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The first 5 years are your child’s life are crucial when it comes to parenting. In today’s episode, Dr. Leman lists out 3 necessities to teach your kids before age 5.


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Doug: On today’s episode we get to ask Dr. Leman, what are the three necessities, the three essentials that I must teach my kid before they’re age five? Because he’s told me that by age five that cement is starting to get hardened. Hi, I’m Dr. Penny.

Andrea: And I’m Andrea.

Doug: And we are so glad that you are with us today. If this happens to be your first time with us, we 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.

Doug: Okay, Dr. Leman, you’ve told us that by age five, X% of a kid’s personality is set, but I want to know what are those three key essentials that I need to get into my kids before they turn age five.

Dr. Leman: Yeah. Well, that concept comes out of the thought of children are like wet cement. If you’ve ever worked with wet cement or seen someone work with it, it does harden up pretty quickly and so it is with the personalities of our kids. If you want to put this to test in your life, here’s a suggestion around the dinner table. Parents, ask your son or daughter that’s a teenager to describe themselves as a little kid, and just sit back and listen. And listen to the adjectives that they use to describe their personality. And then ask yourself the question, “Did they not just name and enumerate the qualities that they now have at 15, 16, 17 years of age?”

Dr. Leman: The little boy or little girl you once were folks, you still are. You learn to be the human being you are in the first five, six years of life. So almost all of your personality is formed that early. And that’s why we’re addressing this today on our podcast because it’s really important. I’ve said for years, don’t start habits with your children that you don’t want to have continue throughout your kids’ college and postgraduate years.

Dr. Leman: So at age two, about 20 to 40% of your kid’s personality is already formed. That’s frightening. Three, 60%. Four, 80%. Five, nearly 100%. So we take this topic on today. And by the way, just for everyone’s enjoyment. I hate the question that Doug asked me today. It’s name the three. Let me tell you, it could be name the 17 things that are important to teach your child before they harden up, so to speak. But I’m going to take a stab at it only because I love Doug and his pretty wife Andrea, okay?

Dr. Leman: So, I’m going to start… This is like junior Jeopardy. If you’ve been watching Jeopardy, these guys are pretty smart. Man, they’re smarter than I am. I usually get the $200, the $100 answer once during the whole broadcast. But I won’t go into that. So I would say number one is you have to establish your authority as a parent in the home with that child that’s under five. Well, what does that mean? It means you’re not their friend, you’re not their best buddy, you’re not their playmate. You’re mom, you’re dad. You come with a presence of love and acceptance and all the hugs and kisses and all those things. Please, I’m not taking anything out away. Do that as much as you want, but you have to learn as kids develop before your very eyes, what’s developmentally appropriate behavior and what isn’t.

Dr. Leman: Now again, many times when parents read my book, Have a New Kid by Friday, which is pretty action oriented, I think they get ahead of themselves. They think that their two-year old is going to do everything they ask them to do in double time and salute them as well. It doesn’t work that way with two-year olds. The kid just begins to get powerful around age 18 months and that’s when he begins to, and she begins to look at life from behind their rose colored glasses, or at least their skewed blends, and they see life as, “My playground. I’m the center of the universe. I want. It’s mine.” And you’ll get the mine, all the way through the threes. So kids are very hedonistic.

Dr. Leman: So our job in establishing authority is to teach kids that other people count in life and need to be treated accordingly. So back to some specifics. Do you let a 17-month old hit you or a 19-month old hit you? No you don’t. Well, what do you do, Leman? You hold their arms. You’re the adult. Act like an adult, “Honey, we don’t hit people.” So you’re always teaching. And this is three steps forward and two behind. Go back to my earlier statement. This isn’t the military. You don’t issue a dictate and the kids follow in. It takes training. And because different kids come into this world with different mindsets, sort of a build-in personality if you will genetically, you’ve got kids that come out of the womb strong-willed. They got a little bit more fight in them than the guy next to them. So is there an art form to all this? It is. But I think overall number one is establishing your authority.

Dr. Leman: Again, that means you’re not an authoritarian, you’re not permissive. And this means… because these kids are so entertaining, for example, in the twos. They do such cute and funny things. But what you laugh at at two, will you laugh at at four, will you laugh at at six. So again, you’re always in a position where you’re discerning, “Okay, what’s within the boundaries here and what’s out of bounds?” So you begin essentially to discipline children early when a child is playing with something they shouldn’t be playing with or something that might be dangerous, like an electrical outlet. You move quickly, you admonish a child, but you picked him up, you physically removed them from the scene. So anyway, for starters, number one in general, I would say establish authority in the home.

