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Are your kids ignoring responsibilities and withdrawing to their rooms during quarantine? Listen in to today’s episode to learn more about how you can parent your kids through their quarantine blues.


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Doug: Today, we get to talk about how do you deal with children who won’t do anything and they’re in high school and college and you have no recourse and no idea what to do to get them motivated? That’s the question that Danielle asked that 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. It is great to be with you again today. I would like to welcome everybody who is a first-timer here and want to let you know that 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. Dr. Leman, it is so great to be talking to you today. I must admit.

Dr. Leman: Yeah, 2020 has been interesting. Hasn’t it? It’s caused all kinds of problems across the board for Americans and people, quite frankly, all around the world. So we’re learning as we go. And I can tell you as a guy who has seven schools in two states, our schools have been open. We’re dealing with things that come up individually. We’ve had great success. Our scholars are so glad to be back in school and putting a sense of normalcy into people’s lives. But as you know, in a lot of areas there isn’t normalcy. Kids are at home, under foot. Parents are trying to juggle jobs and remote teaching and learning and doing work from home. So it’s really been a test of the grit of the American people, for sure.

Doug: Well, that’s just a perfect lead in to what Danielle’s question is. So here is Danielle’s questions about how do I deal with this quarantine and all this craziness. Here she is.

Danielle: Hi, Dr. Leman. I had a question. I have two older teens. One’s in college and one’s a senior in high school, presently quarantined due to the COVID virus. And we don’t know how to get them to help us around the house. They pretty much are holed up in their rooms, depressed and miserable, and it’s very difficult to get them to get outside, to get any exercise or to help around the house. Obviously we have nothing to use as leverage as they can’t go anywhere. They can’t use their car. Any suggestions on how to get a more positive attitude out of them and to get them to make the best of the situation? Thank you.

Dr. Leman: I love the question. That’s a great question. So if I got this right, we’ve got the college student and the high school junior who are quarantined, which basically means they’re probably hanging out in their individual rooms most of the time, and they don’t do a lick. So let’s give these guys a name. We’ll call them the slug and the manatee. The slug and the manatee care about themselves. They live rent free in a place where they have, apparently, laundry services and food services available to them. Internet comes with the package I’m sure. And mom says, “I don’t have any leverage.” Well, Danielle, let me tell you something. I think you’ve got all kinds of leverage. I think starting tonight when you and your husband are about to eat dinner or think about dinner, that you get in the car and go out and find a place to get a bite to eat.
If your town is on lockdown to the point where it’s only take out, then take it out. Find yourself, depending upon the weather and all that, find yourself a nice place outside to enjoy your dinner together. Or if you must, find a picturesque place someplace. Sit in your car and have your dinner. Let that be the first volley that is a shot across the bow of the good ship Family. It’s a warning that things are about to change for the slug and the manatee.

What we’re talking about at almost an adult level is what I call the bread and water treatment. You don’t give them anything really. I mean, there’s water for the taking. There’s food in the refrigerator, I assume. I would just completely back off. I wouldn’t wash a piece of clothing of theirs. If dishes and things like that are a problem, I would make paper plates available to them. And that’s it.

I’d let them know you’re very disappointed with their juvenile behavior and make sure dad chips in as well. Just make it known that you’re very, very unhappy. Okay? Don’t say you want things to change. There’s no ultimatum. There’s no anything, but there is no money given to them for anything. Okay? They are on their own. They are living in your home and there’s not going to be any communication, quite frankly, very little. Again, the effect that I want to go from you, the adults, to your two children, and you’ve chosen nice names, slug and manatee, let them get the message that things are very, very upsetting to mom and dad.

You say it once. You don’t continue. You don’t nag. You don’t try to cajole. You certainly wouldn’t bribe or anything along that line. And by the way, there’s a book that’s very apropos for a situation like yours. If you’ve never read, Have a New Teenager by Friday, it’s an award-winning book. It really helps parents see that even though your kids are older, you haven’t handed over your command of the good ship Family to anybody, especially them.

Andrea: Dr. Leman, I’m curious why you say there’s no ultimatum and little communication about what’s going on.

