Model student gone rogue, how would you handle this situation? Find out what Dr. Leman has to say on today’s Ask Dr. Leman.

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Doug: Ellen’s kid was perfect. Star swimmer, star grades, age 15, it all ends. Why? Why do some kids perform, do great, and then they hit the 15 year old, and they stop, and turn 180, and go off the deep end? Dr. Leman gets to answer that question from Ellen today. Hi, I’m Doug [ 00:00:29].

Andrea: And I’m Andrea.

Doug: And if this is your first time with us, welcome. We are so glad that you are here with us today. Just to remind you that this is for your education and entertainment purposes only. If the subject matter raises any concerns for you, or a child, please go seek a local professional for help. Well, today we get the honor to listen to one of your questions that you call in and leave. You can do that at Let’s jump into Ellen’s question.

Ellen: My name is Ellen. I live on Cape Cod in the summers where I am right now. My daughter, Danielle, is a brilliant 15 year old girl, who shut down this spring. She was a good competitive swimmer, A+s in a private school, generally pretty well managed, a good kid, well liked by teachers. All of a sudden didn’t want to do anything, doesn’t know why. Now, she’s defiant, and saying she doesn’t want to go to school, and I can’t make her. Interested in hearing your thoughts on that?

Dr. Leman: Well Ellen, thank you so much for the question, and aren’t you lucky to be hanging out in Cape Cod. That’s not a bad place to hang out. Your story, your scenario of your daughter is a familiar one to me. I hope that gives you some encouragement. I’m a little bit like Farmer’s Insurance. I know a few things cause I’ve seen a few things. I see patterns. I look for patterns when I talk to parent about kids. You presented a pattern of a well liked, remarkable young lady whose excelled in school, who teachers like her. Teachers never liked me. I’m so jealous.

Dr. Leman: A competitive swimmer. I’ve known my fair share of competitive swimmers, and quite frankly a number of them that I have known over the years hit that wall. They got to a point where they just didn’t perform. A couple of them I can think of went to the extremes of your 15 year old daughter where she says, I’m done. I don’t care about much anymore. I get a defiant attitude. I don’t like school. I want to blow off life.

Dr. Leman: A couple things, in all probability, and this is not the main thing I want to communicate to you, but in all probability, your daughter is smoking pot, okay. When you see a kid do a 180, all of a sudden the grades drop off the table. In all probability that kids is doing drugs of one form, or another. One of the things we know about marijuana is it robs kids of motivation.

Dr. Leman: Now, let me try to be as helpful as I can. She needs to have a compassionate mom who understands that much has been expected of her in her young 15 years. On the other hand, she needs a firm mom that communicates to her that life isn’t just the way she wants it, okay. What I’m saying is, there has to be a balance in how you attack the problem with your daughter.

Dr. Leman: When she says, “You can’t make me go to school.” She’s right. You can’t make her go to school, but you certainly can call the school officials and have them call her at home, and email her, and let her know that she needs to be in school. It’s much easier for that to be pulled off from a third party than it is yourself. She needs to understand that there are chores, which you said she blows off, in the home that need to be done.

Dr. Leman: You’re gonna give your 15 year old what I call the bread and water treatment, which means there is food available in the home for her to eat. There’s plenty of water for her to drink, but beyond that there isn’t anything. In other words, you’re not gonna give her a dime for anything. You are also gonna do me a favor by locking up your cash, putting your purse in your trunk of your car overnight locking it because 15 year olds will steal. They’ll steal you blind if they get an opportunity when you start saying no to what they want.

Dr. Leman: Keep in mind 15 year olds always want everything from new clothes to privilege, so you’re gonna give her a lot of vitamin N, which is no. I’m not driving you here. No, I’m not driving you there. When she talks about a driver’s license you have to say as firmly and compassionately as, “Oh my goodness. Honey, you must be kidding. I mean if you’re not responsible in the home do you think I would hand the car keys over to you with a car that I own, and I’m responsible for, and I insure? Surely you don’t think that, but maybe you do.”

Dr. Leman: In other words, you need to hit her with a lot of reality, with some compassion. Now, here’s the kicker. I’m willing to bet you a nickel that your daughter feels like her life has been mapped out for her, mapped out for her. I would love you to ask her opinion about that. Now, notice I’m not saying ask her a question. Questions are destructive with kids like this. Opinion might get you some place. “Honey, I’d love to know your opinion about whether, or not you feel like your life has been mapped out for you.”

