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It’s time for another Ask Dr. Leman: “Will soccer help my powerful child’s behavior?” Putting your children in sports and other activities is supposed to teach them discipline, but does it really fix their behavior? Dr. Leman offers his advice on how to effectively handle a powerful child. Learn more about Dr. Leman at

Book Links:

Parenting Your Powerful Child

Making Children Mind without Losing Yours

Have a New Kid by Friday



Show Sponsored by Revell, a division of Baker Publishing

Produced by Unmutable™


Doug:                       Well hello, I’m Doug Terpening.

Andrea:                  And I’m Andrea.

Doug:                       And if this is your first time with us we are so glad that you are here and we just want to remind you 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. Well it is really great to be with all of you again. And just a quick reminder that if you go to, You can leave your own audio question and we will answer it right here live on Have a New Kid by Friday with Dr. Kevin Leman. Well let us jump in to today’s question.

Rachel:                   Hi Dr. Lehman. My name is Rachel. My husband and I have two sons, four years old and two years old. My 4 year old he’s in his first year of preschool right now and I already know he’s a powerful child, I’ve read that book and he does have a problem in school already with listening to the teacher and being disruptive. But my question is in the next month or so they’re going to be starting up a soccer team for four and five year old boys. So I’m wondering if I throw him in that to kind of use it as a tool for discipline and what have you or do I just hold out for a few years and wait for his maturity to kind of match an organized sport? I’d love to hear your opinion. Thank you.

Dr. Leman:           Wow. Thank you for that question Rachel. Well a couple things come to mind. First of all as a mom of two boys I hope you realize that you more than any other parent, that would be your husband, leave an indelible imprint on those boys lives. Now if you’re like most parents when you got that little guy laid across your lap when he was born you marveled at this wonderful thing called birth. You counted the fingers and toes and don’t tell me you didn’t. You noticed that little quivering lip and you fell in love with your son instantly. And like most parents you really tried to do everything right. I’m laughing because we all do this okay. So and we tiptoe around kids and we have a quiet house. And as this little guy grows pretty soon we figure out that he figures out that you know what, they really pay attention to about everything I do. When I cry or whimper, they come. When I show my emotion, they react.

And what I’m saying is and I’m reviewing some stuff you find in my book Parenting The Powerful Child you have to own up to the fact that because we’ve tried so hard as parents to do things right with that first born. And again a reminder for everybody the first born in the family is the lab rat of the family. We experiment on the first born, that says volumes about why first borns and babies are so different when it comes to personality. So realize that you created a powerful child and as a reminder a powerful child sees himself as only counting in life when he dominates, when he controls. Now you said that in pre-school, he’s in his first year pre-school. Guess what? He’s disruptive, it’s no surprise here on my end that he’s disruptive. Why? Because you already pegged him as a powerful child. But what you have to understand is that you along with your husband have created the powerful child. So the good news is this. He’s learned to be powerful, he can unlearn the powerful nature that’s already set in semi-hard concrete if you will do things differently.

So when he throws a power tantrum of any kind you’re going to remove him from the scene. You’re not going to pay undue attention to him. When he becomes angry, disruptive, hits you, any kind of overt powerful behavior you are going to give him the look, you’ll give him some words that mom is unhappy and whatever he asks for next and next and next the answer is going to be no no no. And he’s clearly going to see that mommy is unhappy with his behavior. Now again warning for powerful children, lots of times when you first initiate these changes in your behavior the kid’s going to get worse. I call it the fish out of water syndrome. He’s hooked and he doesn’t like it. So he’s going to give you his best shot to try to get you to knuckle under to putting him back in a position of dominance.

My guess is and you haven’t said this, he’s dominant with gus two year old brother as well. And you’re going to have to step in when he becomes overly demonstrative with his younger brother. And you’re going to have to separate him, give him the look, tell him mom’s unhappy. Again, he’s four years old. OK. So reason goes a little ways with four year olds but it’s the action that you and your husband will take with an emphasis on the action you’ll take Rachel that’ll make a difference in this kid’s tendencies. Now he’s got a tendency to be powerful, what we’re trying to do is change the course of the river. So you’re going to have to really work on being consistent because if you do eight out of 10 things right and blow two that blowing two is enough to keep the powerful child on that powerful track.

