It’s time for another Ask Dr. Leman: “We even took away hockey and our kids still disobey.” Listen in as Dr. Leman discusses the solutions to unrelenting disobedience on today’s episode of Have a New Kid by Friday Podcast.
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Doug: You started to try some of these principles, B doesn’t happen until A, and you’re thinking, well, it’s not totally working yet. And still you wrap it up and you keep doing more and more and eventually you take away even the beloved hockey. That’s what Marcie, asked Dr. Leman, that we get to ask you today.
Hi, I’m Doug Terpening.
Andrea: And I’m Andrea.
Doug: If this is your first time with us, welcome. But if it is 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 seek a local professional for help.
Well, Marcie’s question comes and I don’t think I know where she’s from, but if she took away hockey, it was a pretty good guess she’s from Canada, don’t you think?
Andrea: Yep. Or up in Minnesota or something.
Doug: Minnesota. Probably not from New Mexico. But here we go, Dr. Leman, here is the question for you.
Marcie: I have a seven year old boy, five and a half year old girl, a four year old girl and a two year old girl and we are having trouble with them cleaning up and listening. There is a deliberate defiance we’re seeing in them not doing what we’ve asked them to do. This has been going on for over a year now. We have used the consequence part of it, where if you didn’t clean up, then you’re going to miss an activity. Done it without warning, so they miss their hockey or they miss their dance class or their swimming lesson and it doesn’t seem to affect them. They might be a little bit frustrated for a few minutes, but the cleaning up part doesn’t change.
We’ve taken all their toys away, locked them in a room and so that you can’t have them until you guys start listening. We’ve tried allowance, that wasn’t a motivational part to do their part of cleaning their room. We also have homeschooled the older three and so our seven year old has taken to not doing his school. We’ve taken away the things that were in his room like Lego or books that he would be distracted with instead of doing his schoolwork. Again, that’s not working. Both my husband and I are firstborn traits and so we’re doing our very best and being mindful of the fact that we could have more of a critical eye. However with them, we don’t really know what to do.
Dr. Leman: Wow. First of all, let me tell you, you’re trying way too hard. Family life should not be militaristic. It shouldn’t be so over dominated with activities. I heard swimming lessons, hockey, the list went on. On top of that, you’re homeschooling kids. You do get an A for nailing a couple things just right. Your word defiance, when a kid is defiant, defiant, you know the parent is not in authority over the child. Think about that. Defiance has an attitude, an edge, a get back at. You’ve hurt me, therefore I have a right to strike back at you kind of thing. Tripe A stars for nailing the word defiance. We’ll get to that in a second.
And then when you use the term deliberate, again, here’s another clue. When kids are deliberate, it’s a plan. It’s not something, it’s not a response. It’s not simply a reaction, although it is a reaction, that deliberate action on their part, but it’s purposeful. It’s planned to get back at and the kids for whatever reasons, we’ll get to them, don’t see yourself, a firstborn, critical eyed, as you might be, as anything other than the enemy.
If we take a vote, a functional vote right now, it’s three to one or three to two. Now why isn’t it four to two? Because your little guy’s only two so I’m going to eliminate him for just a second. And by the way, you have two families, you have a firstborn, a middle child and a baby son and then you have the first born daughter who also happens to be the youngest in the family. The real problem here and you have to understand this. And when I hear you say, “Well, we tried this and we tried that.” That’s what parents who are not centered on the word authority do, they run from pillar to post. The word picture I have is the four little ponies are out of the barn and now we’re going to try to round them up and get them back in the barn. And like I say, we’re trying way too hard.
Before we start talking about how do we get these kids to cooperate, to help, to listen and all those things, you guys have to work on fixing yourselves here. You are way too deep in authoritarian means with these kids. Your idea of consequence is that you’re the authoritarian, you tell the kids what to do and they’re supposed to fall in line and do it. That’s not how it works. They have to see you relationally in a way that they feel like you really care about them. Now I know this is a tough one, Marcie, because I don’t think the kids feel it from you. I think they see you as the big people who run things and there’s a big difference.
