Does your child behave at home, but become a nuisance at school? What do you do when the school calls and complains? Dr. Leman gives a straight-talk answer in today’s Ask Dr. Leman.

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NEW: The Intimate Connection –Dr. Kevin Leman


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Doug: On this episode of Have a New Kid with Dr Kevin Leman, we get your question about a nine year old, almost nine year old, who’s having a really hard time at school. In fact, it’s gotten so bad that the school keeps calling for behavioral problems. The mom thinks it’s low self esteem. What does Dr. Leman think? That’s the question we get to ask him today.

Doug: Hi, I’m Doug Terpening.

Andrea: And I’m Andrea.

Doug: And we are so glad that you are with us today. If this happens to be your first time, just 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, before we jump into today’s episode, I thought since we’re talking about schools, are there any more Leman schools coming anywhere in the world?

Dr. Leman: Oh yeah. We have six schools now. We have five in the state of Arizona and we have one in Colorado, in Parker, Colorado, just south of Denver. And the next school up will probably be again in Tucson, which is our home base. We bought property. We are going to open that in August of ’20. So here’s what happens. We just built a new school this year, just opened in August on the east side of Tucson. But we have over 300 people on a waiting list trying to get in, and so we’re going to add additional space in two of our local schools just because the waiting list is so long and people want in Leman. So it’s been gratifying to see the tremendous success.

Dr. Leman: Our students, we call them scholars, they love being there and the teachers love teaching there and the parents are so grateful for the school. And these are free, these are public schools. And so we take what walks in the door. If they have a diagnosis of some special needs, whatever, we take them on, we do the best we can. We have a strong staff of people, professional people, and quite frankly, we’re knocking it out of the park.

Doug: That’s awesome. And again, what are they called? What are the schools called?

Dr. Leman: Leman Academy of Excellence. You can go online and Google us and follow along. You’ll see some interesting stuff on there. Our kids learn things by chance. We’re a classical school, like chance, like a sentence is a sentence. That almost sounds like a rap song, a sentence is a sentence. And it’s got five parts and little guys, little kinders, know the structure of a sentence. Second graders can diagram a sentence. We were doing that in high school. I walked into a third grade class the other day and a kid stood up and did the Preamble of the Constitution. So we teach kids to get up and talk and be comfortable talking with people. And of course, that’s one of the major fears that adults have. So anyway, I better shut up. I can go on and on about how wonderful the schools are, but I’m anxious to do today’s podcast. So let’s roll.

Doug: Well, let’s get into it. And hear this mom’s question. Here we go.

Alissa: Hi Kevin. My name is Alissa. I am from British Columbia, Canada and I have a son who is eight years old, turning nine. Name’s Jacob. So Jacob has always had a hard time in school. What we’ve come to realize now is that he is always searching for power and control in any environment or situation that he’s in. So of course every year we see it getting more challenging and we get just more phone calls home from the school, saying like he’s not listening or he’s being defiant. He won’t do what he’s told. He’s refusing to do his schoolwork. And my son’s extremely smart. And with all this power and control that he seems to have in this school, he has really low self esteem and confidence. He’s always comparing himself to others. He’s highly competitive, always wants to win. He can get quite aggressive.

Alissa: In the home, we are definitely taking back the power and control. He sees us as authority figures now as his parents, which is really good. So we’ve had a lot of success in the home. We did get outside help for that, but now it’s just what to do with him at school? I am going to be homeschooling him next year. I believe that this is what God wants me to do to ground him and build him up, but I just wanted your opinion. Thank you so much. Bye.

Dr. Leman: Wow, thanks Alissa for that challenging scenario with your nine year old. Let’s review a few things. You think he has low self esteem. He’s into power and control. He’s extremely smart and I would agree with you. He is extremely smart. He’s learned how to work you guys. And I’m glad to hear there’s progress on the home front. Now this is what always amazes me. The school calls and they say, “Well, he’s defiant. He’s not listening, he’s antagonizing other kids.” Or whatever it might be. What in the world are you going to do as a parent about your kid’s behavior in school? I mean, do you see the irony here? I mean he’s under their care all day long. So the school, and every school I’ve… If you’re a teacher, listen to what I’m saying. You have to be able to put authority in the classroom teacher’s hands.

