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Are you reacting or responding to your kid’s bad behavior? Learn how to take some of the emotion out of parenting on this episode of Have a New Kid by Friday Podcast.


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Doug: Johnny, I can’t believe that you had the audacity to walk through this house in muddy boots. Sally, I cannot believe that the dishes are not done again. How many times do I have to tell you put the dishes away? Well, are you responding? Are you reacting as a parent? What does that mean when Dr. Leman tells us, “Respond, don’t react.” 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 here. And I’m so glad that you guys are responding by listening and downloading and passing this on to others. And I just want to let you know if this is your first time here, welcome. This is for your education and entertainment purposes only. If this subject matter raises any concerns for you or your child, please go seek a local professional for help. Well, Dr. Leman, Andrea has a terrible problem of reacting. She just is always blowing up around here. I mean, just the simplest little thing and she’s yelling-

Andrea: What are you talking about?

Doug: Throwing dishes. It’s really embarrassing. That’s why we buy the cheap dishes around here now.

Dr. Leman: It’s hard to sell that [inaudible] to people who listen to our podcast know that’s a lie. You’re a lying dog is what you are. You married Ms. Sweetness herself.

Doug: Yes.

Andrea: Well, I have to say that this is probably one of the most memorable teachings that Dr. Leman has given us over the years is the idea of responding and not reacting. Now, I can’t say that I always put it into practice when the moment arises, but this is really valuable, so I’m excited to go back over it with him.

Doug: I agree with you, because it’s probably given me more freedom in the moment, especially to be calm and all of that. So Dr. Leman, we’re getting new people listening to this podcast all the time and some people have listened, but this is one of the best ones.

Andrea: Gold.

Doug: Yeah. Help explain, what does respond, don’t react mean?

Dr. Leman: Well, let me start with saying, we all grew up in a reacting world. We all grew up for the most part in an environment that was steeped in authoritarianism, which basically, and I’m going to go back to the basics, it means I’m better than you are. When you sit in judgment of other people, you’re really putting yourself way above that person. You’re talking down to that person and that doesn’t work. It doesn’t work in business relationships, in educational environments, in any type of personal relationship you have with your friends. When you assume a higher position, you’re going to incur the wrath of the person who feels talked down to. So again, we’re all authoritarian. We’re all reactors. Now, over the course of time, a lot of us have come to an understanding that I’m not better than anybody else.
In a spiritual sense, the book of Romans, Roman something, I can’t remember what it is off hand, but it basically says that God loves us all. He doesn’t see us differently. In traditional society, we have seen people differently for centuries. In North America, white people were better than people of color. Adults were better than children. Protestants were better than Catholics. I mean, you could go on and on, men better than women. I mean, there was a hierarchy, an authoritarian hierarchy that spurned this kind of thinking that I’m better than you are, so I can sit in judgment, which got us to a point where we were all reacting. Well, we grew up as kids, your parents weren’t insightful and weren’t great responders. They were yellers. They were screamers. They were reminders.
They were great at putting people down. In fact, children were to be seen and not what? Heard. So we have a history and that history began to change probably back in the 60s would be my guess, where children began to view themselves as social equals to adults. So if you’re talking down to kids, I mean, everybody take your left hand and put it above your right hand by about a 14, 15 inch difference. Okay, there you are. In your left hand, you’re talking down to your child, okay? Here’s the problem. Now raise your right hand to be, even with your left hand, your kid is not listening at a lower level, is he? He or she is listening at the same level you are because they view themselves as social equals. In fact, legally in our society today, I would suggest to you that kids have more rights than parents do.
Parental rights have been chipped away for years. And I think that’s because we have grossly misinterpreted what authority is. Authority isn’t authoritarian. Authority is authority. It’s being in that midpoint between the permissive parent and the authoritarian parent. So that being said, we’ve tried to teach people here on our podcast to learn to respond to children rather than react to children. Because when we react, we react emotionally and our emotions … Can you trust your emotions? I don’t think so. Emotions are not a great key for living. You have to settle back and you have to look at things from behind that person’s eyes. We’ve tried to tell people to encourage people, use vitamin E. As Andrea so eloquently said, “There’s times when I blow it. There’s times when I don’t respond, because it’s an emotional situation.” You’re having company over and you ask the kids to do something and it’s not done.

