Is it okay to let your kid disagree with you? On this episode of Have a New Kid by Friday Podcast, Dr. Leman discusses how to approach your kid’s opposing opinions.
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Doug: How do you deal with it when your feelings differ from your kids’ feelings on issues that you actually have strong opinions about or strong opinions yourself, or feelings about yourself? What do you do? How do you deal with that? That’s the question we get to ask Dr. Leman. Hi, I’m Doug Terpening.
Andrea: And I’m Andrea.
Doug: And we are so glad that you are with us. If this is your first time with us, we’d like to let you know that this is for your entertainment and educational 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, as you know, we live in some times that there are lots of shifting thoughts and opinions and feelings out there, but how do we as parents deal with this idea that when we think it’s blue and they think it’s red, or we think it’s whatever, and they state something different from us? And it would be great if you could do it for younger kids and then teenage kids. How do I deal with this?
Dr. Leman: Wow. Such an easy question. The other question you could have asked me is what is truth? No, seriously. You know, I think this is a good topic because let’s face it, most of us parents know exactly how our kids should behave, how they should think, how they should act in social situations. I mean, you mentioned red and blue, so I’m hanging this on you, Mr. Terpening. Okay? You brought up red and blue. The political season. It seems like it’s never going to stop, but what do you do when your 12 year old, your 13 year old, your 15 year old expresses political views, for example, that are very different from the values that you and your spouse hold very close to your heart and mind? How do you deal with social issues today? And there are many of them out there. Oh my goodness.
We’re plummeted with different ideas from different sectors of our country. So the question is, how do you maintain the relationship with your son or daughter? How do you foster communication with your son or your daughter, even though the subject matter inside infuriates you? Is that saying it pretty plain? All right. So let’s venture into that sea and see what we can come up with. The sea of life, I like to call that one. Well, your son comes home and he’s been energized by watching some television. He was actually watching some news shows, which is very uncharacteristic of a 13, 14 year old kid. And he comes home and expresses some ideas, and they’ve been reinforced by some of his buddies at school, that really rile you. Okay? First piece of advice is if you’re riled, if you’re upset, you bite your tongue for awhile.
You need to come to a place where you’re not coming across as an adversary. And you have to come to a place where you appear not to be angry, that you are in full control of your emotions. Now, if that takes you a half an hour, so be it. But listen to what I’m about to say. If it takes you two days, that’s okay too. Because some of these things, we sort of jump into, exaggerate in our minds, say, Oh my goodness, my kid’s going to do this. My kid’s going to become that. You know, let’s not put the cart before the proverbial horse, and let’s get to a point where emotionally we have some balance. And then the key words are, “Honey. I find that more than an interesting.” Okay? Now again, parent, you’re really infuriated. This was two days later.
It took you that long, and listen to what I’m saying. “Honey, wow, that’s really interesting.” Now here’s the hard part, parent. “Tell me more about that.” And you let that son or that daughter run. I’m a fishermen. I was out in Lake Erie this summer, and I had a big fish on my line. And I was with a guide who knows a lot more about fishing than I do. And he had set the drag on the spinning outfit to let that fish run. You don’t want to force it. If you force it, you have a chance of snapping a line and certainly losing the fish. You want to give that fish running room, which he did. He must have run it out in another 75 yards. And it was a big fish. Well, I think that’s a good analogy as a parent. The tendency is just a knee jerk reaction, haul that fish in as quick as you can, just, you know, overpower it, and chances are the results are not going to be good.
So when you let that child run, and what I mean by that, you let that child express those opinions. So second piece of advice is, do not be judgmental. Do not make a judgment about what that son or daughter is talking about. Just listen. That’s a skill that all of us need to do better at. It’s hard just to be a listener because you want to jump in. You want to straighten up the ship, tell the kid where the bones buried, give them the facts. You’re the adult, he’s the kid. But it doesn’t work. Just keep that fish analogy in mind.
So those are two things you start with. Okay? And if that child doesn’t feel pushback, okay, it’s not going to escalate. That child is going to get their thought or their feeling out. And you’re going to make comments like, “Wow. Interesting. Wow. I tell you the truth. I’ve never thought of it that way.” So you’re not condemning. You’re not judging. You’re letting them run. Then at a certain time, if there are questions in your mind, and there are lots of questions in your mind, you’re saying, how could my kid possibly believe what they just said? The tendency again is to pounce on them. Don’t do that. Here’s the key number three, ask for their opinion.
