Welcome back to an ALL NEW Season with Dr. Leman! “My kid is SO sensitive.” If you feel that your child melts down easily or you feel like you’re constantly walking on eggshells, this can be a form of manipulation. Dr. Leman explains why it’s important for parents to understand their child’s behavior with some fun role-play examples.
- Making Children Mind without Losing Yours – Dr. Kevin Leman
Show Sponsored by Revell, a division of Baker Publishing.
Produced by Unmutable™.
Intro: Hey, hubby, what should we do with Lily? She’s driving me nuts. I know. We should ask Dr. Leman. He knows everything about parenting. Welcome to Have a New Kid by Friday with Dr. Kevin Leman and Doug and Andrea Terpening.
Doug: Well, Welcome back to Have a New Kid. Hi, I’m Doug Terpening.
Andrea: And I’m Andrea.
Doug: And we are so glad to be back with you. It feels so, so, so good. Real quick. If this is your first time with us, just to let you know if you have any question or concerns at anything that’s brought up during this podcast, we highly encourage you to go seek a local professional for help. Dr. Leman, we are back doing the podcast. How are you?
Dr. Leman: Well, how am I? Where have you been? Hiding in the Oregon dark forest?
Doug: Big Foot came and captured us for a while, and we’re finally set free.
Dr. Leman: I think you were hiding under a pile of wood chips up there. I’m down here in the desert. We’re talking it’s still April, and we got 90-some degrees down here. So, interesting.
Doug: Well, we still have moss up here.
Andrea: And rain.
Doug: And rain. Maybe it was we were just too gloomy. That’s why we had to take a break.
Dr. Leman: And let’s start with a big thank you to Baker Publishing House, Baker Revell. Baker has several imprints. Revell is one of them, and Revell has published books like the “Birth Order” book and “Making Children Mind Without Losing Yours”, “Have a New Kid by Friday”, “Planet Middle School”. I mean, the list goes on. There’s 60 Leman books out there, but so many of you have literally been hounding me, in a very nice way, I gotta tell ya that, through Facebook and emails and you name it. “Hey, when are those podcasts coming back?” And so we have been working on it. This is the very first one, and Baker has been kind enough to sponsor this and make it happen.
Dr. Leman: You’re probably gonna hear some things along the way from Baker, telling about Leman products and maybe some others as well, but I’m just grateful to them that they stepped up to the plate, enabled the three of us to talk about life. The feedback we get on this podcasts is nothing short of wonderful. People like them, ’cause they’re practical, they’re short, we talk about marriage, we talk about how strange men are, and how weird women are. I do have a sense of humor. I don’t apologize for that. We try to make this fun. So, it’s a learning experience for all of us. We learn together, but the ideal is to make you a little better person, a better parent, a better husband or a wife.
Doug: Amen. Amen. So, let’s just go and give just a quick update. How are the grandbabies? The two adopted ones?
Dr. Leman: Grandbabies are two, the little ones. Two today as we speak. The older two are getting big. My little grandson, Connor, has now a size 14 foot.
Dr. Leman: Shoe size. He looks like snowshoes.
Andrea: How tall is he?
Dr. Leman: The nutrition says he’ll be 6’5″.
Dr. Leman: 6’5″. And Adeline is starring in the little production of Annie at her school. She’s Annie so she’s been singing up a storm, and it reminded me of my daughter, Holly, who I remember as a kid was singing Annie, and I said in one of my books “She sang Annie like it was yesterday.”
Doug: Oh, fun.
Dr. Leman: Tomorrow, tomorrow. No, more like yesterday when Holly sang it. So, Adeline’s doing well, Mrs. Uppington is still in love with me she says.
Doug: Whoa. Wow.
Dr. Leman: Everybody’s doing good. So, we’re good. How are your kids?
Doug: Growing. Growing. You know, that’s the thing I didn’t realize about ’em, that man, this parenting goes by way faster than I would have ever thought it did.