And in frustration you say things that are reactionary, which does nobody any good. Now, if you can teach people to take a deep breath, sit back and learn to respond, then we take the air out of the balloon that’s about to break. The balloon becomes much more malleable. We don’t have a big scene and we can talk things through in a reasonable manner so that we get the job done before aunt Harriet and uncle Harry show up at the door. So I gave you that little historical thing because I think it’s important to understand that’s where we all came from. We all came from an authoritarian background where we just react. When I was in high school, it wasn’t unusual to see a gym teacher, a PE teacher, grab a guy by the scruff of the collar and throw him up against the locker, or during football practice, or basketball practice for a coach to physically grab a kid and yank them this way or yank them that way.

I remember one coach grabbed me by the ear and taken me from one side of the basketball court to the other. So I’m just saying that we’re still battling this because across North America, in particular, we are still pretty authoritarian based, but we still have tons of parents who have swung from the authoritarian based parent all the way over to the permissive parent. But the midway that being in authority is what allows us to think things through and to offer a response rather than a reaction to a kid. So a kid is really upset, comes in the door, slams the door. A very appropriate response is to do nothing. Another response is to say, “Honey, you seem upset.”

Now the authoritarian parent is, “Hey, what’s wrong with you?” I mean, there’s a tone. There’s a question. It just precipitates a boil over of some kind. So what we try to do in our podcast is to get people to think rationally, to calm down, to learn to remove your sails from your child’s wind in hopes of bringing peace and harmony to the North American family.

Doug: So Andrea, you said this is one of the best things that happened to you in parenting, one of the best concept from Dr. Leman. Why is this one of the best ones for you?

Andrea: I think it goes beyond just parenting too. I think it’s in our relationship, in relationships in general, but the idea of realizing that there is a difference between reacting and responding. And I go back to Dr. Leman’s illustration of, if you go to the doctor and he looks at you and you says, “Wow, it looks like you reacted to the medication.” That’s not what you want to hear. You want to hear, “Oh, your body responded to that medication really well.” And so for me, I think of, okay, a reaction is an outburst, a negative thing, where a response is, “Oh, I can think about this. I can think it through and I can give a well thought out answer in this situation.” And it sounds calmer to me.

Doug: Yeah. This helped me the most because I am a authoritarian reactive parent. And what it told me was I’m wrong when I react, even though I’ve been told that that’s how you’re supposed to parent. And it gave me the freedom to shut up and calm down and wait and respond at the right time. So yeah. Dr. Leman any comments about that?

Dr. Leman: Yeah. Just simple statements for some of you who are having a hard time wrapping your arms around what we’re talking about. Just a simple statement, like, “Wow, you could be right.” “Wow. I never thought of that.” “That’s an interesting way of looking at things.” “Really? My goodness.” “I’m going to have to check that out.” Those are all statements where you’re just responding. You’re not saying, “Where’d you get that from?” “If a bird had your brain, he’d fly sideways.” “What is wrong with you, really?” “Where do you think of such stupid things? “”Who told you that nonsense?” “That’s not true.”

All those things are reactions. So in other words, give your kids the freedom to say some things. They’re going to say some things that are just downright stupid, that are inaccurate. Well, are you going to go through life correcting them like an English teacher that loves her red pencil more than she should? Yeah, you can live that way. I’ll give you permission to live that way, but I can tell you, you’re going to be miserable and you’re not going to have a good relationship with your kid.
Doug: So let’s role play this for people out there. And Andrea, you can think of your own. I’ll start off. This might be a terrible one, but let’s do the negative way and the positive way. Alrighty? So I have a five-year-old, we’re at the dinner table and you’re mom, and you have spent four hours making grandma’s famous lasagna. You did the noodles the night before, you’ve done it all beautifully. You’ve put this in front of your kids and you’re so excited because you love this brings back all sorts of great memories. And as you sit down to eat, you take one bite and your five-year-old looks at you, picks up the plate and dumps it right on the carpet. Is that a good one to respond or react to?