So whatever that question is, put it in opinion form. It’s sort of like playing Jeopardy or watching Jeopardy on TV. The answer isn’t the answer, it is what is. Okay? So you’re going to use opinion when you’re tempted to use a question. So that gets us going. What do you two doctors in the state of Oregon think?
Doug: Well, I think you’re nuts to start off with again. And I think it’s terrible advice. Like I think of everything you’ve ever said. So there we go. How’s that?
Andrea: And of course, they’re going to run with these new ideas and we’re going to lose them and they’re never going to come back.
Doug: Yeah. They’re going to crash and burn, then we’re going to blame you. How’s that for starters?
Dr. Leman: Yeah. They’re kids. You know? I was with my granddaughter last night, she’s 15, and she’s just not a math student. She’s a great kid. She get good grades in everything but math. And I shared with her. I said, “Honey, it’s in the genes.” I was kidding her. And I said, “Hey, let’s face it. You’re dumb as a rock.” Now, she’s 15 years old. She’s pretty as they come, she knows my sense of humor. And she knows, for those of you who are tempted to send me an email, save your fingertips. Don’t. We have a wonderful relationship. And I said, “But again, it runs in the family. My mother, honey, my mother, your great grandmother, her final grade in algebra when she was a freshman in high school was 22. Your grandfather’s final exam in algebra one, believe it or not, was 22. So the fact that you got 45 on your last quiz that tells me you’re near genius.”
And so you talk about it, you acknowledge it. You have fun with whatever’s coming your way and notice that you share some vulnerability. And so when you’re asking that kid about opinion, that’s a time when you might offer up some thoughts and feelings that you had when you were 15 years old or 14 years old about life. And now, give it the insight that you’ve gained, you know, now that you’re 43 years of age. Do you see what I’m saying? It’s a teachable moment for all of us, but you don’t want to repel them. You don’t want to run over them. You don’t want to be overly judgmental with them. We all make judgments. I get it. But you got to be careful how you express that to your son or your daughter.
Doug: So let’s just talk about the first elephant in the room. And that is that if I go and I asked the two, if I say, “Oh, that’s interesting. Tell me more about that.” And, “Oh, I’d love to know your opinion.” I feel like I’m just totally validating and reinforcing the most idiotic thing I’ve heard of in the last 20 years. So why am I not reinforcing this terrible idea?
Dr. Leman: Well, and you’re speaking for most people, Doug. Most people would read that as wait a minute, I’m condoning it. Where have you said in any of those words that you condone what they were thinking? You haven’t. You’re just letting that fish run. But there are times, like I say, when you slip the commercial announcement, as I like to call it, to your son or daughter. When you share in a very vulnerable way that you used to think … Well, let’s take a hot button. Let’s take a hot button like abortion, where, when you were a kid, you were a follower of a, trying to think of her name, Gloria Steinem. Okay? And by the way, I’ve shared the platform with Gloria Steinem hat the University of Illinois with 15,000 women altogether. But you were very into the liberation movement. You were very into abortion.
You loved the bumper sticker that said, “Keep your laws off my body.” And now that you are an adult and maybe you had a decision in your life to follow Jesus and your whole life changed. And you saw things not from just a worldly perspective, but from a biblical world perspective. And you’ve been convicted that abortion is wrong. In fact, one of the things that I would bring up to a daughter is the [inaudible] New York State approve legislation that you could abort a child at nine months. Now, I don’t know what you want to call it, but I am not apologetic for this statement. That’s flat out murder in my opinion. Period. And I would be willing to share that with a son or a daughter in one of those moments where I’m being vulnerable and showing with my kid my journey to wrestle with that very difficult decision.
And I’m not negating that’s a difficult decision for anybody. I’m very sensitive to all those issues around that. But again, it comes to a point where, okay, 15 year old has made her run. She’s told you all of her feelings and you asked for her opinion and she gave it to you. And now in full disclosure and creating a balance in that conversation, I’m saying, “Well, honey, let me show you my journey on that very subject.” And you share it. Now, have you shared it in a judgemental way? No. All you’ve done in a very vulnerable and open way is share your ideas about that hot button. Now, keep in mind, parent. You’re not going to make that decision for that kid. If you think you are, you better read all those Leman books again, real quickly. You see what I’m saying, Doug and Andrea?
