There are some things your middle schooler desperately wants to talk to you about, but they may not feel comfortable discussing them with you. Listen in to learn more about what you can do as a parent to open up these conversations with your kids during their more awkward stages of life.
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Doug: When I think back to my years in middle school, there are so many things I would never tell my parents. And that’s what we get to ask Dr.Lehman. Dr. Leman, what are the three things that most middle schoolers won’t tell their parents?
Hi, I’m Doug Terpening.
Andrea: And I’m Andrea.
Doug: And we are so glad that you are with us today. And we want to let you know, this is for your entertainment and education purposes only. If the subject matter raises any concerns for you or your child, please go seek a local professional for help.
Well, weren’t those middle school years great years? Terrible. Oh my gosh. But there are tons of things I wish my parents knew, but there’s no way I would ever, ever tell them.
So Dr. Leman, my question to you today is what are those three things your middle-schoolers won’t tell us?
Dr. Leman: Wow. It’s an interesting time in a kid’s life. A simple pimple becomes Mount St. Helens. Everything’s exaggerated. They say things like, “You never let me do this. You never let me do that.” They speak in the extremes. They’re crazy. They’re hyperactive. They eat like horses, some of them. Unfortunately, some of them eat like sparrows, which is a whole other problem that deals with perfectionism that we don’t have time to get into today.
But I think number one, these are things now that your son or daughter is not going to tell you, okay? I wrote a book called Seven Things Your Husband Will Never Tell You, which is a good read. They should read the reviews on that one sometime. Women love that book, and they’re shocked to realize how many things husbands will not tell their wives.
But anyway, back to the subject matter. I would say, number one thing that child is not going to share with you, is their feelings of inferiority. Jim Dobson, my colleague and friend for many, many years called it the Canyon of Inferiority. It’s like a kid is sailing along on a really slow moving meandering stream. And all of a sudden he hits the rapids and he drops down a hundred feet in a short period of time. And he hits that Canyon of Inferiority where he feels like everybody is better than him. He’s the only person or she’s the only person who has problems. So it gets down to insecurity. When that kid leaves for school in the morning, parent, you think he’s worried about his geometry test. No, he’s probably more worried about the fact that he fears that, “Today, I’m the one that’s going to be singled out. I’m the one that’s going to be made fun of.” Kids are very, very sensitive to criticism. You look at them the wrong way some mornings, you know this parent, and they burst into tears and you’re standing there saying, “What just happened?”
Nothing just happened. They’re 14, they’re 13, they’re 12, they’re 11 and it’s just part of life. So we talk about vitamin E, which is Encouragement. Parent, you have to find ways of encouraging your children that you like them. As Billy Joel once sang in a song, “I love you just the way you are.” You don’t have to measure up. You don’t have to jump higher. So if you’re one of those parents that has a critical eye, that’s one of the things you’ve got to keep in mind if you have a member of the hormone group, as I like to call them, living under your roof.
Doug: So the first thing I’m worried about is that I’m inferior and why won’t I tell my parents that?
Dr. Leman: You’re not going to tell him that.
Andrea: But why not?
Dr. Leman: You’re going to keep it all inside of you. I don’t want anybody to know who I really am. And there’s a reason for that. Because I don’t know who I really am. I’m growing up. I’m going from playing with Legos, to having thoughts about the opposite sex. I’m drawing all kinds of conclusions about what’s important in life from watching the TV shows that I watch, playing the games that I play on videos.
Doug: So Dr. Leman, what are we to do as a parent then to be aware of that?
Dr. Leman: Number 1, you don’t take things personally. That’d be a big thing I would try to communicate to a parent. Because the parent says, “You are so weird. That is so dumb. That’s so stupid.” And those are things you’re going to hear out of a kid’s mouth.
