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It’s time for another Ask Dr. Leman: “Should I stop my kids from playing with Legos before A is complete?” Discover how Dr. Leman answers the question on this episode of Have a New Kid by Friday Podcast.


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Doug: Okay. Your six and four year old misbehave, and you’re sitting there scratching your chin going, “All righty, this guy, Dr. Leman said, “B doesn’t happen until A.” And the Lego box comes out. They go in their room and grab it. What do you do? Do you snatch the Lego box? Do you wait for the opportune moment? Do you pull them aside right then and say, “This is not appropriate behavior.” What do you do? How do you apply B doesn’t happen until A to a six and a four year old? That’s the question that Elizabeth asked that we get to ask Dr. Leman for you.
Hi, I’m Doug Terpening.

Andrea: And I’m Andrea.

Doug: And we are so glad that you are with us today. Welcome. If this happens to be your first time, want to let you know, this is for your education and entertainment purposes only. If the subject matter raises any concerns for you or a child, please go seek a local professional for help. If this is your first time with us, you’re going to learn one of the core principles around here. That B doesn’t happen till A, but let’s hear Elizabeth’s question.

Elizabeth: Hi, Dr. Lehman. My name is Elizabeth. I live in San Antonio, Texas, and I have two girls ages, six and four. Love your books. Love the podcast. I have a question about B doesn’t happen until A is complete. Is B the thing that I’m going to do for them that they want, or is it the thing that they can do by themselves?
For example, say they haven’t cleaned up their room and then they go start getting a toy out like Legos in the playroom and play that. It’s something they didn’t need my help to do, but they haven’t cleaned their room first. I think the answer is I let them play the Legos and then the next time they want something from me, I say, “I don’t feel like it right now.” And let them figure out that they need to clean their room first. Because when I try to make them not do the things they can do by themselves, I feel like I’m micromanaging them. But I would just like some clarification on B doesn’t happen till A is complete. What about if the next thing they want to do is something they can do on their own? Is it okay for them to do that? And then I just don’t let them do the next thing that I need to help them with? Thanks for your help.

Dr. Leman: Well Elizabeth, I can tell straight off that you’re a great mom. Congratulations. You’re surviving parenthood, six year olds and four year olds. Well basically, I mean, the scenario you gave us was kids are supposed to clean their rooms. Well, they’re six and four. A six-year-old is developmentally way ahead of four-year-old. Okay? So you talk about reason and talking to kids, huge difference from talking to a six year old from a four year old.
But to answer your question, it’s more from the standpoint of your kid’s not doing what you’ve asked them to do. The first thing I would suggest is you have some kind of a little chart. I’m usually not real big on charts, but I think it’s helpful for kids that age, where they have daily routine. If the daily routine is to clean your room, you get a little board or a little magnets on it where they can move at where it’s done so they can understand. And that’s taking what I call, taking time for training. You’re going to train kids to do certain things in the home, but basically in the scenario presented, they’re supposed to clean their rooms and they didn’t. Okay, they’re six and four. So they’re not always going to be good at remembering do that. I’m older than six and four and I still have a hard time remembering that. Okay?
And thank goodness God gave me the wife He gave me who’s so good at reminding me of those kinds of things. That was humor for just Doug and Andrea because we had a conversation earlier. See they’re laughing. They’re with me. You guys are in the dark. Sorry about that.
But anyway, what I would do in that situation, okay, I would move in and the kids are with their Legos. I’d pick the Legos up. Okay? And I’d put them up and I’d say, “Your chore list needs to be worked on before we play.” Now, the other scenario is that the Lego’s are up on top of a closet and they can’t get them and they come to you and they say, “Mommy, would you get our Legos down?” “Honey, I don’t feel like doing anything for you right now. I’m very upset because you didn’t clean your room. You have work to do. You go get your work done and then we’ll have a conversation.” Now that’s keeping the tennis ball life, as I like to say, in their court. It says there’s order is going to prevail on our home and you’re going to take care of these things. Okay?
So that’s basically how I would handle that because, see your kids, your question was very perceptive. Your kids could go not cleaning the room and do a series of things, play Legos, and then get a game out and then drag something else out. And before long, your family room looks like a cyclone hit it. And not only do you not have a clean room, but they haven’t picked up their Legos when they went to the next thing. And that’s the nature of kids. That’s what kids do. And that’s why I think if you want to teach structure and A comes before B, then start … This is a beautiful time to train those kids about that. And they’ll learn rather rapidly that first thing you do is get up and pick up your room and clean your room or brush your teeth or whatever the order of the day is. So that’s how I proceed with that. But again, Elizabeth, I can tell you’re a great mom. You want to do the right thing. That’ll help.