Dr. Leman: And most schools across the US and Canada. I mean, when I say most, I’m talking 99% of schools do not give teachers any authority in that classroom. So if a student is misbehaving in the class, and usually that means just interfering with the educational process of others, they’re removed from the scene. Just like my advice in Making Children Mind Without Losing Yours or Have a New Kid by Friday, remove the child from the scene. When there’s a scene, you’re feeding the child more power. You’ve already established he’s a powerful child, which means you guys as parents have been what? Powerful yourself. You’ve been authoritarian and now you’ve seen the light and you’re moving toward being the authoritative parent that you need to be. And results have already shown in your home. And I’m thankful for that.

Dr. Leman: Now how do we teach the school to do that? So in a practical sense, the next time school calls you and tells you how bad your kid is, I’d like you to say something like, “Well, listen, thank you for keeping us apprised of the situation. I want you to know my husband and I have extreme faith in you guys at school to help this situation turn around. We wish you the very best. If we can help in any way, please, please just simply ask. We’ll do everything we can.” In other words, you’re putting the tennis ball of life, as I like to call it, back in the proper court. The school is very capable of disciplining that child.

Dr. Leman: When I get a chance to do a PD, a professional development at our school, I will get up and talk about relational discipline. And what’s relational discipline? Is that writing the kid’s name on the board? No, it’s not doing anything like that. Is it putting a color card or a code up in front, which makes the kid know that he’s on probation for a few moments or maybe a day? No, it’s establishing a relationship with that kid where he understands that you’re in authority. Now, here’s the late breaking news, teachers. Your kids in the classroom actually would like to please you. Your job is to put yourself in authority without being authoritarian. So sometimes saying to a kid who’s misbehaving in class, “James, I am very disappointed with what’s going on here. I expect more of you, young man.” Just simply that statement with a look will usually correct a powerful child. Now sometimes, they’ll cross their arms across their chest and sorta sit down with a little attitude to show you that they’re still pretty tough. That’s part of the powerful child’s everyday behavior.

Dr. Leman: But my point is you solve problems that are in the school, where? In the school. You solve problems in the home, where? In the home. Do school systems and teachers need help? They do, and we’ve become so permissive. We allow kids to rule. Just like in many homes, kids sure in the yardstick are in full control of these adults.

Dr. Leman: One more thing, Alissa. You talk about low self esteem. Your son has low self esteem because we haven’t done a good job of giving him vitamin E, which is encouragement. You’ve tried praise and reward and punishment, and that doesn’t work. For a powerful child, in his mind he says, “Okay, I get it. Game on, you got the right to punish me? I got the right to punish you.” And I’m telling you, if I was a betting man I’d bet my nickel on that son. Because he’s gonna win. Because I’ve said many times, in a power struggle, parents, you lose. So you want to avoid the power struggle. Okay. What do you two experts from the great state of Oregon have to say on this one?

Doug: My first question is, I love the idea of going to the teacher and saying, “Okay teacher, I’m going to put the tennis ball back in your court.” But haven’t we conditioned teachers to be afraid of how as an adult, I’m going to respond if they stand up to my kid in any way, shape or form? Are teachers really empowered, like you said?

Dr. Leman: Oh, they’re not. They don’t know what to do.

Doug: So by me saying, “Go ahead and do what you need to do with James. I’ll back you.” Will they really be able to do that or have I taken all the power away from them that they can’t even stand up to my son if I would give him the permission?

Dr. Leman: Well the one thing you’ve done is you shut off the avenue that well, calling home isn’t going to help my situation here. That teacher’s going to draw the conclusion. “Wait a minute, I’m going to have to do something.” And I’m just telling you that we tie the hands of the teacher behind their back and then give them all this verbiage about how important they are and what an integral part of education that teacher is. Really? Then why don’t you give that teacher authority?

Doug: So now this mom is bringing the kid home to homeschool. So now there’s no external authority to help her with her son’s defiance and power.

Dr. Leman: Yeah, and I’m not so sure that’s a great idea. I’m glad you pointed that out Doug, because I forgot that part of it. You know, I don’t think removing that child from that situation is the best thing. I think in many ways that placates the powerful child. And I realize there’s progress on the home front, and I think that’s commendable.