By the way, I’ll be very personal with you. Our oldest daughter, she made the mistake in seventh grade of telling her mother and I that we were really stupid. And she didn’t say it in a very nice way. Well, that statement, which I’ll never forget, coincided with, and some of you won’t like this, but put on your big girl pants, your big boy pants and hear me out. It coincided with the day at their school where parents came to the classrooms and a kid had to introduce Sandy and I to the seventh grade class. And Holly got up and very dutifully introduced her Mom and Dad. “This is my Mom and Dad, Kevin and Sandy Lehman.” At which time I took Sandy’s hand and we sang a little song for the class and it went like this. “We are Holly Lehman’s stupid parents. We are Holly Leman’s stupid parents.” We came to stupid, we both dipped our knees in rhythm to the song.
Now I’m just going to ask you a question. Do you think that Holly ever again said the phrase, “You’re stupid.” Now, again, some of you don’t like that idea. “You embarrassed your daughter, you did this and did that.” You know, you can talk to kids about watching their mouth, being respectful, and if someone said, “I talked to them until I was blue in the face, they just didn’t seem to get it.” That day, the message was delivered. In not such a polite way. I give you that. But Holly today, if there ever was a considerate, congenial, thoughtful person, it’s her. Who has a great relationship with her parents, her brother and her other sisters. She’s number two in one of the biggest school districts around the state of Arizona. She’s very successful. She’s married to Dean who I love with all my heart.
Sometimes you pull the rug out and let the little buzzard tumble. Now I’m just quoting myself from one of my own books. Sometimes you can you again, talk yourself until you’re blue in the face. Sometimes you have to take action. Sometimes that action is uncomfortable. You say, “Well, you made your daughter feel very uncomfortable.” My question back to you who want to argue this point, “How did my 14 year old make Mom and Dad, who sacrificed a lot of things in life to bring her into life and to bring her to age 14?”
Doug: So how do you balance that with your kid already feels super insecure?
Dr. Leman: Well, afterward we talked to Holly about that and said, “Holly, I understand that it was very uncomfortable for you. And I promise you, I’m not going to do that again. But that’s a lesson learned. You need to understand. God, didn’t put us on this earth for you to run over us. And my pledge to you is we’ll continue to be good parents, but we are in authority over you. And when you take a cheap shot at us, there’s times there’s going to be a consequence for you and it’s not always going to be a comfortable one for you.” So are we on thin ice on that? Yeah, we are. You have to know your kid. You have to know just what you can get away with, so to speak, with each of your children, they’re all different.
Doug: So going back then to wrap up the inferiority though, you were saying that if you look at a kid weird and they start crying, or these other weird behaviors are happening, be aware that they have this inferiority conversation happening [inaudible] them and just give them space?
Dr. Leman: Yeah. Something’s going on. You have to know that something’s going on. So you’d follow up a conversation with something like, “Honey, I couldn’t help but notice you seemed really upset and you may not want to talk about this. That’s where I’m going to open up at. You might not want to even talk to me about it, but I want you to know that all you got to do is say, “Dad, can we talk?” And I promise, all I’ll do is sit and listen to you.” Now what you’ve done there is you’ve put an invitation out there, “I’m available.” And you said, “Listen, I’m not going to tell you what to do. I’m not going to answer your question, but I’m going to listen to you.” And if you can get that 14 year old or that 13 year old to tell you what’s going on in their head, you’re on second base.
So, in all these things we talk about, what I just talked about with Holly and all that, that’s a toss up. You have to really know your kid to be able to pull something like that off, and you have to follow it up. There’s got to be a sincere, genuine thought and feeling expressed to that daughter that, “I care about you. I love you. And you know, there’s some things that when you go over that border there’s going to be a consequence, whether it’s from me or life. It’s a lesson you must learn.” Anyway, to answer the question, insecurity and knowing that about your teenager is something you need to know.
And then number two, we’ve got to hurry here. They’re not going to tell you about their relationships. They’re not going to tell you about the sexual thoughts and feelings they have as their body begins to change physically and their thoughts begin to change emotionally. Most kids aren’t going to tell you. But you have to know, as a parent, that these thoughts and feelings are going on.
