you start off by saying that because we are so critical we will shut down our children. I was just thinking, we probably are way more critical towards our kids than we realize as well. What does this phrase mean, that I’ve [inaudible] questions are disrespectful? Why are questions disrespectful?

Dr. Leman: Well, they can be disrespectful for sure. Again, I think when you ask a kid, “Have you got your flute? Have you got your saxophone?” It’s their saxophone, it’s their lesson, it’s Wednesday, they know they have lessons. We talk about decision making for kids, and the home ought to be a safe place where kids will learn, they need to learn, even if they go out the door without the flute or the saxophone, there’s going to be a consequence afterschool or in school for forgetting it.

Dr. Leman: I know at our school, I’m in schools all the time. We have a little table in the lobby where parents can drop off a kid’s lunch and they do it, with great regularity. There are always a few lunches there that some kid forgot, well, they’re kids, they’re going to forget things. Is it best to run the lunch down to a kid? I don’t think so. Is that the end of the world if they do? No. Again, if you want to work toward training an adult and getting kids to be responsible, bailing them out is never a good thing.

Doug: Okay. When we come back, I want to do a little role playing so that we can actually see these in action because I think they are so far outside our comfort zone. Before we do that, we have a new eBook from Baker Book or Baker Book has new book for you called The Way of the Wise for $1.99 between April 1 to April 31st of 2020, wherever eBooks are sold. The Way of the Wise for $1.99. Dr. Leman, what is the book, The Way of the Wise about?

Dr. Leman: Well, I have to tell you that that is one of my all-time favorite books. It’s very auto-biographical. It’s taking a look at this guy named King Solomon, Proverbs 3: 1-6. This guy Solomon, you may not be familiar with him, but he was the smartest King of them all, the wisest king of them all. He imparted, in these six little verses in the book of Proverbs, some little nuggets.

Dr. Leman: I took those six verses and I tried to apply them to our lives today in modern day western world. It’s a good book. It’s the book that usually if I’m invited to a church to do a seminar, I like to do a seminar that starts Sunday morning by me talking in church, and then Sunday night we’ll have a thing on marriage maybe, or the next morning, Monday morning, we’ll do something for stay at home moms or do a thing on leadership on the way of the shepherd with business people. Then Monday night do something on parenting. That’s the way I like to do it.

Dr. Leman: But, the topic usually that I like to speak on the most on a Sunday morning is The Way of the Wise. I just think it’s one of the most powerful messages that a human being can receive from King Solomon, who was quite a guy.

Dr. Leman: It’s a book well worth reading. It’s a great book to give to a kid who’s gone off to college, a young person that’s beginning to doubt their faith or people who struggle. It’s great book for adults as well. It’s a book that asks some interesting questions. I think it brings people closer to their maker if they read it and it’s a good book. Like I say, it’s one of my little favorites. You don’t like to admit that you have favorites, but with 64 books, you got to have some favorites and that’s one of them.

Doug: You get The Way of the Wise, April 1 of 2020 to April 30th of 2020 for $1.99 wherever eBooks are sold. It’s a nice, easy to read, full of stuff book, highly, highly recommended. Now, a no-nonsense parenting moment from Dr. Kevin Leman.

Dr. Leman: I remember my sixth birthday party, I got a bike, my first bike, and a kid gave me a parachute that shot up into the air. In true Kevin Leman style, first time I used it, it went wayward and I nailed a kid right in the eye, but here’s my question, when do you start birthday parties? Birthday parties today have become, it seems to me, a little over the top.

Dr. Leman: I think family celebrations are best. When kids get a little older, age seven, eight, nine, yeah, there can be some parties there, but don’t spend $1,000 on your kid’s birthday party. Take things in stride, okay? Let those parties be special. Do they have to start that young? No, they don’t. It just depends on the size of your family, the circumstances you find yourself in. If you’re in a large family community and you’ve got cousins galore and aunts and uncles, a family celebration, I think is ideal.

Dr. Leman: As they get older, they’re going to want to have some parties. They’re okay. But again, I think moderation. Most of the questions that I get asked, I could probably answer with, “Hey, do it in moderation.” That’d be my advice on birthday parties. Birthday gifts, they should be well thought out. Plastic stuff that’s made in China, I wouldn’t get real excited about.

Doug: Okay, Dr. Leman, let’s try and role play this so that people can see this in action. I’m a 16 year old, I was going to say girl, but that would be awkward. I’ll say I’m a 16 year old boy. I walk in the door from school and I just walk in, I go, do you even hear a huff out of me as I storm down the hallway and just go right to my room and shut my door. Then at dinner I sit down at dinner and I just go, “Huh.” Then I refuse to look at anybody. What would you say to me?

Dr. Leman: Well, at the dinner table I’d probably just make an observation. The first thing I would say is, “We don’t have to talk about this, but I couldn’t help but notice, you really look like you were really ticked off when you came in the door and you’ve been very silent. Out of respect for you, I’m going to ask everybody in the family to back off, let you work through whatever you’re working through. But if and when you want to talk about whatever, and again, we don’t have to talk, I’m available and I think your mom is too. Isn’t that right, honey?” That’s how I’d handled it.

Dr. Leman: What I’ve done, I’ve acknowledge his displeasure, the huff… You have to understand, the huff wasn’t just a natural Huff. It’s purpose of behavior. It’s a way of saying, I’m troubled by something. It’s really a temptation to see if my parent will say anything to me. If a parent does, the kid will blow the parent off. Isn’t that interesting?

Doug: Yeah.