Now the second part of your question was the idea of maybe I should enroll him in soccer. I love to think of four and five year olds playing soccer. Oh my goodness. Looks like ants on a hill. They’re going in every different direction. What I always love is this one kid hanging on to that special part of his and he’s standing still in the middle of the field. And it’s your kid. Laugh out loud funny. Yeah I would hold off on that. I think lots of times and if you are new to our podcast this might be late breaking news but the Leman is not real gung ho on activities for kids to begin with. One activity per kid per semester is plenty and the fact that kids are in any kind organized anything at four and five makes no sense to me whatsoever.

I’m reminded of the great basketball star Michael Jordan, first picked up a basketball in junior high school if I remember correctly. So I think the hurried up rush approach we have to rearing children today is detrimental to their overall growth. More important for him to have downtime, playtime, creative time, inviting kids over to the house, social experiences, than it is to get him in some kind of an organized anything. And again I think the thinking in many parents is, well he’s so temperamental maybe if I got him in sports it’ll blow off some of that extra steam so to speak. That’s usually not the case. The kid that’s powerful in the home will be powerful on a soccer field or the baseball field.

Doug:                       So Dr.Leman, I got to be honest when you say I have to do 10 out of 10, that if I screw up on two of the ten I’m going to invite more of the power that’s tough to hear.

Dr. Leman:           Well it is Doug. You remember the old experiments maybe you saw in college where experimental psychologist would put a pigeon in a little cage and there’s a little disc there where they could peck and they got rewarded, every peck they’d get a little pellet. And then they lengthen it out to every five pecks you get a pellet or whatever. He got so smart that if it was on an interval of every five he would just get up and go dat dat dat dat dat, five quick ones and wait. Well what happens when all of a sudden you change that to 100. Guess what? The behavior still continues because he’s rewarded that one out of 100 time and he learns to adjust. As you watch the pigeon he’s not as hyper, he’s just taking his time because he knows he’s gotta do it a 100 times and not just one time or every five times or whatever. What I’m saying is that there is a conditioning scale so to speak that we create and kids will seize that moment.

It’s like my advice to blended families. You guys have been around me long enough to know what I’m about to say. You better be shoulder to shoulder. Why? Because if there’s any light between you as a blended family, the kids in a blended family will try to drive a wedge between you. So I know it’s asking a lot but you really have to work Rachel on being consistent and you know we have talked about an a previous podcast the little book Have a New You by Friday and that’s well worth your reading by the way because it teaches the adult how to think their way to behavioral change. And the only way that you’re going to change four year olds powerful behavior is not to give in and kneel to that power in any situation. And the problem is that kids have built in antennae. They know social situations where other adults are around where out of sheer embarrassment you’ll go ahead and acquiesce just to end a tirade or whatever. Don’t do that. Let it run its course, stick to your guns, do the right thing and you can change the course of that mighty river called the powerful river.

Doug:                       I’m going to ask the Andrea that she usually asks which is, okay I’m going to do my 10 out of 10, how long do I have to do this before my four year old starts to change behavior?

Dr. Leman:           Longer than you can imagine. You’re gonna see some day light which is good. That’s the vitamin E, the encouragement that you’ll get. But kids are highly trainable and you heard me say that you can change behavior in 48 hours and you can, certain behaviors. But if you have a kid that is thoroughly powerful from stem to stern that’s going to take some time but you will see improvement and you’re going to have to just work on being an authority without being an authoritarian. Be an authority without being a permissive and that’s a very delicate line to watch. Yes Rachel we’re asking you to do a lot or put a lot of weight on your shoulders as well as your husband’s but more on your yours. But the stakes are high. Powerful young men don’t make good husbands. They’re not fun to be around. They tend to dominate people in conversation so you want this kid to mellow out a little bit. And you’re the one, you’re the key that can help pull that trigger to make it happen.

Andrea:                  So you think Dr.Leman that soccer would be detrimental but it would be better for that boy to have playdates at home, a lot of creative outlet. So instead of mom going to soccer maybe taking him to the science museum or something?

Dr. Leman:           Sure, any kind of a one on one time with that child is better. Now again soccer in and of itself isn’t detrimental but it takes time away from your two year old. It takes away from that one on one time that I think is so important. It doesn’t solve any problems. So if you’re looking at sports as a solve all, it doesn’t work that way. You’re better off to have good communication, letting your child know that you’re unhappy at certain things. Because keep in mind that this little four year old precious son he actually wants to please you Rachel. That’s what you have to keep in mind. Let him please you.