What I’m going to suggest to you is that you and your husband get two copies of the book, Have a New You by Friday, two copies, and I want you to read them. And I want you to get two different colored highlighters and just highlight them and then exchange books. It could be the same color, but I’d like you to have your own books you can write notes in it to yourself because what has to happen here, we need to change. Basically change some things that you’ve thought about yourselves for years. You might also enjoy The Birth Order book, which gets into family systems a little bit. What did you learn about life from your parents? What is the perception that you took into child rearing that needs to be explored and looked at?
I’m just telling you, this is what we’re talking about here is not an oil change and a filter. We’re talking about tearing down the engine and putting things back together again. And this is going to be tough for you guys because a knee jerk fashion, in fact, you’re not going to like what I’m saying. That’s a given. Who wants to hear this? I wouldn’t want to hear it and I’m saying it. I’m trying to be helpful by being confrontive with you to say, “This isn’t on the kids. This is on you guys.” You’ve created an atmosphere in that home that is not conducive to listening. You tell me, do you tell the kids just once to do things? No, you are on their case. You remind them, you coax them, you get angry, you say things that you don’t mean which creates guilt in you and then you go from pillar to post and start loving on him because you know you just made a fool of yourself.
You really need to sort of stop and take a look at what’s happening here because at age is 7, 5 and a half and four and two, let’s add 10 years to that. Now you have a 17 year old, a 15 and a half year old, a 14 year old and a 12 year old. You’re going to have many an Armageddon evening, I promise you, if you continue on this way. You need to do some reading, some self discovery, some looking inward. If you’re a person of faith, I’d make this an item of prayer in your life every day. That Lord, help me to do things differently. And again, that little book, Have a New You by Friday, will give you some specific ways of trying to tame some of those ingrained tendencies that are very much a part of your personality.
Again, you guys have bitten off an awful lot. You got four kids within five years of each other, you’re homeschooling, you’ve tried way too many things. It’s sort of like whack-a-mole, you make some headway over here and a whack-a-mole pulls up, whack them over the head. When does it stop? I hear the frustration in your voice. And again, if we looked at you and your husband, I think if we had a panel of people just look at you guys, people would say, “Wow, these are great people. These are people who care about their kids. These are people who want their best for their kids. These are people who want the best for their home. They want their best for their marriage. They’re good at helping other people. They’re givers. They’re not takers.” But the authoritarian just jumps off your question. It just yells, “Hey, we’re authoritarians and we’re thinking we’re moving toward being an authority.” And apparently it’s not working because you haven’t sat down and had a basic game plan.
And I’ve said for years, that beautiful cathedrals are built one brick at a time. And I think you’d admit we live in an Instant Jello society where we want everything to happen overnight. And here I’m talking, I write a book called, Have a New Husband by Friday and Have a New You by Friday, Have a New Kid by Friday, Have a new Teenager by Friday. If it sounds like I’m a hypocrite, trying not to be. I’m all for behavioral change. And I really believe in most situations, behavioral change can literally take place in 48 hours, but we have so much here on the plate. I think you need a little time out yourselves to really talk about how we put things together. There’s resources there for you. I would start at the most primary level of your relationship and develop some kind of a system where if a parent is becoming too authoritarian, you have a code word, that backs that person off.
But for example, when kids don’t pick up, leave it there. Leave it there. Don’t go in and pick it up for them or take away their toys because they didn’t pick it up. I know that’s a consequence. In some situations that works. In this, I think you have to start showing the kids that you are very unhappy, but not in an authoritarian way, in a position of authority because these kids that are running on a destructive mode right now will not like it when they understand that you are unhappy with them. Again, I know that was a long litany of things I just went through and we will now defer to our in residence, parents of floor, Doug and Andrea Terpening for their response.
Doug: I, As a recovering authoritarian parent, it’s really hard to see that in yourself. On this side, it’s much easier to see it, but for these two, the book would be a huge help. But how do you really internalize this? How do you get the reality? Because everything they said, they sound like the model parent that everybody wants to be.