Andrea: Sure. Are you asking me?

Doug: Well, I’m asking Dr. Leman and and you. So Dr. Leman, what is it negative? What does reacting look like in that situation?

Dr. Leman: Well, the reaction is, “Well, you idiot. What did you … I can’t believe you … Oh my good … That’s on my brand new rug.” I mean, all those things, all those are reactions. I always say, when the milk spills at the breakfast table or the dinner table, you don’t need to berating. You don’t need a lecture. You need a rag.

Doug: So what would a response look … Yeah. What would a response [crosstalk 00:13:55]?

Dr. Leman: A response would be, “Quick, I’ll get a rag. Honey, get the towels.” In other words, we’re going to be focused on the lasagna that’s on the carpet. Okay. We’re going to be just driven toward undoing the damage that was done. We’re not blaming. We’re not named calling. Of course the kid who’s by this time is sort of shellshocked. I don’t care how old he is, he knew he did something wrong. So you going to berate the kid? It was sort of a dramatic example of lasagna on the carpet. Appreciate that good example Doug.

Doug: Okay.

Andrea: So then would it be appropriate at some point to say to the kid, “I’m curious why you dumped the lasagna on the ground.”

Dr. Leman: You take time for training. So young kids need to learn that that was inappropriate. Now, I don’t want to confuse people here, but you have to understand you don’t put loving arms around a kid who just dumped lasagna in a quick and violent way on the floor, okay? That kid needs to understand that that was wrong. That was a bad decision. Okay. Giving that child a talking to after everything is picked up, I think is appropriate. Now, if the kid’s two-years-old or three-years-old, save your breath. You’re going to learn something as a parent here, don’t serve the kid lasagna. Okay. Number one, if you’re going to serve him, lasagna do so in an appropriate place, not at the dining room table with carpet, but maybe the kitchen table with a hard floor.

Andrea: What about a situation where you’ve got a teenager and it really is an honest mistake? So say I’m at the store with my kid and Oh dear, I forgot something in the car. Give him the keys, say, “Hey, can you run out to the car and get the thing?” And when they’re there, they lock the keys in the car. All right. They come in. In my mind. I’m like, okay, I have a right to be angry. Oh no. Now we’re stuck and dad’s at work and he can’t come and rescue us. I could blow up or I could respond.

Dr. Leman: Okay. Showing your natural frustration. “You did what? Oh no. Oh my goodness. Now what do we do? Oh, I’ll tell you what we have AAA. I’m going to call AAA right now. Okay, honey, do me a favor, would you? Take this ice cream and put it back in the ice cream section, take this frozen whatever and take it to the frozen veggie section.” So what I’m going to do in that situation, I’m going to very pragmatically get my 16 year old, who feels bad that he locked the keys in the car, okay, he didn’t intentionally do it. I mean, how many of you have locked keys in a car? Put your hand up. Okay. You’re forgiven. We’ve all done that. Okay.

But what I’m doing, then I’m taking the focus off the mistake the kid made and I’m giving him an opportunity to help right now because, “We had got a basket full of groceries here and AAA, even if they’re quick, it’s going to be a half an hour. So we’re not going to sit here with frozen goods. We’re going to put those back and yeah we’re going to be late for our appointment or our ball game or whatever, but you know what? We’ll deal with it. Honey, why don’t you call your coach and tell them you’re going to be late. I’m going to call the dentist and tell them I’m running behind and what happened.” It’s all very matter of fact, you’re describing a situation in life that threw us a curve ball. But the good news is we’re not resorting to name calling. We’re not saying, “How can you be so stupid?” and all that. So we’re just being efficient as a family. But I want people to really hear that what I did was I gave the kid an opportunity to be helpful at that point.