Andrea: Yeah, and when they hit 18, they actually graduate and move on, and oh, my goodness.
Dr. Leman: So, how is James boy doing, real quick?
Doug: Phenomenal. Absolutely phenomenal to be honest. Not because of Andrea and I, well, because of us, but also because it’s just been amazing to see him grow and become his own adult and take off. Just how you hope it would be. Absolutely how you hope it would be. And the other three.
Dr. Leman: Well, we’ve said many times, you’re not rearing a kid, you’re rearing an adult, and when the kid hits 18, it’s really nice to see them leave the nest confidently, and take on the challenges that lie before ’em. Good for him.
Doug: Well, and I Know we’ve said this before, and we truly mean it. We’re so thankful that we got to do this podcast with you to change our parenting so that we started raising an adult, ’cause we didn’t know how to. We knew 0-5 pretty well, but after that, we were stuck. So, it’s been great. It’s been great.
Dr. Leman: For new people, one of the things I love about Doug, it’s easy to love Andrea, it’s a little bit more difficult to love Doug, but Doug, he’s owed up to the fact, you know, I’m a reformed yeller and authoritarian, and he’s the first to say “We’ve learned a lot.” And that’s our mission here. Trying to teach. None of us are perfect. We all are flawed to the core, but that’s what these podcasts are all about. So, do us a favor, tell your friends the chubby psychologist from Tuscan, Arizona is back with a lovely couple from Oregon, and the podcasts are available.
Doug: Awesome. Awesome. Well, I thank you for all that. It’s so good to be back, and I say we jump in today’s topic. Here we go.
Dr. Leman: Let’s do it.
Doug: Let’s do it. So, today’s topic is “I’ve got this sensitive kid. I don’t know what to do with him. Dr. Leman, am I supposed to let him be sensitive, am I supposed to toughen him up, am I just supposed to let him cry? How do we deal with this whole sensitive kid issue?”
Dr. Leman: Well, if there’s one thing I’m convinced of, is that most parents when they tell me when I’m speaking around the country, “Oh, Dr. Leman, my little Buford is very sensitive, very sensitive child. He melts down very easily, and he’s just so sensitive.” Well, let’s explore what sensitive means.
Dr. Leman: Sensitive can mean that your child is extremely powerful. Ask yourself “Do I have to walk on eggs around this person?” Now some of you are thinking “Well, wait a minute. Are you talking about my husband or my child?” Well, it can be both can’t it, because many of you have married people who have tempers, who become explosive, who can fly off the handle in a second’s notice, and yes, that’s a sensitive person.
Dr. Leman: The sensitivity is a front for what’s really going on, and that is there’s power there, there’s a need to dominate, to win, and so when I hear about a precious little child that is just so sensitive, I mean, if they were trying to sell me something, I’d hang onto my wallet. Because these kids can be very manipulative, social, outgoing, and they can have more drama than you’d find at the Academy Awards evening. I mean, these kids can work ya. And so, when you fall prey to acquiescing to the demands of the sensitive child, and keep in mind, the sensitive child requires you to approach them in a certain way. And when you walk on eggs around them, all you’re doing is increasing the probability of them developing shyness as part of their repertoire behavior.
Andrea: Really? Shyness?
Dr. Leman: Yes. You show me a shy child, I’ll show you a powerful little buzzard.
Andrea: I’ve always said I hate the word “shy” ’cause I was always labeled as shy.
Dr. Leman: Yep.
Andrea: So, that’s interesting.
Dr. Leman: But see, with shyness, comes perfection. One of the reasons kids become shy is there not certain as to how to do something. They don’t like changes, and you’ve seen kids literally hide behind their mother’s skirt, if you could find moms who still wear skirts, but see that kid is just fearful of the unknown, because they can’t what? Control what’s coming. So, control, perfectionism, and sensitivity all go together, and if you have a kid that fits any of those descriptions, no wonder you’re reading a Leman book. You need to, because that kid is gonna play you like a violin.