Dr. Leman: Ultimatums are just going to drive them… If they’re rebellious, it’s going to drive them deeper. It’s not an ultimatum. It’s just stating a fact that you’re very unhappy. Again, keep in mind that kids want to please parents. If your kid, parent, does not want to please you, there’s something seriously wrong with your home environment, that you’ve helped create for the most part. So it’s on you. But my point is that kids don’t like it when they see action on your part.
And action on your part is when your 17 year old, your junior in high school comes down the stairs and says, “Hey, I’m starving. What’s for dinner?” “Oh dad and I had dinner, honey, dinner’s over.” Again, that’s a shocky that gets, “Well what about us?” “Oh, what about you, honey? You’re fully capable of taking care of yourself.” “What is that supposed to mean?” “Well, you can tell I’m not real happy and neither is dad about how things have gone on around here.” And you can give them the, “You haven’t lifted a finger to do anything around here. From now on you’re on your own. We’re done.”

You say it with that tone. It’s going to get 17 year old’s attention. So believe me, they’re taking you for granted. They’re using you as a parent and you weren’t put on this earth to be used. And hopefully the outcome of this will be that these older kids are going to come around with, “Mom, I’m sorry. Dad, I’m sorry.” And you’re going to hear those magical words. “What can we do to help?” And when they say that, have a long list. Okay? Don’t make it a short one. And let them know that all these things, that you do daily, “for the family,” apparently, they are seemingly very ungrateful for. If there’s one thing kids need to be taught it’s to be grateful. And your kids are not.

Doug: Why a long list when they walk down and finally want to help out with the family?

Dr. Leman: Because they have to see and hear the many things that go on in this family that apparently are unnoticed by them. These are things that they just think, mom and dad, is just part of the deal. They do everything. Well, make that a long list. And it can include washing the car or again, depending upon the season where you live, shoveling of snow or raking of leaves or yard work. Name it all, on and off. But the message is, “We’re done. We’ve had it.” And that will move the kids. It’ll move them one way or another quickly.

Doug: How are they going to respond if I’ve always been coddling them, or mom’s always just done all the work around the house? And now we’re going to demand them, to do this. What does that look like?

Dr. Leman: Well, you remember, I’m sure, that one of my little favorite things is, do you want to slow leak things to death or would you rather force a blowout? This blowout, so to speak, is probably going to get them talking as brothers. And they’re going to figure out that they’re going to have to alter some of their behavior. What you have to keep in mind is that mom and dad have nourished and encouraged this kind of behavior. Or we wouldn’t be talking about a slug and a manatee. We’d be talking about kids who are saying constantly, ‘Hey mom, well, what can I do today? What you need help with? Do you need me to run to the store? Whatever.”

I mean, the kids are in lock down. The family’s locked down. And in cities and towns where this is happening, people are stepping on each other. They’re in their own way. They’re… All kinds of relationships are being tested. So I’m not pretending it’s just going to be easy. But I’m saying there’s got to be a blowout to create some inertia on their side to start doing some heart searching and saying, “You know what? We better step it up here. This isn’t good.”

Doug: Andrea, you’re the resident mom here. Right? So now you’ve got to, for the next three nights or two nights, decide you’re not going to cook anything for your kids. You’re going to go out to dinner with your husband. You’re totally going to ignore your kids. And you’re just going to walk up and say, “I am very disappointed and walk away.”

Dr. Leman: Sooner or later that kid’s going to have a conversation with you that says “What’s going on here?’ Okay? Now it’s time for talk. Now it’s time for, “I’m not only disappointed, but I needed to hear something from you guys because I’m way beyond it. I need some help. I’m not your slave. Okay? And you guys seem to only worry about your remote learning. I realize it’s not fun. I realize it’s not fun being cooped up in your room. I get it all. But you have to understand that we’re in the same predicament here. But we’re doing it all. And what I’m saying clearly is we’re done doing it all. So you’re either going to pitch in and become a part of this family and in doing so you will receive some of the benefits of being in this family. And if you choose not to, we’re going to continue on this terrible course.”

So it’s straight talk. It hones right in on the problem. “You guys, aren’t doing your fair share.” And when the kids come around, which they will do, then you begin to do things that you might normally do as a mom or a dad as part of your responsibilities in the home. But there’s no reason why a 17 year old or a college student couldn’t be doing laundry for the entire family as part of their responsibility. It doesn’t have to be mom or dad. So there needs to be a redistribution, if you will, of the work that gets done.

Andrea: And as mom, this would probably be hard, but I think that the outcome will be worth it. So it’ll be hard to hang on for a couple of days and watch them either get really angry. But hopefully like dr. Leman says they will start to come around and say, “What is it that we need to do?”

Doug: But what about-

Andrea: We created this.

Doug: But what about that first conversation? How are you going to get the courage to do that?

Andrea: Oh, I can do the first conversation. It’s the follow-up.

Doug: It’s the follow-up?

Andrea: It’s the long-term over a couple of days, still not giving in when they’re like, “What? Mom, I don’t know how to do my laundry,” or whatever it is.