Doug: Right. But the problem is, is, well, A, it feels like I’m condoning it because I’m not standing up for what I know is right. And then B, I realized that what you said there at the end is I can’t make them agree with me or I can’t make them make the decision I want them to make is a great reminder, again, that at 14 for sure, I’ve learned, you have to listen a whole bunch. You’re right. And the slipping the commercial works way better because if I attack it and start just, you know how dumb idea that is. Like, that is the dumbest thing I’ve heard. And don’t you know where that leads to? What am I going to do to the kid if I start saying things like that?
Dr. Leman: Well, I think the scenario we just threw, you modeled what a great parent is. A parent listens. Okay? You have to be respectful. You’ve been very respectful. You’ve listened to everything he or she has said. And now it’s time to balance things. Just say, “Well, can I share with you?” You can even ask for permission. “Can I share with you how I see that? Because we obviously see it differently.” Share your journey and then shut up. You slip them the commercial announcement, and then you shut up. You start beating that dead horse. Now, I’ve been married to a lovely lady. Her name is Mrs. Uppington. If you’re new to our podcast, she is something else. She’s 100% German. Okay? And I think that has something to do with it, but I’ll get in trouble if I go too far down that road. But see, I think that having all the lights on in the house is really rather impractical.
Okay? She doesn’t have a problem with lights. In fact, her quote from last Christmas, I remember, “Oh honey, those thousand little lights. That’s not going to make that big difference in that electric bill.” That’s a quote. Those thousands of little lights. And I mean thousands. Okay? It looks like, you know, it’s January. We still have our kids here. Our kids came, they all came before Thanksgiving. They’re still here. All five of them are here. Our daughter brought her twins with her. We have three dogs. I spend a few minutes a day just walking through the house, turning off lights. I’ve had this conversation with my wife for over 50 years.
And I have deduced that if I say anything about turning off the lights, I might as well go out and spit in the wind. Just spit in the wind. It’s going to come right back on my face. So you know what I do? I shut up and I walk around and I turn lights off almost all day long. So there’s certain situations you have to realize that saying anything isn’t going to be productive. You have to live your life and you live your life in as exemplary fashion as you possibly can.
Doug: Well, Dr. Leman, I’m glad we just got through that therapy session for you to complain about the light situation. I hope you feel better now. I have a follow-up question, but before we do that, I want to make sure, thank you, Andrea, for reminding me. This last half of the month, you can get a great book, Have A New Husband By Friday, for only $2 and 99 cents between now and the end of January of 2021, wherever eBooks are sold.
Andrea: Yep, and Carol has a review on Amazon that says, “Yes, I enjoyed the book. I learned a lot about how my husband may be thinking and feeling. The book was more about the wife understanding her husband and a change of her attitude. I found it enlightening from a man’s point of view, and I hope to reread it again when I get too critical of my husband.”
Doug: So go wherever you get eBooks for only $2 and 99 cents. You only got a couple of days and it’ll help your marriage. Alrighty. And now, a no nonsense parenting moment with Dr. Kevin Leman.
Dr. Leman: Well, hi, everybody. For most of you, school bells are ringing, they’re about to ring, or they have rung. But with COVID, it makes a difference, doesn’t it? You know what? Schools are so smart to offer parents an option. Yes, online can work for a while, but I think the smartest schools are the ones who invite students or scholars into the campuses. And by the way, schools provide all kinds of great stuff for kids, like food. Or special needs students. You can’t put special needs students, many of them, on computers. And there’s economic factors as well. So parents, I know it’s upsetting. I know it can even be frightening. We don’t live in fear. Okay? Get your scholars back in school. Communicate, talk to your people. Every situation is different, I know it, but do your best.
Doug: Alrighty, Dr. Leman, we have some friends of ours, and this isn’t why I brought this question up, but it’s relevant to them. They are petrified of how they are seeing their daughter consume more and more different sources of information that are contrary, that they actually think are going to lead her down a harmful path someday. And she’s beginning to express those opinions more and more and more.
Andrea: Like in the news stream.
Doug: Like in the news stream, yep.
Doug: Like in the new stream. And these are just social issues or other thoughts, and they don’t know how to turn that ship. So how about all those parents that are thinking, well, that’s fine, Dr Leman, but you don’t understand what my kid is looking on social media or on the news sites or wherever. I see that ship going the wrong way. That’s all nice, but I can see this one’s going to crash on rocks. What would you say to that parent about it?