Dr. Leman: Yeah. Doug, well take us into your journey. You just said it, you’re a reformed authoritarian parent. What were the things that you had to do to look at yourself? Maybe that would help, why don’t you share that?
Doug: The honest truth is I think Andrea did, I think between you and Andrea, but Andrea every now and then would graciously be strong enough to stand up and tell me, “You are out of control here.” And she just said it enough times that eventually I realized that. And then listening to you helped me realize that my kids were setting up to rebel. And then, the other thing that really helped, we had some families that were a little bit farther ahead of us and the ones that stayed the authoritarian path, their kids uber rebelled and the ones that were on the authoritarian path and then calm down, their kids turned out great. And we just watched it in live, but I had to have Andrea and you helped me understand it. Yeah.
Dr. Leman: Now friends, this is why I love Doug Terpening so much. This is not easy for a man to say what he just said. I always tell ladies with tongue in cheek, I think of your husband as a four year old that shaves. We’re pretty basic people. And with that basic maleness, lots of times it’s difficult for us to admit that we’re going down the wrong road. The self awareness thing and the coming together as a couple where you help each other to gain insight into what’s really happening here, keep in mind that perfectionism is slow suicide. The critical eye just destroys your child’s spirit. It makes them angry people who want to strike back. It just sets up a reaction rather than response. It sets up defiance rather than a listening heart or so these kids need ways of helping the family. They need to give back to the family because they’re going to become very selfish kids if this continues and they’re going to be bitter and angry.
These aren’t kids that are going to look forward to time with mom and dad, when they have families. They’re going to be distant. They’re going to be well, we have to go see my mom and dad type of kids. That’s not what you want. I’m telling you as a dad who talks to his kids all the time, they call us. They initiate things with us. They want to travel with us. There’s nothing better than having that kind of relationship. Doug and Andrea are at the stage where their two older ones are really starting to spread their wings and they’re seeing that. They’re seeing the result of the kind of parenting that they did and their kids have profited from it. And so we want, Marcie, I know this is a tough one for you. If you’re not crying right now, or during this thing, then I’ve misjudged you. This is tough to take But I think you need to pull the rug out and start doing some things differently.
Oh my goodness. There’s a lot of things that influence a young child’s personality, namely mom and dad and other siblings. I get it. I’ve written a few books on the subject, but you know the one that I discovered in private practice almost by accident, then I saw this tremendous trend, was the critical eyed parent. When you should it on your kid, I got to be careful how I say that, don’t I? You should do this. You should do that. What you’re really conveying to your kids is they didn’t measure up. Watch out for that critical eye. Yes, if you’re an engineer or a math teacher or a physicist, I know perfection pays off, but again, we do not need perfection in rearing our children. We need to pursue excellence. You can do this, parent. Lots of books out there that address this, including The Birth Order book. Sold well over a million copies for a reason.
Well, it ain’t going to be easy, to put it bluntly. It really isn’t. I don’t want to be a forecaster of doom, but I’m just telling you, that’s why I’m saying, “Stop what you’re doing. Take a look at yourself. Do some reading. Let’s come together with a game plan.” Because they are who they are. It’s going to take steadfast commitment on the part of the parents to change the environment in that home. I’ve said many times, “You parents have all the gold.”
Andrea: Can you paint a picture of what, okay, she drew a picture for us of what their house home is like, what would you say in a month, can you paint a picture of what it could look like if they were on the right trajectory?
Dr. Leman: Well, I’m going to say some things she’s not going to like. The first thing I would suggest is you stop homeschooling. Oh boy, I can see the emails coming right now. Dr. Leman, you have no idea what our schools are like in this area. Hey, I happen to have seven schools. I know something about educating kids and there are charter schools around who quite frankly, biased opinion, do a pretty good job. Are there charter schools do a lousy job? Yes, there are. But I would find an environment for your kids to learn outside of your home.
Andrea: And why is that?