Doug: So, Dr. Leman, I have a 14-year-old daughter, we’ll say, hypothetically, and it appears at times that she’ll come to me with tears over something I’ve done, how do I know if I’m being worked or how do I know if it really is genuine, she’s brokenhearted?
Dr. Leman: Well, if she’s come to you about something you have done, a straight “Honey, help me out here, ’cause I’m not getting it? Just what did I do? Be as explicit as you can, because if I’ve done something wrong, or I haven’t been respectful of you, I owe you an apology.”
Dr. Leman: But see, most kids don’t come that way. Most kids come whining, “I’m not gonna go to that thing you want me to go to, I’m not gonna go to youth group”. They give you their best shot with the drama, and the best thing to respond is to respond to their feelings. Don’t tell ’em they shouldn’t feel that way, and that’s where most of us get off center. We tell kids “Now, honey, don’t feel that way.” Well, obviously, the kid feels that way. He’s saying it. But he’s saying it for a purpose, and that gets us back into one of the words that I always am gonna be teaching our listeners on our podcast, and that is you have to be aware of purpose of behavior.
Dr. Leman: In other words, this drama, this shyness, this feeling that we have to walk around eggs around this person is purpose of behavior. It serves a purpose in a kid’s life, and it basically says “I’m in control of you, you’re gonna do what I want you to do”, and parents, I mean, like Lemmings flying off the cliff, they knock themselves out trying to keep their child happy at every turn. And to quote one of the best lines in the book “Have a New Kid by Friday”, is “An unhappy child is what? An unhappy child is a healthy child.”
Doug: Is a healthy child. Yeah.
Dr. Leman: But don’t be impressed with your kid’s unhappiness. It serves a purpose. Don’t be impressed with your child’s tears. Now, can a woman’s tears bring her husband to his knees? Yes. So, again, it’s not just kids that manipulate through tears or drama. It’s adults as well. Many people [crosstalk 00:11:08].
Andrea: Would you say those adults started out the same way these kids are that you’re describing?
Dr. Leman: Absolutely.
Andrea: So, you don’t grow out of it?
Doug: So, Dr. Leman, hypothetically, let’s say we have a 16-year-old daughter named, well, I shouldn’t name her, but we’re just hypothetically doing this. This is 100% hypothetically, and she is known for dragging her feet and then being sensitive once she’s pushed about not doing what she has dragged her feet to say that she has done, and hypothetically, two people named Doug and Andrea fall prey to that system often where we’re like “Oh, we feel bad for her. She is trying this, she is trying that.” How do we get outta that cycle where it feels like either we’re pushing, pushing, pushing, or it’s like we just get this mega emotion?
Dr. Leman: All right. Everybody that has an object near them, grab it and put it in your hand. It can be a pen, a cellphone, a cup a coffee, whatever. Okay, you got it in your hand? Now, pick it up. Okay, you picked up. Now put it down. Okay, now try to pick it up. Right now, I’m holding onto my cellphone, and I’ve just gave myself instructions to try to pick it up. Where is it lying? Is it lying on a surface or is it above the surface? It’s on the surface. Do you see? The trying. We get sucked into the trying. I like to prefer you’re either doing it or you’re not doing it.
Dr. Leman: The Nike people have it right on their t-shirt “Just Do It”. And so a kid who drags their feet has successfully trained their parent to continually push them, to needless involve them in their life. So, the kids who drags his feet and procrastinates, many times is a perfectionist that may be hard to spot at first glance. But she feels insecure doing it herself so she drags her feet, because she knows if she drags her feet, mom or dad will come along and sorta help her through the maze. So that’s an unhealthy response from a child.
Doug: And then the sensitivity comes in as a manipulative tool then to get me to help her then?