Doug: Yeah. Dr. Leman, I have two things. One, you should be lucky to have Mrs. [Upington] in your life. I’m telling you. Any snarky comments are not accepted. Right Andrea?

Andrea: Amen.

Doug: Yeah.

Dr. Leman: Oh boy! They’re turning on me folks.

Doug: We might just call her.

Dr. Leman: Oh, don’t call her.

Doug: We might just call her.

Andrea: Yeah.

Dr. Leman: Don’t do that to me.

Doug: I’m going to call her and say, “Do you know what he said on air to thousands of people? Andrea held up a note and told me defend Mrs. Upington. So I did that.” Right [inaudible 00:06:19]?
Okay. Number two is, I’m totally confused. I don’t understand you anymore. So I thought we were not supposed to when B doesn’t happen until A is complete, I thought we were supposed to wait until the child initiated a need from us. And you’re telling this mom, “Step in and initiate the problem.” I don’t … Those are two, those two stories don’t match for me.

Dr. Leman: Let’s start with kids are always asking for something. But in this case, they, apparently, I assume they had their breakfast. They got up. They do whatever kids do when they get up and they didn’t clean their room, which they know they’re supposed to do. Mom didn’t remind them to clean their room, which is good on her part. And the kids go right into the, get the Legos out in the family room. And she’s sitting there thinking, “Oh my goodness! They didn’t clean their room.” So I suggest, “Okay, a little chart might help” or whatever. But now the Legos are out. Go in. Exert your authority. Pick up the Legos and say, “Honey, we’re not playing Legos now you have work to do.” Let the kid figure out what the work is. Do you see what I’m saying?
It’s ideal when a kid comes and says, “Mommy, drive me here. Mommy, would you get me this? Mommy, would you get me that?” Because kids are always asking those questions. Always. And yes, those are the premier shots, so to speak. When you can say to a kid, “Mommy, doesn’t feel like getting you anything right now. I’m very upset about the fact that you didn’t do your work.” Turn your back and walk away. That will get most kids headed in the direction of their work because, as I’ve said, many times, your kids actually want to please you. Well, let them please you, but as part of the training process. But keep in mind, they’re six and four and as a four year old, is, they’re four. Six is young enough, but four is really young. So it takes time for training and four year olds going to take their cues from six year old. And so there’s times you step in and just make it happen.

Doug: So Andrea, for me and myself, I’m trying to imagine, okay, so our two kids, six and four, they didn’t do their, whatever. They dragged that Lego box out in the living room or whatever. And I started to see him play with it and I’m seething inside or whatever. I know I’m not supposed to be, but I’m all wound up. So I go over and I scoop up the last of them. I pick up the box and I go put it somewhere high where they can get it. But I definitely mean, I can’t say anything at this point or am I supposed to say something at this point?

Dr. Leman: Okay. You have full authority, okay, in the home. You can do whatever you want to do. There are many ways to skin the proverbial cat. Okay? So don’t lock yourself into, “I must do this. I must do that.” Certain situations, and quite frankly, depending upon your mood and the day, and you got a dental appointment scheduled at one o’clock and we’re talking morning. And one of the things you really don’t like doing in life is going to the dentist. And that might color your need perfection in your life or your need to move things along or put order in your life. Whatever. I understand all those things.
But I think you have to realize that your God given responsibility is to be in authority over your kids and how you exert that authority is up to you, the situation, the time of day. I mean, you’ve got company coming that day for dinner, let’s say, and you really want to just sit there and wait for the teachable moment, while the kids go from Legos to this, to this, to this, to this. And now the entire home seems to be trashed. You see what I’m saying? So it is situational. So there’s days where mom goes in and just picks up the Legos and puts them away and says, “We got work to do.”

Doug: So I’ll confess. I like black and white, right? I like it’s … right? I like, I always never talk to the child or I always do this. So the freedom you’re giving me actually creates more, whatever, not good insight.

Andrea: Discomfort.

Doug: No, discomfort.

Dr. Leman: [crosstalk] I’ve heard you say so many times, “We hope we have added to the tools in your parental toolbox,” true?

Doug: Correct.