Doug: This is kind of a hard concept right now, right? Authority, that sounds like a bad word almost. And I got a crush my kid by being this authority in their life? That sounds harsh.

Dr. Leman: If you’re an authoritarian, you’ll crush your kid. You’ll tell them what to do, how to do it, and do it on a double. That’s the authoritarian model. Here’s the problem. All of us essentially grew up in an authoritarian environment. If you’re really a young mom today, you’re that 20 year old, 21, 22-year-old mo, maybe your home was not that authoritarian. My guess would be it would be more permissive, because we have certainly moved traditionally from our authoritarian stance to one of permissiveness. And so again, if you love your child, you’ll discipline them. Now, you might not be familiar with biblical concepts, but that is a biblical concept. That if you love your child, you will discipline them. Well, how do you discipline a two year old? I mean, do you swat them on the bottom? I don’t think that’s good. I think you’re just going to make them a more powerful kid.

Dr. Leman: But I think you give them the look, a look of disapproval, you pick them up, you may move them from the scene. Sometimes you put them in a little playpen, which reminds me of the old song Don’t fence me in. There’s something great about fencing in a kid quite frankly. There’s a time where a kid realizes, “Hey, wait, you’re way over bouncy. You need time just to settle down.” And so that’s part of the disciplinary process. But as kids get into the threes and the fours, trust me, they know what they’re doing. I mean, they’re setting you up. They’re playing you like a violin. So being an authority is always part of being loving and empathetic. So we’re not taking any of that away from you parent, okay? We’re just saying you just can’t get frustrated. You’re the adult. You have to control your emotions. And kids will test your emotions and your patience and if you just strike out at your child, then you’re certainly going down the wrong path quickly.

Doug: What would be the second one?

Dr. Leman: Well, I made some notes as we were talking about this and I said, “How important is listening?” Most of us as adults are not good listeners, and here I am saying that number two behind established authority is to teach kids to listen. Well, we train kids essentially in our society not to listen. How do we do that? Well, we do it by telling most kids at least three times when we ask a question. And we say, “Honey, would you do this?” Or it’s time to get ready or turn off the television or pick up your shoes or whatever the command might be. The kids sort of train us to say it three times. I’ve asked kids straight out how many times doe it take for mom or dad to get you to do something. Most kids will say three.

Dr. Leman: One kid, I’ll never forget him, he said, “The first time is sort of a general alert. The second one is she raises the voice a little bit more and a third time, oh, you can see it in her eyes. She means business.” And so we try and kids not to listen to us and what I’m saying is it’s important that you get kids’ attention, that you look them in the eye, that you drop to the knees. If there’s a problem, you need to talk about it and you’re going to speak the truth in love. I know you’re talking to a two year old or three year old or a four year old, but again, keep in mind once a kid hits 18 months, they know what they’re doing. They engage in what we call purposive behavior. It serves a purpose in their life. It might be just as simple a mantra in the kid’s mind as, “I want things done the way I want things done.”

Dr. Leman: So in the mix of all this is remember you’re training up a kid to realize that other people count in life. That’s why you say to a three year old, “Honey, thank you for sharing that with your little sister.” You know what I’m saying? This is not a one, two, three, here it is. This is an ongoing shaping of the child’s behavior, attitude, as they unfold through the developmental years.

Doug: Training a child to listen sounds impossible. Is there something that you’d say like you’ll know that your kid is listening when they do blah?

Dr. Leman: Well, listen, women tell me all the time getting their husbands to listen to is impossible. So there’s nothing earth shattering about you saying getting a kid to listen to difficult. Well, I’ve talked to

Andrea off the air.

Andrea: Shall we talk about this now?

Dr. Leman: As men, we’re not great listeners. Women are much more intuitive listeners. They are much more relational than we are. So what I’m saying is this isn’t everyday process. “Honey listen, it’s really important that you listen to mommy. When we come to a street, we stop, okay?” And you got to be firm on that. There are certain things you’re just a little bit more firm than you are another. But whenever a kid safety is at risk, you must act quickly. I don’t care what you have to do to get that kid to not run in the street? You can tackle them for all I care. Just don’t let them run on that street. So sometimes you got to get kids’ attention. And remember, keep in mind parents that your kid wants to please you. Let them please you. And so you respond in kind, “Oh thank you Thomas, for helping mommy. That is such a big help. Thank you for picking up your toys.”