Dr. Leman: All the regimentation of competitive swimming, that kid has been in a swimming pool, I’ll guess, at 5:00 in the morning forever because that’s how competitive swimmers train. She hit a wall because she’s performance based. She’s come to the conclusion that this makes no sense. I’m gonna be worn out at age 15. She needs to chill. She needs to lower that high jump bar of life.

Dr. Leman: We recently did a podcast on The Critical Eyed Parent. You need to get that. Get that little book, $1.99. Download that book, and read that. Take that to heart because you need to loosen your reigns on that daughter, or you’re gonna lose your daughter.

Doug: Dr. Leman, I’m sitting here thinking, okay, if that were my kid, and I just listened that you’re telling me she’s probably smoking weed, how do I do that part of this discussion? How do I bring up that issue?

Dr. Leman: Well number one, you tell that daughter that you know she’s smoking dope. Now, how do you say that? Well, I got news for you. Kids, 15, see the doctor, in all probability, twice a year. She can tinkle in a bottle. You can ask the doc on the QT to tell you whether, or not there is drugs in her system. You can say it with authority. But, that’s where the money comes in too. I mean she can mooch pot off of some of her friends, but that source dries up. Pretty soon people will set her straight on her leeching off of them, so cutting her off at money is really a pretty good way of getting her attention.

Dr. Leman: There has to be some cooperation. Some people are saying, “Well, when do you loosen up that restriction?” Well, when she starts participating in the family. When she starts giving back to the family. That’s the important issue. You want her to just pull her fair share of the load.

Doug: You said initially that we should confront her and say that we know she’s smoking pot, or should we not confront her about that?

Dr. Leman: No, you can confront her with it. I’m just saying, if you want to make sure she’s smoking pot run her by the pediatrician.

Doug: Ah, do that first, and then say, “Hey, I know you’re doing it.” And if they say anything, well I’ve got the results.

Dr. Leman: You can also say, “I’m not sure, honey if you’re smoking pot, or what, but I’m just very disappointed in the fact that you’re sporting the attitude that you’ve got. The disrespect for me is overwhelming. If I have done things that are wrong and upsetting to you, I’m more than happy to listen to you to hear you out. I’d love to know how I can improve. I’m not the perfect one of the two of us. That’s for sure.”

Dr. Leman: In other words, what I’m saying is, you’re coming across firm, but you’re also compassionate. You have to owe up to your part in this. A lot of parents just think that A+ student, well liked, teachers love her, competitive swimmer. I got news for you. On the surface those things are good. I want to know what the imperfect side of that kid’s life is all about. Again, I want you to ask the opinion about do you feel like your map is mapped out for you? I’ll bet you anything that she feels that way.

Doug: You’re really talking about a two-fold approach. The compassionate, I may have, I have been wrong, and do you feel like your life has been mapped out for you? How can I deal with that? But also the hard line of, once you know that she has been smoking dope, the bread and water treatment, and no money, and none of that. Interesting.

Dr. Leman: Yeah. The net result of those two extremes is called firmness. It’s firmness with a good deal of compassion in it. Every parent wants to see their kid succeed, but you want that fire to burn in that kid’s belly on their own doing. Not for some extrinsic form of reward whether it be the proverbial carrot in front of the donkey, or the medals they win at swim meets.

Andrea: Does this mean this mom should consider, okay, let’s not do swimming anymore. What do you want to do, and let her choose some activities, or what she’s interested in doing rather than what mom has always had her in?

Dr. Leman: Yeah, and if she follows my advice to the hilt, and she talks about not giving kids money, well I got news for you, to be in a swim team costs money. That’s one thing that she’s saying, she doesn’t want to swim. I wouldn’t force the issue at all. I would just let her drop out of swimming, and take it from there.

Dr. Leman: But, what I’m not gonna allow her to do is just sit around listen to music, play video games. Her cellphone is also up for grabs. I mean you want to use things to discipline a child that says hey, I mean business. You gotta hit kids where they hurt. They hurt in privileges and money.

Doug: Super. Well, we’re gonna finish this podcast up, and then I have another question that’s [inaudible 00:09:44]. Before we do that, I just want to let all you podcast listeners know the E-book special for the week, and I think this is very applicable, Telling My Only Child There’s No One Like You. $1.99 in E-book April 2nd through the 8th of 2019. Time for The Straight Talk with Dr. Leman.

