There’s only so much that can be done before your child leaves the nest and you may feel like you haven’t done the best job as a parent. Today’s episode deals with making the most of your child’s senior year despite past failures. Learn more about Dr. Leman at BirthOrderGuy.com.
Show Sponsored by Revell, a division of Baker Publishing
Produced by Unmutable™
Doug: Well, hello. I’m Doug Terpening.
Andrea: And I’m Andrea.
Doug: And we are so glad you’re with us. Today we get to talk about what do I do when I feel like I’ve blown it as a parent, and I’ve only got a little bit of time left with my kids? Well, if this is your first time with us, this show 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. I want to give a big shout-out to Revell, Baker Books, for being the sponsors of this podcast, and Dr. Leman, hold on to your hats, I get to announce the next special that’s going to be coming from Revell, Baker Books, and it is in my opinion one of the best books you’ve written. When Your Best Isn’t Good Enough, August 8th through the 14th, for less than one dollar. 99 cents, you can get the eBook, When Your Best Isn’t Good Enough, which is a remarkable book. So crazy, isn’t that?
Dr. Leman: Oh, wow. It’s fun, isn’t it? What we do here? We giving away books, trying to make people better parents, better mates. Trying to help families. And by the way, I mean, I do this for the right reason. I would tell people we have Leman Academy of Schools for the right reason, too. We’re just trying to make a difference in kids’ lives. So if we make a difference in your life, I’m one happy dude. I’m like a pig in a trough. Happy as can be.
Doug: That’s great. Well, I can’t recommend the book enough to you. It is amazing. Well, let’s jump in to today’s question, about what do I do if I feel like I’ve blown it? So, Drrr. Leman, we now have teenage kids. We have one that is soon to be a 19-year-old here. Therefore, some of our friends are in that same boat, and a couple of them have come to us recently and said, you know, “We’ve blown it as a parent. We just flat-out have blown it.” And, “The first one’s gone and we realize we’ve blown it, and we’ve only got one more,” or, “two more behind us, and I’ve only got a year or two left with them.” What do you do when you feel like that’s the case? You’ve only got a year or two left and you know you’ve blown it as a parent?
Dr. Leman: Well, that’s a great question, number one. First of all, let me say that you, parent that’s thinking that, you’ve probably done a little better job than you’re giving yourself credit for. Kids tend to be resilient. They tend to forgive more than we believe they’re capable of doing. I don’t mind telling you I’ve been a good parent, and yet one of the most gut-wrenching stories that I tell when I’m out speaking across the US and Canada is that fateful day that I took my daughter to college for the first time. Sandy and I both cried our eyes out. It was gut-wrenching. But, I remember thinking, as Holly walked away toward that dorm at Grove City College in Grove City, Pennsylvania, “Have I taught you everything I have to teach you? Did I miss anything? Are you really ready?”
Well, she was really ready, trust me. She was a great student, was homecoming attendant and later homecoming queen at her school, well-liked, well-rounded, got a good education. But I remember those feelings of inadequacy. Hey, I’ve written 61 books. I know something about being a parent. So, inherent in the question, I think, for all of us, is do we do enough? But to get to your point, that things have been rocky and there’s evidence that you could have done much better, how do you proceed? You proceed on a personal journey. You take the time to write your daughter or your son a note that comes in the mail. It’s from your heart. It’s full of admissions of times you’ve acted in haste, said some things you didn’t mean, and re-express your believe in them making it in life. That’s very important.
Standing ready to help them at any turn as they face the challenges that lie before them, whether it’s going in the military, getting a job, going off to college, university, whatever it is. You re-state your position in writing. You want to put a little money in the envelope? Go ahead. No, I’m just being smart. The value, that’s pure gold, when a kid sees in your handwriting how much you care. If there’s some specific incidences in your life … I reminded my older sister this week, my dad celebrated his birthday recently, and usually I will call her on the phone, and I have the ability to mock my father’s voice to the T. I mean, it’s uncanny what I can do, an impression of my dad.
One day, at the dinner table, when I was a young kid, I remember my older sister, Sally, who became Pastor Sally, by the way, Pastor Sally, taking a big potato that was wrapped in aluminum and nailing my father in the middle of his forehead. Pow. Right in the forehead, and then cried and ran to her room, she was so frustrated with my father, and my father was not exactly the easiest guy to get along with, either, let me say this. But I’m saying, if there’s specific incidents … And I reminded her of that the other day. She was so thankful of her little brother reminding her. I said, “By the way, Dad told me the other day …” Now, my dad’s been dead for years. “Dad told me the other day, just, thank you for the shot to my forehead with that potato. It was just great.”
Again, in true Leman style, I think you can put humor into anything. But if there are specs that you know you got way off-track, and even if you apologized once before, I would make that a point to make sure that that apology was resent in as soft a way as possible, without any defenses on your part. So, you don’t apologize and then put a, “But you have to understand that I was …” You know, don’t do that. Just give them the flat-out, unqualified, “I’m sorry, I was wrong, would you forgive me?” And that’ll put you on the right track. I hope that helps.