Dr. Leman: And you know, “You’re such a big boy now. I love the way you helped your little sister today.” So you’re always slipping kids, what I call commercial announcements. You’re just reaffirming that they are helpful and considerate and they are listening. “Thank you for listening to mommy.” He stopped beating his baby brother with your slipper. “Thank you for listening to mommy. We don’t have to go to the ER today again.” Whatever it is, keep in mind that… Again, we’ve said it so many times, but you’re the best teacher your child’s ever going to have. So you love on them, you hug them and you rub their backs. You do all those things parents do. The tactical stimulation is really, really important, but they have to know there’s limits and kids will get silly and if you give some kids an inch, they’ll take a mile on it, you know that.

Dr. Leman: So again, we’re asking you to sort of be a junior shrink in a sense in ferreting out, all right, what’s appropriate, what’s inappropriate? Again, that’s a tough call for parents. That’s not always easy to know what’s appropriate, what isn’t. But if you feel like you’re being used in this situation by your three year old, you know that that kid is over the limit.

Andrea: I notice in the process of teaching them to listen you actually use the word with the child you need to listen. And I wonder if sometimes we overlook something so simple like that as even in teaching the concept like actually saying you need to listen and teaching them with value that I don’t know, maybe they understand it better if there’s actually that word built into the conversation.

Dr. Leman: How did you do with getting James, the first born to listen in your home?

Andrea: That’s a good question. I don’t know.

Dr. Leman: [crosstalk] he’s a pretty rural-oriented kid, isn’t he?

Doug: Right. Yeah, that what I was about the say. I think we sat him down and said, “James, at times you need to listen.” A different child has a tough time listening. And you know the way we got him to listen was to say, “Notice how you don’t let others talk when you’re talking.” Like we would actually talk to them like we would an adult, and eventually it paid off for us. And now he’s a great listener. And I also just admitted that I was a bad listener too. So you know-

Dr. Leman: Well, and sometimes there’s natural happenings in life that teach people things. I think of the flat cat, this little family’s black and white cat. Well to put [inaudible] he got run over. It was not a pretty sight, but I remember the mom talking to the little one about how kitty would have been alive today if kitty would have stopped and look both ways before kitty crossed the street. So sometimes even those tragedies and families such as losing a pet like that can be a teachable moment for kids and they can begin to hook up in their mind, “I think it’s important to listen to what mom and dad have to say.”

Doug: I have a funny story to tell you now that you said that, how we taught our kids to do this. When we had a story series called Buddy the bull frog and Stan, and this was Stan’s name, Stan the boy who won’t listen or obey his mom. And the story is his mother would always tell him what to do and he would always poo poo it and do the opposite and get stuck and in trouble. So that’s how we [crosstalk]

Andrea: These were actually Doug’s made up stories. So if anybody tries to Google that, you probably won’t find them.

Doug: So your flat cat story, we used it in a different way.

Andrea: Yeah. What helps Douglas and Andrea?

Doug: [inaudible] “You’re not listening to me. I need you to listen to me.”

Dr. Leman: Yeah, a direct approach. I always tell women, if you want your husband to pay attention to you, touch them.

Doug: Oh yeah.

Dr. Leman: He’ll tune in usually.

Andrea: And Doug reminds me of that.

Dr. Leman: And sometimes it means taking your husband’s cherub like face in your hands and saying, “Hey listen, this is important. You really have to understand that your daughter went to bed really angry last night because of what you said and you need to have a little pow-wow with her quickly. That’s just my suggestion. You do what you want, Doug. But it’s just my suggestion. But you need to know she was very upset with you last night.” So you slip them a commercial announcement and then you back off. So it is with kids. Those of you who are listening to the podcast right now, if you love being told what to do, please put your hand up. Yeah, that’s what I thought. That’s what I thought.

Dr. Leman: People don’t like being told what to do. My wife is a master at this. I wish she’d be more direct because she drives me nuts with this. She’ll say things like, “Oh boy, that backyard doesn’t look really neat, does it?” Then she’ll walk away. You know I heard it, I got the message, and I’m looking at the yard and I’m thinking, “It looks fine to me. What’s wrong with it?” I’ve got to chase her down. “Well don’t you see that bag over there on the corner on the yard?” “Oh yeah, I do. Now I see it.” I didn’t see it before. It’s a bag. It’s a paper bag. It’s crumpled up, it blew in the yard, there it is. But I’ve got to go through mental gymnastics to find out just what part of… That’s how she is. She’s so gentle. I wish she’d be much more direct and say, “Hey big guy. See that bag out there? Go get it now. Go.” “Woof.” “Go. I’ll get you a treat when you come back.” “Woof woof.” “Here. Sit on your hind legs.” “Okay, I got it.”