Dr. Leman: Then the drama comes. And you say “Well, honey, I’m not gonna do that. You need to do that.” “Well, you never help me with anything.” Punch up the guilt button on mom. “What do you mean I never help you? I help you all the time. I’m your mother. When you wanna be driven someplace, who drives you? Uber?”
Dr. Leman: I’m just saying that, you know, I say on the back of the mega-million, best-seller book “Making Children Mind Without Losing Yours”, I say we have seen the enemy, and they are small. And today’s kids are unionized, and they have a game plan, and they’re marching on your home. I mean, you’re the one that brought the Trojan horse in your home. Don’t blame me. But now that you’re up to your neck in alligators, you still need to try to drain the swamp. And you realize the enemy is within your home, and so, some of you have to just chill, sit back, have a good discussion, use these podcasts as husbands and wife to say “Wait a minute? Do you think there’s anything to that? That purpose of behavior he talked about?”
Dr. Leman: What is the purpose of my oldest daughter always tattle tailing on youngest daughter? She feels the competition. She doesn’t like the encroachment of her turf. Well, question. Do you treat those kids differently? Does the firstborn have more rights and privileges than the thirdborn? I hope so.
Dr. Leman: This just helps you get into the kid’s head, I think. Andrea?
Andrea: Yeah. So, if we have a child like that whether their 16 or whether they’re three, what would you say to parents who wanna help that child grow out of this, change? What would be some easy steps?
Dr. Leman: Easy step is okay, here it comes. What do I normally do? And just think it through. I usually say this, and we end up in a fight. What’s the new me? What’s the new Andrea gonna do differently? In other words, and we’ve gotten so much feedback on this one point, that you change behavior by changing the way you think. So, when you think differently and say “Okay, I’m not gonna go down that isle A, because it always gets me in trouble. I’m gonna sit and wait, I’m gonna take my time, and I’m gonna go down isle B. I’m gonna handle this differently.” Now, your chances of success are increased by simply behaving differently, ’cause you’re really saying by way of your behavior, “I refuse to play the dog-and-pony show that always ends up with drama and explosion of some kind.”
Andrea: So, that’s gonna [inaudible 00:16:13] some real power struggles the first few times you do this, right? It’s ‘not gonna be pretty.
Dr. Leman: Absolutely. Well, let’s take the case where the older daughter is whining about the younger daughter, and she’s bothering me, and she’s doing this, and she’s doing that. Well, normally you get in there and ask questions about what’s happening and all. Don’t do that. Just look at her and say “Honey, you’re 16 years old. Your sister’s 12. I think you can handle it”, and walk away.
Dr. Leman: One of the things you parents, you mommy’s, will hear from Leman a lot is turn your back and walk away, because when you engage in battle with the kids, you’re gonna end up losing. They’re gonna work ya like a violin.
Doug: Should we do role play, Andrea? You want me to do it?
Andrea: Sure. Sure.
Doug: You want me or do you wanna be the whiny? Who wants to be whiny?
Doug: Oh, don’t say I’m better at being whiny. Do not say that.
Andrea: Okay. I can try and act.
Doug: No, I’ll do it. So, “Dad, you know that football game went really late, and my friends have been really mean to me recently, like Joey, he said that he doesn’t like me anymore, and it’s really hard to just get all of life done right now, Dad. I don’t think I can get all my homework done. It’s just too much, Dad. It’s just too much. I just need to not have to do the homework this week. Okay, Dad? Is that all right?”
Dr. Leman: All right. Sounds like life’s throwing you a curve ball here.
Doug: “Dad, it’s really hard. It’s really hard right now, Dad”
Dr. Leman: I understand. We’ve all had hard times, but you know, there’s an old expression, and it probably applies in your life. When the going gets tough, you know what the follow is? The tough get going.
Doug: Mm-hmm (affirmative).