Dr. Leman: But I think you work with teacher and you sit down with teacher and say things like, “It seems to me that you’re the teacher and my perception is that little Michael really wants to please you. He gets frustrated because he’s so powerful. He feels like he has to win. And when he’s in a situation where he doesn’t feel like he’s going to win, why? Because he’s not prepared. He hasn’t done his homework, whatever. Then he resorts to just sheer power and crosses his arms emotionally and says, ‘I’m not going to do that.’ Well, okay, Michael, you’re not going to do that. I understand that. Well, listen, when we go out for recess, you’re going to have an opportunity. I’ve arranged with Mrs. Brown down the hallway. You’re going to sit in her classroom and do work while we’re out for recess.”

Doug: Awesome. Would you ever encourage this parent to say, “Listen, he doesn’t do X, Y, and Z, feel free to call us and let us know. And when he comes home, we’ll back you up and he gets the bread and water treatment.” Would you ever do that?

Dr. Leman: Well, you can do that, but I’ll tell you why I don’t love that idea, because it puts the onus back on the parent for behavior happening in school. And the school is fully capable of dealing with this. Listen, they have psychologists, they have resource officers, they have other teachers. If that school system can’t shape up a nine year old kid, there’s something wrong.

Doug: But the key is me as the parent going to them and saying, “Hey, listen, I’m with you. You do what you have to do and don’t worry about me. You-”

Dr. Leman: I support you. If you want to put them in in-school suspension, so be it. See, the powerful child needs an audience. Even a hermit needs a society to hermit from or it’d be no fun to be a hermit. And so when you take that away, when you take that away, the kid pretty soon says, “Hey, who am I fooling here?” I remember, I mean, I wasn’t a powerful kid, I was just a huge attention getter as a kid. But I remember as a senior in high school having a conversation with myself that went like this, “I’m dumber than mud. I’ve been entertaining my classmates now for years and all these guys are going off to college and off to university. What am I going to do? I can’t get a college to even look at me.” And I remember thinking I was stupid. Not stupid intellectually, although I didn’t really believe at that point I had many smarts, but I just wasn’t playing life smart.

Dr. Leman: And this little nine year old will get it. But again, low self esteem, parents get hung up on that. Your kid needs to take pride in what he does. You need to encourage every step of progress he makes, but without praise, without reward. Just “Wow, that’s going to make you feel great inside, honey. I’m proud of your effort.” That kind of stuff. That’s liquid gold to a kid’s psyche and to his self esteem, if you want to use that term.

Doug: Well, I want to follow up on that question about low self esteem because it was one I had. But before we do that, we have an ebook special from Baker Books that is unbelievable today. Like unbelievable. Like if you don’t take advantage of this-

Dr. Leman: I don’t like the way you said that. What’s the special?

Doug: I’m sorry. It is from June… I’m going to wait until the very end to tell you. June 11th to 18th for $2.99 on ebook, the Birth Order Book.

Dr. Leman: What?

Doug: I’m not lying.

Dr. Leman: I want to say something I shouldn’t say. My publisher’s nuts. Why would you give that book away for $2.99? I don’t know. Somebody’s been smoking something up there. I don’t know. Anyway, listen. All right.

Andrea: It’s a great book.

Dr. Leman: Let me look at the positive side of this. Thousands of you who are listening to us right now, you’ve seen excerpts of my book in Good Housekeeping and Mademoiselle and every magazine there ever was. It has been talked about for years and you’ve heard about the birth order and you think it’s sort of an intriguing idea because you know that the first two in your family are night and day different. Okay, so I’m gonna settle down. I’m gonna take back all those bad words I said about my publisher. And I’m going to say listen, at $2.99, and you can download that sucker. $2.99? Do it today. In fact, tell your friends about it. That is a ganga. In Espanol, that’s a bargain and a half. Oh my goodness. $2.99 for the birth order book. And by the way, if you’re a business person, or you make a living with relationships, you’re in sales. Oh my goodness. Don’t pass up this opportunity to read the birth order book. Download it. $2.99, you can’t miss. Share it with your friends and your business associates.

Doug: I know one of my favorite parts of our podcast segment, straight talk with Dr Kevin Leman.

Dr. Leman: Listen carefully. The man who is saying what he is about to say is really not off his rocker. Just stay with me for a little bit, would you? Outside activities for kids are not good? Yes. You heard that right. Outside activities for kids. Now Leman, Leman, Leman. There you go again. What do you mean outside activities aren’t good for kids? My kid is in Little League. We love Little League. Okay, you got me. I give up. Both hands are skyward. So let’s go with limit outside activities for kids. And here’s the problem folks. If you have three children and each of them just has one outside activity, you’re going to go bonkers trying to keep up with them. You’re going to be shuttling kids from one activity to another and at whose expense? At your expense. And check this out. I think at their expense as well. Because you know, the more activity and the more people engaged in your kids’ lives when they’re young, dilutes the indelible imprint that you get a chance to give to your own kids.