Andrea: You’re not berating them and blaming them. They already know, okay, that was stupid. I put the keys on the seat and then I shut the door

Dr. Leman: And the kid will berate themselves in all probability. I know. I mean, I’ve done that. I love just to use the term idiot, which I shouldn’t do, but I call myself an idiot lots of times.

Andrea: So what is that going to do for that kid in the long run i in their thinking, if you respond like that rather than react?

Dr. Leman: Well, we all make mistakes is the message. It’s not the end of the world. It’s a temporary little blip. It’s a setback, but not a huge setback. And I think what you’re conveying is I’m loved no matter what happens. What’s better than that.

Doug: So I feel like we’re choosing bad examples for this. So I’ll try another one, Dr. Leman. Your 16-year-old, you asked them to put the phone down when you come to the dinner table and they yell at you like you are just the dumbest parent in the world, like, “You’re on your phone all the time, Mom and dad.” And you just want to fire back at them like, “What the heck? I’m just asking you to put your stupid thing down so I can have a conversation with you at the dinner table.” How do you not do that?

Dr. Leman: So the kid is at the dinner table talking?

Doug: Yeah. you finally made a meal. You’ve all been going crazy and you are looking forward to finally connecting as a family. I’m there, my spouse is there, my two kids are there and my 16-year-old. They know the rule is not supposed to have a phone at the tables, but there they are. And I say, “Would you please put your phone down so we have a conversation?” And they yell at us like, “Mom, it doesn’t matter. It’s terrible anyways at the dinner table.” or whatever. Normally my reaction is like, “I bought that thinking thing for you, put it away.” How do I respond and not react in that moment?

Andrea: Yeah. I think my first inclination having you painted that picture for me would be to get out of my chair, walk over to my 15-year-old or 16-year-old and sort of escort them to the backyard, open the door, give a hand sign. I’m not saying a word. I haven’t said one word to this kid, a hand sign to go outside. I’d close that door. I’d go back and I’d eat my dinner. Okay. Now, sooner or later that kid’s going to come back. If he’s talking to his girlfriend, it could be a half an hour. Quite frankly, he doesn’t care if he eats or not. We say, well, let hunger be the teacher to the child. Well, it might be eventually. He’s going to eat some time. But right now there’s not a lot in it for him.

You’ve separated him so you can sit down and enjoy your meal, that’s step number one. Step number two on that, I would not be opposed that evening to take his phone and I’d put it in the trunk of my car or someplace and he would have no phone for a few days. And I would do that as a teachable moment to please honor our rules of not talking at the dinner table on your cell phone. “Dad, where’s my phone.” “Your phone is an isolation.” “What? What’s that about?” “Hey, last night you insisted on talking to the table. You know the rules. You violated it. I just need you to have a few days without your phone to appreciate the fact that that phone that you were talking on at our dinner table, which is shared by all of us, that’s a privilege that you have in this home. And your privileges of using that phone are suspended for three days, pending acceptable behavior on your part. And you not overreacting to this, you can count on getting your phone back by Friday morning when you take off for school.”

That’d be exactly the tone that I would use. It’d be matter of fact. It’d be factual. I would remind them of the rule. I wouldn’t be calling them names. But notice I took action at the time. I didn’t use words. One of the things I want to try to teach parents is use action, not words. Word usually gets us in big trouble. Just choose action. So I take them to the door. “You want to talk, go ahead and talk. We’re going to have dinner.” And then I followed up with discipline. And discipline is essential. If you love your child, you will discipline them. So I disciplined him by taking his phone that I pay for, it’s on my account, and I put it away for three days. He won’t be happy. My goal is not to make him happy. My goal was to create a responsible kid someday. That make sense?

Doug: Oh, totally makes sense. And I think that respond doesn’t react goes to the heart of reality discipline that you are letting reality be the discipline and not your words, which I cannot say has been a huge change in my life to let reality discipline our kids instead of us, huh Andrea? And the simple taking away of things is great. Okay. Andrea reminded me. I’m just yammering away because I love this concept and I’m going to miss what [inaudible] are offering you guys. And that is for just a few days now, until it goes away, actually six days, you get to get under the sheets between now and the end of August of 2020. Andrea, do you want to read an Amazon review?