Now all of you Mommy’s got to put on your big girl pants, because I’m about to say something and it’s going to take you back just a notch or two. Your son. Your son. Not somebody else’s. Your son will experience a nocturnal emission by age 14, better known as a wet dream. I’m just going to ask you parents, have you prepared your son for that experience in life? I can give you the answer. Most of you haven’t. But you have to understand that that’s part of how young males are built. That’s something that happens in a young man’s… Now, I’m sure there’s people listening to us right now that say, “Leman, I trusted you until this moment. You’re a liar. That wouldn’t happen to my son.” Do some research girl.
So what I’m saying is you have to understand these kids are going through sexual changes. That kids at 14 are able to get somebody pregnant. Girls even younger than 14 are able to conceive. Have you done your diligence? Have you talked to your son or daughter? I wrote a book called A Chicken’s Guide To Talking Turkey To Your Kids About Sex. I believe it’s the lowest selling Leman book there is. Listen to the title, A Chicken’s Guide To Talking Turkey To Your Kids About Sex. You need to talk to your kids about sex. You’re the best information piece they have.
Andrea: Do you have any quick tips for us, Dr. Leman? We’re talking about the things our kids don’t want to tell us. So any quick tips on how to approach this subject with them, how to invite conversation with them, that they’ll feel safe?
Dr. Leman: Yes. Yeah. Get in the car and start driving. Get on the interstate, not just a country road where you guys live. Get on an interstate, and this prevents them from leaping out of the car when you start this conversation. Your kids looking out the window saying, “I can’t believe what’s being said right now,” but you start with a very straightforward, “Honey, there’s some things in life that you and I need to talk about. And for right now, you don’t have to respond to anything. I just have some things I want to share with you.” And then based upon your value system, you’re going to tackle some of these ideas about relationships and sex and temptation. And that can cover anything from underage drinking, to smoking pot, to being promiscuous. You name it. It can be very instructional.
That’s why I love that book I mentioned, A Chicken’s Guide To Talking Turkey To Your Kids About Sex. It’s a book you can leave around the house. Your kid will pick it up. Your kid will read it. It’s built that way for that reason. I like the idea you’re not looking eyeball to eyeball in a car.
That’s why I made that suggestion. It’s easier on you. You can just look at that white line and start talking.
Andrea: And they know no one else can hear what you’re saying.
Doug: You know what’s so funny about it is, I’m such a chicken when it comes to these kinds of conversations, that that’s what I did. So I took my kid for a long drive and I was like, “Well, I get this done and over with, but I don’t have to look him in the eye.” I got to drive.
Dr. Leman: Yeah. I know it’s funny. It sounds funny. It’s entertaining if your kids are 32 and 34, but when your kid’s 14 and 13, it’s serious business.
Doug: I know, but it’s so awkward for me. I’m such a chicken. Okay. Alrighty. Before we go to the third one, this applies perfectly to what we’re talking about actually, is that the book Planet Middle School is available for $1.99 between now and the end of February of 2021, wherever you get eBooks.
Andrea: Yeah. I just wanted to read this little review from Carrie-Anne. She said that, “Several Moms are going through this book together and finding it full of helpful information to prepare for the middle school years.” I thought what a great idea to have a little book club.
Doug: Yep. So if you have a middle schooler and you’re wondering what’s going on, this is a recent book by Dr. Lehman. So it’s got tons of current helps for you. Go and get it wherever you get e-books. And now, a no nonsense parenting moment with Dr. Kevin Leman.