Doug: So, what do I do if I’ve got another kid still in the house, and I’m like, “Oh, man, I see how I’ve blown it with the first one, here’s number two right behind me, do I apologize to them right now as well?” Or, “What do I do?”
Dr. Leman: You know, I really think this is a one-to-one assignment. It’s sort of like the old Mission Impossible, and if you remember the original, goes back a number of years, but he got an assignment. You know, that was the thrust. And it was one at a time. I just think it’s smart to take these things on one at a time. As a reminder, when you treat all kids the same, that’s a disrespectful act in many ways. Treat your kids differently, as best you can. Not always easy to do, but work toward that. So, no, Doug, I think you take it one-on-one.
Doug: And then, how much do I need to work on … If the reality is that I did blow it, how much, if it is, that I’ve got to still change, even if my kid has left the nest, to build that relationship back up?
Dr. Leman: Well, it’s going to change, and once your kid leaves the nest, they’re on a whole nother journey. They’re on another planet. You know, I wrote that book, Planet Middle School. I still love the title of that, because when kids hit the hormone group, all of a sudden they appear to be on another planet. But in reality, once the kid goes off to college, for example, there’s no parent looking over their shoulder. He’s going to do whatever he does, or whatever he wants to do, whatever she wants to do. And that’s why it’s important that we take the admonition that you’re rearing an adult not a child, because you want that kid to make good choices.
So, you’re going to have to be careful about how you initiate things. You don’t want to start trying to over-control from 1,000 miles away, or 500 miles away, if your kid’s going away to school. You’re certainly not going to pummel them with questions, which is the MO that most parents use. Best to let them call. Let them email and then follow up. Let them show some initiative. You’ve already made the first bold move, to say, “You know what? I owe you one. I apologize. I was way over the top here. I was way out of bounds here.” You’ve taken that first step, now, sit back and wait and see what happens.
Doug: Dr. Leman, is it true that there are certain personality types that to apologize is like pulling teeth?
Dr. Leman: Yes. Because they can’t admit that they’re wrong. Many people who are like that, Doug, grew up with critical-eyed parents. So, they have a need to scapegoat. They have a need to point to other people. So, anyway.
Doug: So, for that person listening to this, they’re like, “Well, I fed them, I diapered them, I did the best I could, they should understand that,” how would you respond to that person about the need to apologize, still?
Dr. Leman: I would say, “How’s it working out for you, dude?” You can see the relationship is still off-center. It’s not right. You don’t feel good about it and neither does your child. So, you need to revisit this another time, maybe with a little different attitude in your own heart, because kids will pick up your attitude, trust me.
Doug: So, for that person that has a tough time … Andrea, do you know anybody who has a tough time apologizing that’s on the podcast?
Andrea: You mean between the three of us?
Doug: Between the three of us, yeah.
Andrea: I can’t imagine who it might be.
Doug: I can’t imagine who it might be. What would stop that hypothetical person from apologizing, do you think? If you could imagine someone-
Andrea: What would stop them from apologizing?
Doug: Yeah. Why is it so difficult to write the letter and apologize to them?
Andrea: Fear of looking bad.
Dr. Leman: Yeah, who wants to admit, you know? We live in an era where we just don’t share. We share on Facebook inappropriate things, but, I mean, how many times do you have conversations with people on a given day where you say, “Oh, how are you? I’m fine.”? I mean, really? I’ve often thought of this. What would happen if you stopped and someone said, “How are you?” And I said, “Tell you the truth, my hemorrhoids are killing me.” I just wonder what kind of a conversation we’d have on the sidewalk. It might be an interesting one. Preparation H comes to mind.
What I’m saying is we live in a non-connected world, even though people tell us we’re a global community or we’re all connected. We don’t connect very well on a personal level with our own children, with our own spouse. So, I think Andrea’s right. You don’t do that because it makes you look bad, and who wants to look at yourself in a bad light? Not many people. But the question is, hey, how do you move when time’s running out and you don’t have much more of a shot? I think you have to start with a humble attitude that says, “I’m sorry. I was wrong. Would you forgive me?”
Andrea: And, those kids aren’t going to run with that and take advantage of you?
Dr. Leman: Every kid’s going to be different. Some might punch up the guilt buttons. It depends on how you respond. Again, are you going to react or respond? We’ve had that lesson on the podcast. Or, it might even be, “Honey, I’m sorry you feel that way,” if the kid throws it back in your face. “I just wanted to make sure that I said what I wanted to say, and what I just said, I really wanted to say, and I hope you receive it with good intention, because that is my intention.”
Doug: I [inaudible 00:11:10] what you said at the beginning, that kids are more resilient than we think and more forgiving. That they do want a relationship, I think, by and large, with us.
Dr. Leman: Yeah. They do. They bounce back.
Doug: And if we take the first step, they will. Well, thank you, Dr. Leman. This was great.
Dr. Leman: Yeah. You’re welcome. I hope that helps.
Doug: And for everybody else that’s out there, we hope this helps add to your parenting toolbox, and if you’ve got young kids, start now, that’s all I can say. Start when they’re younger. It’s a lot easier. Take care. Have a good day.
Andrea: Have a good day.