Dr. Leman: And what we’re doing today is what? We’re adding tools to the parental toolbox. There’s lots of ways you can do things. You have the freedom. You’re the parent. And again, it’s situational, depending upon do you have company coming over? Do you have a dental appointment? The kids have to be someplace, on a play date. I mean, all kinds of things that fit into your day, but you’re an authority, which means the buck stops with you, parent. And the point is that kids see that what you say and do is consistent and you mean business. And by consistent, I mean that you’re willing to take action. The kids aren’t going to feel like, “Well, she’s a pushover.”

Doug: Here’s what I’m reacting to, now that I’ve kind of processed my thoughts for a moment. As a recovering authoritarian King of the Hill, I liked the parameters of no yelling because I can do that, no powering up to go B as an happen until A helped remove my I’m going to control this situation, bad. And to have the freedom actually scares me because then I go back to, “Oh. I’m the authoritarian person. I can do whatever I want to however I want to. And okay, Lehman said, ‘I can do B doesn’t happen till A’ however I want to.” How do I keep that in balance?

Dr. Leman: Well again, we didn’t give you permission to be an authoritarian. All we’ve done is given you permission to be an authority. And order needs to be part of our homes. A home that’s disordered is not going to function well. No one member of the family is more important than the family. Everybody pitches in. The old Barney song, “Everybody clean up, clean up,” whatever it is. Everybody is part of the team. And we want to do team building in our own family, but showing kids your displeasure and their failure to do some basic, simple things in life, to me, is okay. And that’s why using the words, “I’m very upset. I’m disappointed,” you don’t have to shame the kid, just share your disappointment that the job hasn’t been done. “All right, that’s not my job. That’s your job. You live in that room. I don’t live there.”

Doug: So Andrea, I’m to obviously power up, control things. You might be a little bit more on the other side.

Andrea: Permissive?

Doug: Yeah. What do you think about this? Imagine you’re six and four year old, your older two kids, they haven’t done what you’ve asked them to do and they pull out books. They’ve got a book of, their box of books that they’re pulling out the living room to start pulling them out. Could you walk over and say, “Put the books in,” and say, “I’m very disappointed in you,” and put the books away?

Andrea: I think that the “I’m very disappointed in you” and not explaining why is a little hard. I would probably be softer about it. And I would probably say something like Dr. Leman said earlier is, “You need to check your chore list before you get this going.”

Doug: But the pick the books up and put them somewhere else, would that be tough to do?

Andrea: Probably not too bad.

Dr. Leman: Yeah.

Doug: But you’d have to tell them something?

Andrea: Yeah. But I would say, “You guys need to check your chore list before you get going on this.” And I could probably, depending on how I’m feeling, throw in, “I’m really disappointed.”

Dr. Leman: Yeah. And I like to check the chore lists from the record. That’s good. Check the chore list. That’s good.

Andrea: Yeah.

Dr. Leman: Keep in mind. Am I putting the tennis ball on my side of the court or am I putting it on their side of the court? And when you say, “Check the chore list,” you’re clearly putting out their side of the net and that’s what you want to work to strive to have consistency where the kids are accountable and responsible for the little things they choose in life because those six year olds and four year olds are going to be 18 and 16 someday. And they’re going to be facing choices that can be life changing, that can be deadly, that can put them in other people at risk.
So take time for training is really something that every parent needs to understand, that I’ve said many times. I, once in a while, I get a snarky email from it that having a pet and having kids have some similarities and you have to train early.

Doug: So okay. I get it. Now what you’re saying is that I should be looking at it as I am trying to train them to be responsible for their own actions, adults someday. And look at it that way. And I have to take out my angst of companies coming over or how many times do I have to tell them this? This is … yeah, I get it.

Dr. Leman: Well, it’s, again, it goes back to the concept, Doug, of reality discipline. And that basically says, “Let the reality, again, of the situation, whatever it is, be the teacher to the child.” So it’s the situation that you’re unhappy with, that you’re disappointed with, that you’re angry at, that you’re upset about whatever it might be. It’s a situation. And that helps you from being too punitive and too sarcastic or demeaning or anything else that authoritarian parents tend to fall into the trap of doing.

Doug: Well, and as an authoritarian parent, after I give the eBook thing here, I think it highlights something to me, but I’m going to make sure I get this in. The eBook offer from our friends at Ravel is When Your Kid is Hurting for a 1.99 between now and the end of July of 2020, When Your Kid is Hurting for only a buck 99, Andrea-

Andrea: This is one of your newer books, isn’t it, Dr. Lehman?

Doug: It is.

Dr. Leman: Yeah, it is.