Dr. Leman: Oh my goodness. There’s a lot of things that influence a young child’s personality, namely Mom and Dad and other siblings. I get it, I’ve written a few books on the subject. But you know the one that I discovered in private practice almost by accident, then I saw this tremendous trend, was the critical eyed parent. You know, when you “should” on your kids, I got to be careful how I say that don’t I? “You should do this. You should do that.” What you’re really conveying to your kids is they didn’t measure up. Watch out for that critical eye. Yes. If you’re an engineer or a math teacher or a physicist, I know perfection pays off, but again, we do not need perfection in rearing our children. We need to pursue excellence. You can do this parent. Lots of books out there that address this, including the Birth Order books. Sold well over a million copies for a reason.
Doug: All right Dr. Leman, what’s the third one that our kids won’t tell us?
Dr. Leman: Well, surprise parents. There was a study done on what teenagers fear the most. Was it nuclear holocaust? No. Guess what it was. “My parents are getting divorced.” Take a look around at the divorce rate, you can see why the number one fear for teenagers today is, “My parents will get a divorce.” I think it’s important if you’re in a loving relationship and divorce has never been a part of your vocabulary and you’re committed to a lifelong marriage, that you tell your kids that. Don’t make them figure it out. Don’t let them guess. Tell them. Use the words. Is it possible for a parent to look at a kid when he’s 14 and say, “I will never divorce your Dad,” and 10 years later, you file for divorce. Yes, it’s very possible. It happens all the time. But not as frequently as people get divorced, for sure, across the board.
What I’m saying is, at 24th year of marriage, you find out that your husband has been cheating on you for a couple of years and you take that tough step to divorce him and end the marriage. There’s always consequences for that, by the way. Nobody wins in divorce. But that’s something that kids have on their mind. So telling your kids that family’s important, that relationships are important, that you honor each other in marriage. I always say that the kids are taking emotional, psychological, spiritual notes on how you live your life. They’re always looking up, so to speak. So be careful about the word you choose to use in your family, your actions in the family. Keep in mind, you honor God, and you honor your mate and your honor your children, when you speak the truth in love.
Andrea: So what’s better? I believe that my parents hid all of their disagreements from my siblings and I, so I had the idea that marriage would be this smooth ride. Then I get into marriage and I love my husband, he loves me, but we have lots of disagreements. And sometimes they’re a little more visible to the family. What’s better? To hide it or to keep it behind closed doors?
Dr. Leman: Yeah. I was thinking about all Doug’s flaws, but I won’t go there.
Doug: Thank buddy. Yeah.
Dr. Leman: Here’s my opinion on that. If fighting occurs with a parent, I think it’s really important for a parent when they know that little ears heard what went on, that they say, “Hey, I know you heard Mom and Dad going at it. I just want you to know, problem solved.” And tell them how it got solved and tell them how much you love and appreciate their Dad or how much you love and appreciate their Mom. When you do that, I think you’re building psychological muscles for your kids to prepare them for life that isn’t always easy. People who love each other don’t always say loving things. Life happens, so to speak. So I think there’s a sense of realism and doing it that way. Hiding from your children is probably not best idea. But throwing things, if somebody’s very volatile in the family, kids should never see that. That has lasting effects on kids.
I hope that answers the question.
Andrea: Yeah. Thank you.
Doug: This is why every now and then we slip in these marriage tools like Have A New Husband By Friday, because you’ve said, “If you get divorced, you’ve just made your parenting a thousand times harder.” You don’t ever say, “A thousand times harder,” but you say it much more eloquently than I ever would, which is why we do that. Which is why last month we were saying, “Go get the book Have A New Husband By Friday,” to wrap things up. That’s why we do it. This week is Planet Middle School for $1.99, wherever you get your eBooks, go get them there between now and the end of February of 2021.
And again, we’re doing this so that you can know how to deal with that middle schooler and that you can love him and add that parenting toolbox.
So, great to be with you today. We hope that it helped you and we look forward to the next time.
Andrea: Thanks Dr. Lehman for those three tips on what kids won’t tell us, and now we can go and be more in tune to our kids.
Doug: Yep. We look forward to the next time that we get to be with you.
Andrea: Have a great week.
Doug: Take care.