Dr. Leman: Well, I would say, listen, this is a control issue that you would love to have control over. If you had your way, you would shut off those news sources. You would shut down her Instagram account. You’d shut down her Facebook, you know, on and on and on. It doesn’t work that way. It’s never worked that way. That never gets a good result. You have to be respectful. You have to listen. And you’re saying, “Leman, you don’t understand. I hear it all the time. I am listening.” Oh, are you really listening? Are you just hearing it? There’s a difference. If you listen, okay? In a respectful way, your son or daughter is going to learn to trust Mom and Dad. Now, you tell me what’s better, to earn the trust of your son or your daughter, or to do it your way? See?
If you just follow your feelings, psychologists, psychiatrists, counselors have said for years, “Oh, I know the problem here. You need to get in touch with your feelings. And if you just get in touch with your feelings and follow your feelings, everything will be okay.” Those are disastrous words. If Andrea, sweet Andrea, would just follow her feelings for 30 days, she’d be in the county jail. You just can’t live life like that. So it’s not the message that a parent wants to hear. They want an instant fix. How can I change my child?
You have to understand that child is not you. He’s not a clone of you. She’s not a clone of you. They’re going to think differently. They’re growing up in a different world than you and I grew up in. So all these influences that are part of their life are going to greatly impact how they see life. They’re going to see it differently than you and I. I’ve got five kids. We’ve got a three to two split on most things with the kids. They’re not all in line. They’re not clones. They all have different ideas, different personalities. So anyway.
Andrea: So I just want to kind of rephrase all that, so I make sure I’m hearing it correctly. So you’re saying, okay, my child is taking in news, you know, from a site that I don’t like. They’re starting to take on these different beliefs that maybe I’m really uncomfortable with. In this case with my friend, the daughter’s actually calling her mother names because she believes, you know, differently. I need to just do the listening? I need to say, “Ooh, that’s interesting. I haven’t thought of it that way,” and not take away her new sources, not try and control the situation. But by being that listening patient ear, eventually she’ll realize and trust me.
Dr. Leman: What I said, you remember what I said just a few moments ago? If there’s not respect, we’re going nowhere. And when a kid dogs a parent, is disrespectful, that’s what we go into vitamin N. Because that’s not fair. It’s fair for me to listen to all of your ideas. To listen. Okay? Not try to change them, just listen. But when you turn around and call me names because of it, that’s a whole nother story. That’s when, “Hey Mom, I’m going to take the car and go to my girlfriend’s house.” That’s when you say the car is not going anywhere and it’s not because of what she thought, okay? Or what her beliefs are. It’s because she disrespected her mom in the home.
Doug: So what, Dr. Leman, you’re telling us is don’t get agitated, calm your heart down, even if it takes you two days. Say, tell me more about that. Don’t be judgemental when they talk, and ask for their opinion, because you want to build trust and have mutual respect. That is huge. You’re right.
Andrea: And I think one of the harder parts is going to be actually, you said at some point sharing my opinion. I think it’s going to be hard to share that without getting into a argument, you know?
Andrea: And just saying, well, this is my experience. This is how I got to where I am.
Doug: My suggestion to all of you out there. If you’re like, ah, Doug, you were just getting to the good stuff here. Like, I’m not doing this. I’m not shutting it down, it’s just, we got time, is to say, go buy the book. What is it, Andrea?
Andrea: Making Children Mind Without Losing Yours.
Dr. Leman: Making Children Mind Without Losing Yours. But you know that book that we’re talking about, that we’ve offered today on, Have A New Husband By Friday?
Dr. Leman: You know, whether you like to admit it or not, as an author, you have favorite books. And I just want people to know that’s one of my all time favorites. That book rocks. So many women have thanked me for taking the time to write that book. It gives you great ideas on how to approach this man who, by his nature, is not a talker. He’s not a sharer. He’s not one that gives you his innermost thoughts and feelings. So that book, Have A New Husband By Friday, it’s not about you trading in your husband for a newer model. It’s about learning how to talk to a man so he will open up his heart and mind to the things that you want to share. So that is a wonderful book.
Doug: Well, and this is why we keep recommending all these books for you so that you get this concept of listening, asking questions, good questions. And so that you can go, great. I know how to deal with my kids. And again, there’s no cookie cutter thing that’s going to work for each kid. So you got to figure it out. But this gives you the tools to figure out how to do that, differently than just how you feel in that moment, which is often how I screwed up my parent. Well, it was great to be with you today and thank you, Dr Leman, for wading into these waters with us. And I hope it really helps you parents be able to relax and enjoy those kids and know how to address them when things get tough, so that you can love those kids more and more and more. Great to be with you today.
Andrea: Have a great week.