Dr. Leman: I think it is. That was for your benefit to hear the huff and puff, for you to react. We’ve talked enough about the difference in reacting and responding. So, I’m going to wait. Since I got a little slam door when he went to his room, I know he’s ticked about something. You know your kids, parents. If that was number two child in your family, Doug and Andrea, would you react or respond differently than if it was number three child in your family?

Doug: We would, absolutely.

Dr. Leman: There’s wisdom, though, in just being quiet and acknowledging.

Doug: Well, that’s what I was going to ask the resident mom here. You see your 16 year old hurting and upset and distraught at the dinner table. Are you just going to tell him, “Hey, everybody back off. I don’t need to know. If you want to talk, I’ll talk, but I don’t need to talk. Could you do that?”

Andrea: Well, I did that one-on-one yesterday.

Doug: Look at Andrea.

Andrea: I have noticed times when he who normally likes to talk and tell me lots will be suddenly very quiet. Just say, “Hey, it seems like something’s bothering you, and you don’t have to tell me right now. But I just want you to know that I can tell that something’s bothering you.” I don’t know if that’s the right thing to say or not.”

Dr. Leman: Sure. Seems like you’re upset, seems like something’s gnawing at you. It’s just a statement. Lots of times, again parents, I can’t underscore this enough, you know your kids better than I do. Different strokes for different folks. You’ll approach your kids differently. It’s not cookie cutter. Anybody who’s read the Birth Order book knows that I’m really big on treating your kids differently. Why? Because they’re different.

Andrea: Does that kid want you to follow up later? In our particular situation, a couple of hours later, and he’s just talking away again and seems like everything’s fine. Would it be wise for me to follow up? Now, I realize I’m going to ask him a question, so I don’t know.

Dr. Leman: I think I would do that casually. I would say, “Wow, you seem chipper, or you seem in a great mood, but honey, I just want to ask you something. You were really upset earlier. Did you work through all that, or is there something that you want to talk about or want to just let that go?” It’s a multiple choice. He might say, “Well, no, let it go.” If he does, let him go. We all have our moods, we all have our moments.

Doug: The last thing that I’d love to touch on, because I’ve used it now so much since you’ve taught it to us, Dr. Leman, is the phrase, I could be wrong on this. Can you help me? Could you explain that real quickly before we wrap up here, the power of that, and how that works?

Dr. Leman: I could be wrong, it means you’re coming in on your belly, you’re not coming in high on the hog saying, “Hey, I have all life’s answers in my back pocket.” What I could be wrong does, it drops the defenses of the person you’re talking to. They’re not going to do an offensive to anything you’re going to say when you start off saying, “I could be wrong, or I may not know what I’m talking about.” You’ve already used self-deprecation, and it just allows someone to hear what you’re going to say. It allows you to get your words to them so they at least hear them. If you come in knowing you’ve got everything wrapped up in a neat little shell, they’re not even going to listen to you.

Doug: Great. I have used that phrase in work and with Andrea and with the kids and the power also that I’ve noticed within it is it actually does change me to not come in on my high horse. That it actually does make me have a posture of genuine listening when I get there, but I have to get there first and then say that phrase. I hope that you’ve gotten these. Anything else before we wrap up, Dr. Leman?

Dr. Leman: Let’s see. It’s April, isn’t it? Wow. Well, the year’s coming to an end here before too long, the school year. I know that. Out here in the West, we shut down schools at the end of May, it’ll be summer before you know it. Might be thinking parents about what summer is going to be like in your Hacienda.

Dr. Leman: But no, things are good. I’ve got a book coming out in the fall and I’m still doing a lot of media and life’s good in the Leman household. We’re healthy and happy for that. So far, so good. Hey, give me an update on James real quick, your first born, before we go.

Doug: Well, James is serving on the Grand Little-

Andrea: Grand Cay.

Doug: The Grand Little Cay island. It’s a 500 person Island that got hit by the hurricane that wiped out Puerto Rico, and they’re out there rebuilding homes. Anna is in Cambodia out there as well teaching English as a second language. Both of them would say serving has changed their lives. I become a fanatic at saying we should have our kids serving as soon as possible. It’s one of the best things that ever happened to my kids. Having a great time.

Dr. Leman: They weren’t home for Christmas?

Doug: Oh, thanks, rub it in.

Andrea: Yeah. Remind us of that painful fact.

Doug: Or Thanksgiving, thanks Dr. Leman. You’re such a sweet guy.

Dr. Leman: You’re in a new stage.

Doug: Yes.

Andrea: You could say that, yeah.

Dr. Leman: You got two in, two out.

Doug: Thankfully there’s a thing called WhatsApp. That thing is amazing to be able to talk to our kids still, even when they’re on a boat-

Andrea: On the other side of the world.

Doug: On a boat in Little Grand cay. Yep, they’re doing great, I’m telling you. We owe a lot of our thanks to you. Thank you for helping us change our parenting so that we can [inaudible] those kids.

Dr. Leman: God bless your kids. You’ve raised a couple of servants, it sounds like.

Doug: Yep. That’s Andrea’s. That’s for Andrea.

Andrea: Thank you and Jesus.

Doug: Absolutely.

Dr. Leman: All right.

Doug: Well, we hope that we’ve helped you guys learn to have real conversations with your kids. Don’t do the extended questions, statements, ask them their opinions and give them freedom. Give them space as Dr. Leman said, use the example of acknowledging without pestering about the questions. Andrea and I can tell you, it works. It so works to back off, your kids actually want to tell you stuff.

Doug: Try to be less of a critic and you’ll be surprised. There’ll be a dip at first, and then they’ll talk to you more than you would like. We hope this adds to your parenting [inaudible] and we look forward to the next time we get to be with you.

Andrea: Yep, have a great one with those kids.

Doug: Take care. Bye bye.

Andrea: Bye bye.