Doug:                       Well Rachel I applaud you again for asking this question. It’s a great question and kudos to you to read the book. Apply it. And I think the other thing just to encourage you to say you can do it. Go for it. It’s worth it in the end like Dr.Leman said. You want to raise him to be a great husband and you’re helping to do that, you’re raising a great adult so kudos to you.

Dr. Leman:           Yeah. And these books by the way they blend together. The Parenting the Powerful Child, Making Children Mind Without Losing Yours, Have a New Kid by Friday. I mean those are three books that I would read. The other one that we mentioned is Have a New You by Friday because you really set up a situation where a child can change their behavior by what parent? By you changing the way you interact with your children and with your husband for that matter. But it’s all on our side. We are the ones who will create that behavioral change in a child. Because a child figures out, they’re smart enough to figure out what used to work around here isn’t working and so for most kids, I mean you can change a kid’s behavior in 48 hours but you have to be terribly consistent and the kid has to see an abrupt change in parents’ attitude and behavior.

Doug:                       It’s the reason I don’t really like you that Dr.Leman is that you keep saying that I’m the person that has to change for the kids to change and I just got to admit you’re just not very nice about that.

Dr. Leman:           Yeah it’s true. I admit to that. But how many times do you suppose I was in private practice when people would see my name in lights and say oh boy there is a guy that can fix my child and they’d bring in little Buford or a little Harlen or little Harper and they’d say “Hey doc, fix ’em” and I would say well listen “Um, I really don’t want to see your 12 old son but I would appreciate if you and your wife could set up at least three meetings with me.” “With us? I’m telling you the problem is our 12 old son.” “As hard as this is for you to believe at this point if I see you for just three sessions together I will know your son thoroughly through your eyes and we’ll set up a game plan that puts you in authority and takes you out of the laissez faire, permissive mode I think you’re in or the authoritarian mode that I think you’re in.”

And it’s almost like you go to a chiropractor and he says you know you need an adjustment. And they manipulate your spine and people find relief from lower back pain and all that. So psychologically you need an adjustment parent. And if you come to somebody like me and that’s why these podcasts, these podcasts are like sitting in a shrink’s office hopefully. Because we get a myriad of questions and after listening to a few podcasts you say you know I get it. I see the similarity here. Yeah, this is on me. And I’m basically Doug loved by parents and hated by kids from Maine to California. But I take your word seriously so thank you.

Doug:                       Our kids don’t like you, just for the record. Our kids really don’t like you so

Dr. Leman:           [crosstalk 00:16:09] my office he said I don’t like you. And I said why don’t you like me. And he said through his tears “Because you’re giving my mom and dad all those new ideas.”

Doug:                       Our kids have actually said to us “That’s one of those Leman things, isn’t it?” And they don’t like it because it’s working.

Dr. Leman:           “Are you reading that book again Dad?” I love it. Well we’re just trying to be helpful and by the way these podcasts are new to a lot of you. Help us spread the word through Facebook and your friendships. And we were gone for a while and boy did I hear about it. And I’m glad to know people like these and we do these as a service. And the good people at Baker, our publishing group or specifically Raval books, they enable this to happen. So thank you. Big shout out to those guys for helping us. They have published many a Leman book including books like Have a New Kid by Friday and Making Children Mind. So thank you guys for letting us come into your homes, in to your cars and we’re just trying to help. You know we don’t claim to be perfect. We’re not trying to give psychological medical advice by way of podcast. Doug says you know if you’ve got a problem, go consult your person, this is for your education and entertainment only and we mean that, But we’re trying to give you ideas. I’ve always been an idea person, always been a little different than most people in my profession and it helped a lot of people. So that’s our goal here, just to help you, So thanks for listening. Pass it along to your buddies.

Doug:                       And to that note, Dr.Leman just referenced three different books that he would encourage you to get. Powerful Child, Make Children Mind Without Losing Your Own Yours and Have a New Kid by Friday. We will put those in the show notes so if you’re driving you can go to, this is episode 224, and there’s a link there, you can just click it and get those books.

Well we love being with you and we appreciate you spending time with us. And it’s absolutely a joy. And we love to hear stories on Facebook or wherever of how you’ve been able to use this material. So take care. Look forward to the next time.

Andrea:                  Thank you Dr. Lehman and thank you Rachel for your question.

Doug:                       Have a good one. Bye bye.