Andrea: So is it more respectful then to actually be specific when you’re telling somebody what you need from them?

Dr. Leman: I think so. I think if you’d say to your husband, “Hey honey, you know what would really mean a lot to me today? And I know you’ve had a hard week, but you know what, that backyard is really… It needs a little attention. And I don’t know if you’re up to it or not, if you want to hire the kid down the street, or if you want to get one of the kids to help you with that, but it sure would be great because we got the Williams coming next weekend. It’s that kind of approach I think most men would buy into.

Doug: Okay. Now we’re into men and we’re supposed to be talking about five year olds. So now you’re helping Doug and Andrea. My job is to bring us back to the kid part of this. So before we get to point number three, I just want to make sure that I get this in, because I’ll forget this at times and I would be remiss. I have an ebook promotion for all of you from Baker Books, and the one that you have available to you right now is called Under The Sheets, and you can get it October one to October 14 of 2019 for a $1.99. So Under The Sheets, October one to 14 of 2019 for $1.99. Dr. Leman, what is Under The Sheets about?

Dr. Leman: That’s a frisky little book to tell you truth. It’s a very straightforward blunt look at physical intimacy in marriage. If you can read that book without getting frisky, I think there’s something wrong with you to tell you the truth. So if you struggle in that area, or maybe you don’t struggle in that area but your mate does, then I would say buy that book. Don’t make any fanfare about it, leave it in the reading room of your home and see if it disappears. My guess is it will disappear and be devoured. So for $1.99, if you struggle in that area, you can’t beat Under The Sheets. It’s very, very explicit. Any question I think that you would have about sex is probably covered in that book, the great majority. It can’t cover everything I guess, but the great majority of questions that couples would have that I’ve found in my 40 years of working with couples, you’ll find in that book.

Doug: Awesome. Under The Sheets, October one to 14 of 2019, get it wherever you get your ebook stuff. And now a no-nonsense parenting moment with Dr. Kevin Leman.

Dr. Leman: You know, when I talk to parents about discipline, I hear about timeout and restrictions and taking privileges away and grounded and all that. I get it. I understand that. But on our podcast we spend so much time talking about what relationships, it’s all about relationships. Business is about relationships. Marriage is about relationships. Parenthood is about relationships. And so if you could discover a couple of ways to be economical with your words and your time and cut down your stress, would you buy it? See, I think we miss every day an opportunity when it comes to discipline. I call it relational discipline. I teach our teachers in our school, Leman Academy of Excellence, and by the way, we’ve put authority in the classroom teacher’s hands, which allows the teacher to have a relationship with those kids because they realize she’s not a pushover, she’s not a permissive teacher, but she’s not an autocratic, punitive I know everything you know nothing, but she is an authority.

Dr. Leman: Well, in the home parent, you are the authority. And so the words you choose to use your kids can really help when it comes to relational discipline. When you are in a situation where the kids are just acting terrible, two of them, both of them, one’s worse than the other. And you walk in and you get their attention, they see you and they stop, and their eyes turn toward you. You can say something, believe it or not, as simple as, “Hey, I’m very disappointed of what’s going down here.” Turn your back and go back to the room you came from and do what you were doing. Now ask yourself the question, “How do my kids feel at that point?” If they’re good kids, they’re not happy. They don’t like it when mom’s unhappy.

Dr. Leman: You’ve raked coles over them as I like to say. They’re looking at each other and they’re disappointed in themselves because they know what they were doing was wrong. And that’s probably going to spur a comment from one or both of them to the effect of, “Mom, I’m sorry about what happened.” And life goes on. But what I’m telling you is just simple words like, “I’m disgusted, I’m disappointed, I’m very unhappy.” And then walking away. It pulls the trigger. You don’t have to yell, you don’t have to scream, you don’t have to name call. All you have to do is articulate your feelings. I’m crushed. I’m sad. Anything. Just slip them that commercial announcement and walk away. Trust me, that is good relational discipline.

Doug: Howdy Dr. Leman, we’ve gotten our first two, what would our third one be?