Andrea: Here’s a little review here. She said, “I love it. This book is great. It has a lot of helpful information. I just love Dr. Lehman. I was not disappointed.” And BJ said, “When someone you love hurts, hurting parents of hurting children need to read this book.”

Doug: So if you have a hurting kid and you’re wondering, how do I deal with the wounds of life, you can get When Your Kid is Hurting for a buck 99 between now and the end of July, wherever eBooks are sold. And now, a no nonsense parenting moment with Dr. Kevin Leman.

Dr. Leman: We have a huge sign hanging in our gymnasium at Leman Academy of Excellence. And underneath it, it say, “Where learning is fun.” Hey parent, learning should be fun because not in the school where they’re having fun, get them in a different school, but the home ought to be fun. And again, the fact that your home is fun, goes a long way in the peer group. Kids are some times surprised that their friends like you, but that’s a great message that Sarah’s mom and dad are really cool. What does that mean? It means they’re friendly. They show interest in what those kids are all about, what their interests are, and it doesn’t hurt that they have some treats when the kids come over and might be the first to say, “Hey, would you like to go to dinner with us tonight? We’re just going to go down here to Chick-Fil-A and get a sandwich, but we’d love to have you join us. Call your parents, see if that’s okay. We’ll be glad to drop you off.”
Make your home life experience fun for your kids. Let your kids be proud of you. Why? Because you show interest. You’re always smiling. You’re always kind and thoughtful to their friends and then your kids will never fail to bring the peer group into your home. Parents, that’s a great way to keep an eye on who you’re kid’s hanging out with.

Doug: Okay. So Dr. Leman, here’s the interesting thing I realized is that this ambiguity, that this enters in for me, makes me realize how often I try and control or keep out the old bad habits within me. How do people like me, that can sometimes have this fire that just is always slowly burning in them, be aware of how much that can spill over into our parenting? How do we make sure that we’re in the right spot?

Dr. Leman: If you find encouragement in the words of others, I love the fact that St. Paul who authored so much of the New Testament essentially calls himself a loser. He calls himself wretched. He says, “I tell myself, I’m not going to do these things, but I do these things.” Always love to remind listeners and viewers of this fact, what day of the week do diets start on? Tomorrow, Monday, and then we followed up with, “Connie, pass me that cheesecake.”
That’s the human condition, Doug. It’s called a carnal self. We shoot ourselves in our own foot, but for some of you who struggled with perfectionism, and maybe you came out of a family that wasn’t close to ideal, maybe for you, it’s three steps forward and two back. And you’re going to fail. And I’ve said many times, and again, I’m a Christian. I’m believer that Jesus will return to this earth someday and will reign forever and ever. And without understanding, I have to understand my carnal nature is a screw up. I can have all the love and joy in my heart until somebody cuts me off in traffic and a word came out of my mouth that shouldn’t have come out, but it did. I mean, we’re an unperfect group of people.
So don’t hold yourselves, parents, to some unrealistic standard. You’re going to fail. When you blow it with your kids and you’ve said things that were inappropriate or whatever you say, “Honey, I owe you apology.” Kids are resilient. They’re all pretty good at forgiving parents, quite frankly. And you never look bigger in your kids’ eyes, parents. So when you say to your son or your daughter, “Honey, I misspoke. I was clearly wrong. Would you forgive me?” And so keep that in mind. We’re not trying to create perfect parents here on our podcast, but we would like to help create good parents.

Doug: Well, thanks for that and I think that is a great reminder to apologize when I blow it, which I actually, I have to do with the kids because I did blow it this week because I was too wound up. Maybe that’s why I’m asking the questions.
So well, Elizabeth, I appreciate your question a ton and it sounds like you are a great mom. Kudos to you to even get the concept of B doesn’t happen until A. If you don’t understand that concept, and when I say B doesn’t happen until A is he has a new idea to you, I would highly encourage you to go read, Have a New Kid By Friday to get that idea. Making Sure They’re Mine Without Losing Yours. Both of those are great, great books to lay out this concept. So you have the confidence to apply it.
And again, I listen to Dr. Leman a lot and it still helps when I reread his books and I re go through these concepts. If you haven’t read those two, highly, highly recommended. And if you have a hurting kid, you can get When Your Kid is Hurting for now, until the end of July of 2020, for a buck 99.
Well, it is a joy to be with you and we look forward to the next time we get to hang out with you and add to that parenting tool box so you can love those kids more and more.

Andrea: Have a great week.

Doug: Take care. Bye-bye.