Dr. Leman: Well listen parents, I know this is a tough one. It’s a tough, tough issue. But, when you signed up to be a parent this is part of the package deal. I know you’d take a bullet for your kid. I’ve got five kids. I understand that. But, I look back at the times where I took action on my own five kids. I’m happy I did that. I have to tell you the God’s honest truth. There weren’t many of those moments. Our kids were actually quite easy to rear. Some people are thinking, “Well that’s easy. You’re a psychologist. You’re internationally known. You’ve written lots of books.” Well that’s true, but I think the reason that we were successful is that we were on the same page. We had firmness in about everything we did. Our yes was yes. Our no was no. We weren’t afraid to pull a rug out, and let the little buzzard tumble.

Dr. Leman: Parent, this is what you signed up for. It’s just not all the little cuddle time, and the sweet little things kids say when they pick the neighbor’s flowers out of the garden, and bring them to you in a bouquet. I know those are sweet moments. This is when parenting gets tough. This is where you put on your big boy, and big girl pants, and do what you have to do. Do it with compassion. Do it with conviction. Do it with firmness. You can do this. Don’t ask questions. Ask for opinion. Be a straight shooter. Don’t be walked on. Hold your ground. That’s enough. I’m out.

Doug: Thanks, Dr. Leman. My final question is, Ellen’s daughter, she confronts her with firmness and compassion, and then she just breaks down in tears, and says, “Mom, I’m so sorry.” What do you say at that point?

Dr. Leman: “Honey, I’m glad that you are sorry. You tell me. What can I do to help. It seems like you’ve gone off track here. Is it a track you want to get back on, or do you want to go down another path? Is there too much pressure in your life? I mean I don’t see the smile on your face I used to see, and that bothers me more than anything.” That’s how you talk with them. Very, very conversational, very concerned, very compassionate, but, “Mom, I just want to sit around, and I don’t want to go to school anymore.”

Dr. Leman: “Well honey, wouldn’t that be great just to not have to go to school anymore. But, as a parent, that’s not a choice. You really have to get an education whether it’s online at home, or whatever. You have to really think about what kind of life you want to live? What kind of care you want to drive? Where you want to live? What kind of freedom you want to have? These are all connected to the education. Even though you say, I don’t want to do this. I know in your heart you know that you have to have an education.”

Doug: Mrs. [Turbin 00:12:30], you’re the resident mom here. Now, you have to be firm to your swimmer, and say all these hard things to them, and then they breakdown in tears. They’re just slobbering on you, and they apologize. And then they say, “I don’t want to go to school.” Can you still be firm back?

Dr. Leman: Get a Kleenex.

Andrea: Well, yeah. It’s pretty obvious that they can’t just sit around and drop out of school at 15. I love what Dr. Leman said about offering her, “Do you want a different track in life? I’ve assumed you wanted to swim, but maybe there’s something different in life that we can look into.” Let her start to make some choices rather than mom making the choices. It sounds like.

Dr. Leman: The pressure comes off immediately, Andrea, when she quits swimming, but a new pressure comes in. What about my old swim mates, and what about my coach? Chances are this kid has been a pleaser all of her life, making teachers happy, making mom happy and proud. The 15 year old is now saying to herself, “Wait a minute. What’s in this for me? What about me?” She’s the pleaser adult woman who’s married to a controller, and pretty soon asks the question, “Hey, wait a minute. I know it’s working out great for him, but it’s not working out great for me.”

Dr. Leman: It’s all about relationship. You gotta stand by your daughter. She may want to talk to somebody, a counselor, but there’ll never be a better counselor, or person who loves her more than you do, Ellen, so do the best you can. You’re not gonna do things perfectly, but start a new journey with your daughter. Make it happen.

Doug: I love what you said, “Be firm, but compassionate.” Then in your Straight Talk when you said, “These are the hard moments in parenting.” You don’t have to do them very often, but if you do, do them it makes it a lot easier to raise your kids. Well, that’s great, Dr. Leman. Thank you, Ellen, for this question. Thank you to all of you parents who are listening, and sending in your questions.

Doug: Quick reminder. The E-book special for this week for podcast listeners is, My Only Child There’s No One Like You. It’s only $1.99 wherever E-books are sold. Get it for yourself. As always, you can go to for more resources. If you’re listening to this on iTunes, or some other service, if you want to give it a five star rating, so that others can find it, and enjoy it, and add to their parenting toolbox. That’s why we’re doing it, so you can love these kids more, and more, and more without guilt and shame and [inaudible 00:14:54], but just love them. Well, it was great to be with you today. We look forward to the next time that we get to help add to that parenting toolbox.

Andrea: Have a great day.

Doug: Bye-bye.