Andrea: Yes. By K. “Great way to start the communication to help your marriage. This book opens up communication and helps both sides to start talking about the issues that need to help heal a marriage when it comes to the sex talk. It makes both sides talk about what they expect sexually in the marriage and helps give great suggestions to deepen your marriage by addressing major issues. It’s really helped us in opening up to our own needs and in how to fulfill those for each other. A MUST, yet for every marriage.”

Doug: So if you want help in your marriage and in the bedroom, Under the Sheets.

Dr. Leman: I just thought of something sort of funny. No matter what your age, think of the song that you grew up with musically. If you’re an old rock and roller like me, I grew up in their early rock and roll. I think of the song title, and then put after it, under the sheets.

Doug: Yeah. I’ll save you Dr. Leman. I’ll save you.

Dr. Leman: You’re going to save me from my own destructive nature?

Doug: Yeah, because I love you.

Dr. Leman: Okay. Thank you, Doug.

Doug: You bet. Under the Sheets emails at Kevin, no I’m kidding. Between now and the end of August of 2020. Alrighty Dr. Leman. So the last question I have is I just remember when we had little guys, zero to six or seven, man, there were some times when you’re tired, the house is a mess, you’ve asked them three or four times to put stuff away and you’re emotionally not at your peak. Maybe this is just my issue, but how do we not just below up in those moments? How are we able to stop that volcano that’s slowly growing?

Dr. Leman: Well, first of all, if you paid attention to our rules of parenting, number one rule is tell them once. Okay. Where we get frustrated is when we violate our own rule and we tell them several times. So by the fourth time we’re going bonkers. And then all of a sudden, I mean, we’re trying to suppress our anger. Things are not going our way. Like you say, it’s been a bad day at the office. Things are not well. Dinner wasn’t exactly great. And those will blow up. What or help preclude those situations from happening is learn to say it once, walk away, take action if you need to on the first one on a first round.

When you let things build, that’s when you increase the probability of a blow up and a reaction. Now again, are we all going to do a blow up once in a while? I’m here to tell you, you are. It’s the nature of mankind. We’re going to do that. When you do blow up, I think the big question is what do you do after you’ve blown up? I think you have to go back to your kids or your wife, your husband, and say, “Honey, I’m sorry. I shouldn’t have said what I said. That was inappropriate. Would you forgive me?” And life goes on that I think is the more important thing. You’re going to blow it from time to time. Parents, keep in mind, say at once. Don’t remind him. Reminders or disrespectful acts that we give to our children.

Doug: I really appreciate that because I have an older child who I’m actually really frustrated with right now because I’ve asked them to do something two or three times and I keep getting the same answer. And I guess it’s time for me to use reality discipline with them. The reason I’m saying that is I’m upset, but I’m the one reminding them. I’m the fool here. Not the fool. Maybe I am, but yeah. Reminders do not make life better. Do they Andrea?

Andrea: Nope. I guess not because I’m with you.

Doug: Thank you for that reminder.

Andrea: Reminders are disrespectful.

Doug: Oh yeah.

Dr. Leman: Just remember parents, were asking you to do a good job. We’re not asking you to do perfect job. Just be a good parent. God will bless you. And trust God and all things if you’re a person of faith and that’s the way you got to live your life.

Doug: Amen. Well, thank you Dr Leman for answering respond, don’t react. And for all of you out there, I want to remind you, if you haven’t read one of Dr. Leman’s foundational books, Making Children Mind Without Losing Yours, helps you tremendously with this concept as does, Have a New Kid by Friday.” Both those books will help you really understand this concept deeper. Can not recommend those two enough to you to get those, as actually me often says, “To get behind the eyeballs of your kids and for you to have the confidence to what to do.” And Under the Sheets is available between now and the end of August, of 2020. Well, thanks for being with us. We really do love being with you and any of your parenting toolbox. And we look forward to the next time we get to be with you.

Andrea: Have fun practicing responding this week.

Doug: Take care.

Andrea: Bye bye.

Doug: Bye bye.