Dr. Leman: Well, I’ve thought about this quite a bit actually, and I came up with this. Let your yes be yes and your no be no. That reeks of consistency, and by the way, when we talked earlier about establishing authority, it’s really important and I hope it’s just super obvious that mom and dad must be on the same page. If you’re a single parent and listening to us, I would say make sure that you are extremely consistent with how you deal with your kids. And let your yes be yes and your no be no, I think helps number two and that is train kids to listen to you. I think when they know that when you say no, they’re not going to come by and bug you 14 times. They only come by and bug you 14 times when you waiver. When you say, “No, you are absolutely not doing that.” And then you cave in five hours later and give them permission to go to wherever they wanted to go and give them $20 for spending money to boot.

Dr. Leman: You got to be careful here. It also says think before you engage in that yes or no. I think a great answer for kids these days, if you’re a parent is, “Honey, let me talk to dad or mom about that. Let me have some time to think about it. And in fact on that one I’d like to pray about it. So if I got back to you tomorrow, would that be good? Could we talk about it again?” Again, most kids will accept that because you’re being respectful, you’re listening to them, but don’t always feel like you have to pony up that yes or no immediately. Now again, I know kids are hedonistic. Our little granddaughter [inaudible] oh my goodness. Her parents wouldn’t drive her to a fair they had on the other side of town, which was about a 45-minute drive. And both of them have very busy schedules, and it was a Sunday evening, schools the next day, and both of them said no.

Dr. Leman: Well, what does granddaughter do? She gets on the phone. She tried to find grandma, but grandma wasn’t available. So she started with grandpa. She would always start with grandma first because grandma’s an easy touch. Grandpa’s not the easy touch that grandma is. And I just told her, I said, “Honey, I wish I could help you out, but honey I really can’t.” And then of course, eventually she got grandma and even grandma, old softhearted turned her down and said, “Honey, next week if you want me to take you someplace, I’d be glad to.”

Dr. Leman: But, “Oh no, it has to happen right now because my girlfriends are going over there.” I mean that’s the immediacy of kids thinking. And I’m just saying as a parent, you got to slow that down. You know that. You just can’t cave and try to attend to every need your kid has because what they need is not really a need. It’s what they want. There’s a difference of what you want and what you need. So that’s called a sermon folks, and that’s why God gave us parents. And that’s your job to be a good parent, not a great parent, just a good parent and I’ll be happy.

Doug: Well I appreciate your yes be yes and no be no because I also heard you say don’t ever promise your kids anything. So I’ve learned it’s come back to bite me multiple times that I’ve promised and not come through. So I hear your words in my ears, but I really like how you say give yourself 24 hours or 48 hours. You don’t have to do what they’re demanding right now so that you don’t have to regret it later, including promises. So that’s a great one.

Dr. Leman: Some parents are thinking, well what’s wrong with promising a kid something, and give them something to look forward to? Well, there’s a lot of wrong with it for this reason. Is your car going to be working? Is it going to be raining? Does somebody have the flu in the family? I mean, don’t go there. You don’t have to promise kids things. You can always say, “Honey we’re going to take it a day at a time. We’ll see what the weekend brings. Who knows? Maybe we’ll be able to pull that off.” So don’t paint yourself in the corner, is what I’m saying?

Doug: Great. Well, and [crosstalk]

Andrea: okay, so the three essential or necessities that Dr. Leman says we should have trained in our kids before they are five would be establish authority as a parent. Train them to listen to you and let your yes be yes and your no be no.

Doug: Great.

Andrea: And people are thinking, “Well wait a minute, where is making sure your child feels like they’re loved and they’re accepted?” That’s all a part of what we just talked about. That’s a given. As you establish authority in that home, again, love and discipline go up. They go hand in hand. Those early years are important and that’s why we did that podcast today just to emphasize those early few years. Those are the developmental years. They mean a lot.

Doug: I’m really glad that you talked about that love and discipline go hand in hand and again for all of you new parents that are out there, this is why I’m begging you to go get the book Making Children Mine Without Losing Yours and Have A New Kid by Friday. Because it just gives you peace of heart on what you need to do and don’t need to do so that you can love those kids and do the right discipline without all this confusion back and forth, up and down. You will thank me a bazillion, trust me. It resolves so many unnecessary confusing things in your life. It’s so pays off in those first five years, I can’t even tell you if you can do those first five years after reading those books the way Dr. Leman suggests.

Doug: We love the teenage years. So I’m begging you, please go get the books for yourself and read them. Well, it was great to be with you today. Quick reminder under the sheets, October one to 14 of 2019, get it for $1.99 eBooks, wherever you get them, and we look forward to the next time we get to be with you.

Andrea: Have a great week.

Doug: Take care. Bye bye.