Dr. Leman: I think, quite frankly, some of us are addicted to our own adrenaline that our own body produces from rushing from event to event. I marvel at how young families make it today, when both of them are working and they have children. And you want to put activities on top of that? So again, for you parents who have little older kids, it’s time for discussion around the dinner table to say, “Hey, you know what? I think we all have a little bit too much on our plate. What can we do this next year, this next semester?” Any way you want to say it. This next month to limit things so that we have more time for ourselves, more time for each other and more time for our family.

Doug: So Dr. Leman, I want to talk a little bit more about this low self esteem. And I just got to ask the honest question, which is probably horrible to say, is like does this kid really have low self esteem or is this an excuse to kind of let his bad behavior go for it?

Dr. Leman: Yeah, it becomes an excuse. It’s thrown around way too loosely. A kid will have high esteem if he learns to do things by himself. Have you ever watched a two or three year old say to their parent, “No, I’ll do it. I’ll do it.” I mean, kids have a built in, I want to do it myself. And what happens is we hover over kids, we do far too many things for them. There is where you weaken a kid’s, if you want to call it self esteem. The kid figures out why should I even try? They do it so much better than I do. So respecting a kid’s efforts, whatever they may be, and not demanding perfection, not overreacting. Those are things that build a very healthy self concept, where a kid figures out I’m a capable human being, I can do. That’s what you want your kid to be telling themselves. I can do rather than I can’t do.

Andrea: And those sound like the kinds of things that would not be built in if you have an authoritarian parent because the authoritarian parent is telling the kid how to do it. Is that right?

Dr. Leman: Yes.

Andrea: So by changing that parenting style, then hopefully that kid will begin to realize, oh, I can do this.

Dr. Leman: Yeah.

Doug: So Dr. Leman, I got to ask, for Alyssa and then for our listeners. And I’m thinking about our listeners who have the reverse. At school they behave, but at home they don’t. For them, you would say read this book to help you the most. To kind of get that right frame of mind. Which one would it be?

Dr. Leman: Again, yes. Keep in mind folks, you ought to see the same behavior in both places. Okay? Now we see the improvement in home because parents have made changes. We don’t see change in school. Well, you have to deduce that the problem lies in the school environment. And what I’ve said previously about not giving teachers authority in the classroom was what spawns these kind of problems.

Doug: So what books should they be reading, though?

Dr. Leman: They can’t go wrong with Have a New Kid by Friday and Making Children Mind Without Losing Yours. If you have a powerful child, which Alissa’s nine year old certainly is, I would add to that mix Parenting Your Powerful Child. I mean, those are great books. There is great insight. I mean, I get thousands of emails from parents in a year saying, “Wow, the light went on. I see what we’re doing now. Thank you so much.” And see, that involves purpose of behavior, which we’ve talked about. Parents don’t realize that every social behavior your child engages in serves a purpose in their life. It builds into their life theme. How they see life. It’s sort of their daily mantra of how they live. Every day living, in your home and in school or any other social situation. So parents, I’m not trying to hawk my book. I read the reviews on the book. They were very, very good. People like them. They’re practical. You chuckle along the way as you’ll learn. So take advantage of these books and especially these offerings. Like we’ve offered the Birth Order Book, at $2.99. I’m still having a hard time getting over that one. But boy, that’s a bargain.

Doug: When I’m thinking about the book, Have a New Kid by Friday, especially for you Alissa, there are so many practical applications that if you’re gonna start homeschooling this kid, I would highly get that book because when you run into the different situations, you’re going to run into having him around 24/7, that book will be gold in the back half to you as well. At least that’s my opinion, but I’m not the expert or the author. But I am the opinion agent.

Andrea: You’re a parent.

Doug: I’m an opinionated one. So well, it was great to be with you. I want to remind everybody again, get the Birth Order Book for $2.99, June 11 to 18 of 2019 wherever eBooks are sold. It is one of Andrea’s favorite books. She absolutely loves it and we think you would too. And we look forward to the next time we get to be with you to help add to that parenting toolbox so that you can just love them kiddos more and more.

Andrea: Have a great week.

Doug: Take care.

Andrea: Bye Bye.