Dr. Leman: Now, I’m telling you, you’re a weird age to begin with, your fiends will turn on you on a minute’s notice, everybody’s pretty insecure at your age, and everybody’s trying to figure out where they are. So, I understand Joey said some things that weren’t cool, and words can hurt. I got all that. But that doesn’t negate the fact that we expect you to pull your weight in this home. Your mom works, your dad works, everybody gives back to the family. One of the few things you’re expected to do is to do your school work and do it well. We have high expectations for you. You gotta good brain in your head.
Dr. Leman: So, suck it up, and attend to your homework, because we read this marvelous little book, and it made all kinds a sense. It said “You know what? Don’t accept excuses. Excuses make the weak weaker”, and one of the things we know you’re not is weak.
Doug: Yeah, but dad, you’ve helped me the last couple times. Can’t you just help me again with the homework? It really, really makes it a lot better, dad. Please? Math is really hard, and you do such a good job, and I feel so connected and close to you after we work on it together, and I just love you so much, and it’s just like something we get to do together. It’s really meaningful to me.”
Dr. Leman: You know, pardon me for being blunt, but I’m feeling like I’m being worked.
Doug: Oh, dad! No. I just need help, dad.
Dr. Leman: Yeah. Okay. But you need to help yourself here. Okay? You need to get yourself together, go into your room, it’s quiet, and start on your work. Okay? You want me to come in and rescue you from your math. You know I’m not gonna do that. I’m good at math, but I don’t really enjoy doing it. It’s your homework. It’s not my homework. Now, you’ve shown through several years of schooling that you’re a very, very capable student.
Doug: Dad, you hate me. Dad, you just flat out hate me, and you just don’t care. You just don’t care, dad. You don’t. You don’t. You don’t love me.
Dr. Leman: Honey if you wanna believe that lie, you continue to believe that lie. The truth be known, you know better than that. So, I think it’s late. This conversation isn’t going anywhere, and speaking of going somewhere, I think you need to go to your room and get that work done. If you choose not to do it, in the morning, and you’d like me to send an email to your teacher that just simply says “You’re not prepared. You haven’t done your homework”, I’ll be more than happy to do it.
Andrea: So, Dr. Leman, as I listen to this, the mother’s heart in me, probably like a lot a parents out there listening, are thinking “Ah, wait a second. Now my kid’s gonna think that I don’t love them and I don’t value that time with them like they just said. We feel so connected when we do this together, and how in the world can I turn my back, walk away? This is like no, my child, if I don’t step up here, I’ve just destroyed the relationship.”
Dr. Leman: Yeah. Run it by your girlfriend, okay? She’ll see it clearer than you will, because as a mom, like you say, your heart gets in the middle, poor child, he’s this and he’s that. Don’t get sucked into that. If you do exactly what you wanna do, and you let guilt be the fuel for your action with your son or your daughter, all you’re doing is increasing the probability of your child coming to you once again for you to do his or her homework, and the child’s strength, wherewithal, security gets diminished, because you bailed ’em out. So, if that’s what you wanna do, parent, you go right ahead. Do you wanna see that kid learn from this?
Dr. Leman: Remember the bottom line was that dad said “Listen, if you choose not to do it, I’ll be glad to send an email to your teacher.” I think for most kids, that’s motivation that they’re gonna get in that bedroom even though they’re gonna feel a little sorry for themself, ’cause they weren’t able to pull it off with mom and dad, but they’re gonna do their work. Again, it’s a confident thing to say “Honey, I’m sure you can handle it.”
Dr. Leman: You know, you gotta daughter whose boyfriend just dumped her, I wouldn’t tell her to suck it up and you can handle it. I’d put her in the car, and we’d go for a long ride, and I’d listen. So, there’s a time for compassion, there’s a time to listen. Okay? But you have to have your antennae out there, parents, to know the kids are so capable of working you, and it’s almost an art form.
Doug: Yeah. Last question. So, for the mom out there, Andrea, the other one is “Well, will they still love me if I treat ’em this way? Right? Or will they hate me?”
Doug: Answer me. Do they now hate Andrea because she told them to go to their room?