Dr. Leman: It takes the 24/7 being around the kids. Mom needs some relief here. She needs some time for herself. She needs to take care of herself. And right now, assuming husband goes out the door to work and maybe he doesn’t, maybe he works through home but if he goes to work and she’s with the kids 24/7 and we’re trying to reinvent the wheel, that’s an awful big assignment. If the ship is sinking, you don’t talk about repainting the ship. You get rid of excess stuff that’s on the ship so it doesn’t sink. That’s number one right there. That will eliminate a lot of problems. See, the perfectionism, I have to do at all, I have to control everything, everything’s got to come together. If you’re a betting man or woman, you’d bet against this one.
Without some drastic action on their part, this one won’t turn around. Those kids will grow bitter and angry. Parents will suffer crisis after crisis as these kids get older. Like I said, this isn’t an oil change. This is a total overhaul of the family engine. That’s number one. If you can do that, that’d be a huge thing because see she’s letting go. And that letting go is going to be very difficult because the high need to control. If you’re a perfectionist, you want to control everything.
Andrea: Okay. What’s number two?
Dr. Leman: Very good. Very good. Dr. Doug. Yeah, limit activities. If you have four kids and they each had an activity, oh my goodness. That’s a lot on your plate. We got to get back to some basics here. I heard swimming lessons. Okay so the kids are seven, five and a half, four, two. Yeah, I can see the swimming lessons. That’s a good, healthy activity. It takes energy to do that. Mom gets to sit by the edge of the pool and watch or whatever. She gets a time to read a book, where the kids are under someone’s instruction for an hour or she gets to sunbathe, depending upon where you live, what time of year it is.
Cut down the schedule, cut down all the shoulding in your home. We should do this. We should do that. Let’s let’s get out of the pie in the sky. Again, keep in mind the ship is sinking so we’re not going to rearrange the deck chairs, so to speak. She doesn’t need number three, number four, number five, number six. Number one and number two are huge. And it gives instant relief and she’s going to feel a lessening of stress in her life. She never mentioned the stress in her life, but I guarantee it’s there. And that stress, Marcie, will take its toll. Stomach disorders, back disorders, migraine headaches, you name it. It’ll pop out. Stress has a way of working itself out of the body into the extremities.
Andrea: But what I’m hearing is giving up some control and need to do all these things, especially as the kids are so young. The other thing that I’m feeling because we’ve been here and actually those ages are pretty close to where our kids were in age span and I’m hearing and she didn’t describe this, whether or not she does, just getting on the floor and playing a game with them and enjoying them. And I’m still learning and have to tell myself sometimes, “Just stop and put your arm around the kid, tell them how much you love them. Go for a walk with them, play a game with them.” Because it’s easy to be busy getting stuff done. And it’s hard sometimes to look past a mess or an unfinished project and just get on the floor and hang out with them.
Dr. Leman: And keep in mind that Marcie is probably 29 to 32 years of age, would be a good guess. She’s young, she’s active.
Doug: Well, I’m going to wrap this up. I think we have given lots of good advice to our caller today.
Andrea: And just in case she didn’t hear it earlier, I think just to remind her, Dr. Leman invited you, Marcie, to call back in in about a month and tell us how things are going, because we really want to hear how you guys are doing, answer your questions.
Doug: And this is a great question. This is such a good question. Kudos to you for calling in and asking it. And as I hear in your voice, you can do this. If you’ve done all this already, you can do this. It’s hard work, but you can do it.
Andrea: And you obviously really care about your kiddos.
Doug: Oh you love them. Yep.
If you have a question that you would love us to ask Dr. Leman for you, go to birthorderguy.com/podcastquestion or you go to birthorderguy.com/, this episode is 331, and there’ll be a little microphone there and you can click on it and you can leave us a question, which we would love to answer for you. And don’t forget, you can get the eBook, Have a New Sex Life by Friday, for a buck 99, between now and the end of October 2020, wherever eBooks are sold and we love being with you. Thank you for joining with us today. As you add to that parenting toolbox, you’re going to love them kiddos more and more.
Andrea: Have a great one. Thanks, Marcie.
Doug: Take care.