Doug: Ah.

Andrea: Yeah. It’s not the first thing. Because that’s usually where the emotion is loaded.

Doug: Ah. It’s the later on when you’re softer and they’re working you over and all that kind of stuff.

Andrea: Exactly, because they are going to try and work me over.

Doug: No, not our children. Well, before I forget, because I often do. I want to make sure I get in here about the ebook special that we have right now, which is a great one, which is Intimate Connection, which you can get for $1.99 between now and the end of November of 2020. And

Andrea, somebody wrote in about this book.

Andrea: Yeah, real world help for your marriage relationship. Dr. Leman is great, funny, insightful and on-point. Priceless information to help married people with life together. And they just had their initials, K.G.B.

Doug: K.G.B., great insight on that as well. So if you want it, because I was just thinking to do this, you have to be on the same page. Don’t you, Andrea? If your husband is backing you-

Andrea: If you weren’t backing me and I was trying to do this with the kids, that would be nearly impossible.

Doug: Which is why we recommend the book Intimate Connection. Right? Get you and your spouse together so that you can be closer together so that you don’t, as the kids attack you, you can do that. And now for a no nonsense parenting moment with Dr. Kevin Leman.

Dr. Leman: You know, I get questions all the time about building up my child’s self esteem. Hey parents, listen to me carefully. You don’t build up your child’s self esteem. Whew, glad that’s over with. They build it up. They tell themselves, “See, I can help. I can do.” And so give kids an opportunity to give back to the family. As you do that, and they complete even little minor tasks, they’re telling themselves that “I’m competent.” And one of the things you want to do with a child is make sure they feel accepted, that they belong in your family. But competence is really important. That gives them the energy to move forward and tackle new projects. Don’t sell competence short because competence matters.

Doug: Alrighty. So Dr. Leman, another question that I think a lot of parents are going to have… I would… Is “Do I stop paying for things like their phone? And do I… I can’t shut the internet off because of the remote learning, but do I pay for their phone or do I make them start paying for their phone?”

Dr. Leman: That’s all a part of when I say, “You don’t give them a dime for anything.” So yeah, you cut that out. But I want to point out that for you ladies, this kind of situation is a perfect situation for you to show your sons that women are to be respected and listened to. Okay? You want to do your future daughter-in-law a great service. I mean, I wouldn’t want to send either of these boys into marriage, quite frankly. They’re both going to be pretty lousy husbands. Because I think they see women, particularly in this case, their mom is their personal slave who does all these things for them. So keep in mind that, moms, you represent all of womanhood to your sons. Dads, you represent all of manhood to your daughters. Those are the key relationships. So I know this is tough. It’s tough for a mom to say, “Enough’s enough. Time out. I’m done.” But this is a beautiful opportunity to teach your kids about the loveliness and the inherent worth of a woman, namely you, mom.

Doug: Amen. What about mom and dad hanging around the house? You know, if she’s saying they’re moping around the house, do mom and dad, are they just lively and gay around the house? Or are they just leaving the house and having fun without the kids? How do they, how do they act around home?

Dr. Leman: Well, you can only leave the house and have fun without the kids so many times in a given week, but I would encourage that as much as possible. But in the meantime I would do what you normally do. If you’re used to watching your favorite TV shows or whatever, or maybe reading is your thing and whatever it is, continue to do it. But if there’s conversation generated by either of your sons, you’re polite. You’re not snarky. But you’re not over-friendly. There’s a neutral tone to your voice. They need to feel your uncomfortableness, your unhappiness.

Doug: You know, it does make sense because Andrea and I may have had a little disagreement recently or not. And I think it is her tone of voice, at times, that can snap me out of it. Right? When she gets that little, “I am displeased in you, Douglas Terpening. That sort of helps me. I could totally see that. Not that we ever have any problems, Dr. Leman, at all.

Andrea: None at all.

Doug: None at all. Well, Danielle, I hope this helps you with the slug and the manatee to get them out of their room and actually helping you take out the trash and mow the lawn and do some of the dishes. And it sounds like you get to go hang out with your husband a little bit more, which may not be the worst thing in the world.

And we love your questions. So please, please, please go to And you can leave a question right there and we’ll answer it right here on the air. And as a reminder, you can get the book Intimate Connections, the e-book for a buck 99, which is a deal, between now and the end of November of 2020, wherever e-books are sold. Well, it was great to be with you and add to your parenting toolbox that you would love those kids more and more.

Andrea: Have a great day.

Doug: Take care. Bye.