Doug: Oh, sorry. What were you gonna say?
Andrea: No, that’s good.
Dr. Leman: So many parents are driven by the fact that they think they have to be their child’s best friend, and if their kid’s upset with ’em, it’s the end of the world. It’s not the end of the world. I mean, it’s part of life.
Andrea: So fast forward these relationships to the child is 35. What potential differences could you draw between the relationship between the parent and this daughter?
Doug: If they stand up to ’em like this, or versus always acquiescing?
Dr. Leman: Well, again, I go back to this concept are we rearing a kid or an adult, and you want that kid to be confident. A kid doesn’t gain confidence by you doing things for the child, the child should be doing for themselves. So, at age 35, you gotta a weak person who when things go wrong, it’s somebody else’s fault. You got a person at 35 who doesn’t accept responsibility very well, is very good at getting other people to do their work for ’em. That doesn’t cut it today. That’s why God gave us parents.
Dr. Leman: We’re building character and kids are learning and their growing and sort of figuring out where they fit, but the love. You know, love and discipline. They go hand in hand, folks. You gotta understand, if you love your child, you’ll what? You’ll discipline him, but that means you discipline your life, you live a disciplined life yourself.
Andrea: What kind of relationship do you think that mom and daughter have now at 30, if that mom stood up and walked away?
Doug: Are you asking are they gonna actually have a relationship or.
Doug: Is the daughter gonna be cold to walk away?
Dr. Leman: They’ll have a great relationship, ’cause it’s gonna be based upon honesty and truth and mutual respect. How many of us as adults have thanked that coach or that teacher or that parent who was tough on them?
Andrea: Right. I think probably the deep question inside of me is like “Well, if I teach ’em to be so independent, they’re just gonna fly the nest and I’ll never see ’em again.” But I know from talking to you over all these years that actually, we’re gonna have a healthy relationship, and they’re gonna wanna be my friend, but something inside of me says “Don’t make ’em so Independent. They’ll just take off.”
Dr. Leman: Yeah.
Doug: It’s my job to wrap it up here, ’cause this is so good. I wanna keep going. One thing that I did think would be applicable, Dr. Leman, since we’re restudying it, is if I’m listening to this and I’m thinking “Okay, which Leman book would help me specifically with this one?” Which one would you recommend?
Dr. Leman: Well, our podcast is called “Have a New Kid by Friday”, but I would suggest reading “Making Children Mind Without Losing Yours”. Now, that book has sold over a million copies for a reason. But it gives you the full gambit of the theory and the practicality of making children mind without losing yours, and I think you’ll enjoy it whether you have young kids, you look at the cover of it, you assume it’s just for young children, I’ll repeat this several times in our podcast, but when I do business groups, the basic information that I share comes out of my kids’ books “Making Children Mind Without Losing Yours”, “Have a New Kid by Friday”, and “The Birth Order” book. So, if you’re not a reader, there’s audio versions out there. You can pop ’em in your car, and listen as you drive or whatever, but that “Making Children Mind Without Losing Yours” book is pretty tough to beat.
Doug: So “Making Children Mind Without Losing Yours” would be the one that we recommend that you get for this one?
Dr. Leman: Yes.
Doug: Well, it is so good to be back talking with you Dr. Leman, and with all of you out there, and we look forward to helping you add more tools to your toolbox so you can parent more and more, and I know I say this, have said it a lot in the past, and I’ll keep saying it again, these podcasts are absolutely wonderful, but go read the books to get it deeper in your mind. There’s something about hearing it and then reading it that just makes it go deep into your soul. And if you’re a brand-new parent, like year zero to five, I cannot recommend enough that you go read that book. Can not recommend enough. For your sake.
Doug: Well, that’s it, and it’s fun to be back.
Andrea: Have a great day. Thanks for being back with us.
Doug: We look forward to the next time we’re together. Take care. Bye. Bye.