Jennifer had a lot of anger from her past. And unfortunately, she was passing that on to her kids.
But she found something better. Focus on the Family gave me the tools that I needed to nurture my children rather than breaking their spirits because growing up, that's all I knew. I'm Jim Daly. This season, help us give families hope. And when you give today, your donation will be doubled.
Donate at focusonthefamily.com slash joy. When kids fight, they know exactly what to say to escalate the battle. And furthermore, they know how to engage you in the battle. You need to stay out of that battle so you don't react, you respond and you're authentic. And you learn to say things like, I'm sure you can handle it.
Turn your back and walk out of the room. That's really wise advice from Dr. Kevin Lehman. And this is another best of 2021 episode of Focus on the Family. Thanks for joining us. I'm John Fuller, along with your host, Focus President and author, Jim Daly. John, I'm excited to revisit part two of our encouraging conversation with Dr. Lehman.
And if you missed it, I'd encourage you to get the CD or the digital download. Last time we discovered how certain responses can actually encourage your children to misbehave. And if you're like me, when you hear Kevin's common sense advice, you wonder, why didn't I think of that earlier? He has a great sense of humor and describes struggles every parent can relate to. And I know today's program will encourage you.
Absolutely agree with you, Jim. And as a listener, get a copy of the conversation we began last time and find out more about Dr. Lehman's book, Why Your Kids Misbehave and what to do about it. We've got all the details in the episode notes. All right, let me just quickly add that Dr. Lehman has been here numerous times. He's one of our most popular guests, and he's a prolific author, a well-known psychologist, speaker and TV personality. And he's lots of fun, as Jim said.
And Jim, here's how you began this best of 2021 episode with Dr. Kevin Lehman and your wife, Jean. We're really getting to the crux of this book and our second broadcast, because this book really speaks to why kids misbehave. Well, why do kids misbehave?
Number one, they're attention getters. All kids are attention getters. You know, they come out of the womb, they're completely dependent upon us, and as they grow into infancy toward that year old, you begin to see this little spirit. You begin to see this little personality develop.
I always tell mommies of young kids, when that child hits 18 months, circle the calendar, because you're going to see a test of wills start about 18 months in a child's life. Well, and you elaborate on that, because you say both good behavior and bad behavior is both a yell for attention. Absolutely. So again, I go back to all kids are attention getters.
Just follow me for a second. So if the kid gets positive attention for positive behavior, they're on the right track. As soon as they don't get positive attention, they still need attention, so what kind of attention are they going to get?
They're going to get negative attention. And the kid tells himself, well, I'm still getting attention, it's still working, but that runs its course. So as the kid gets more discouraged in life, believe it or not, I'm saying a little ankle biter, 18 months to three years old, can get discouraged.
Life isn't working out the way they think, even at that age. They become powerful. So why the attention getter says, I only count life when I'm noticed and I put people in my service, the powerful kid says, I only count life when I control, when I win, when I dominate. So these are the kids who throw temper tantrums and how we respond to those temper tantrums is really important, because that kid throws the temper tantrum for a purpose. Now, purpose is just a word.
Purposeful is a psychological word that comes from the psychology of a guy named Alfred Adler. We won't go into any detail there, but let's just say that all social behavior serves a purpose in a kid's life. So the powerful child is saying, I am an authority over you parent. There is a guy named St. Paul who said something very different. He said, children, obey your parents. It's the right thing to do because God has placed them in authority over you. And I love that translation.
That's a living Bible translation. And that's what I try to preach to parents. You need to be in authority without being the authoritarian to deal with this powerful child, because you need to remove your sails from that child's wind.
Because if you don't and you come on with you can I am your father or I'm going to blow you right against the wall. In a power struggle, you lose. So you need a way to develop ways of circumventing that powerful child, where they realize that, wait a minute, these powerful ways aren't working. These parents are a little smarter than what I'm giving them credit for.
Well, and that's the obvious question. When you have that confrontation, what should you do with that three-year-old? Well, the kid who's going to throw the temper tantrum, you simply step over the child, walk away. If there's no audience, that kid's not going to give it to you. So don't give them the attention that they're craving in that way. Right. Yeah.
If you want to make a fool of yourself on it, you go ahead. The point is you're going to separate the child. You pick up the child, remove him from the scene. That's the principle I want to teach.
And it just says, hey, it's not going to work. Yeah. Kevin, let me pick up on that because in the book you do describe a parent's responsibility to make sure their child is getting enough of your time. That can be so difficult. And we can, as parents with busy schedules, we can justify all of our busyness. But you're saying in the book, your child needs you and needs you to spend time with them. So sometimes this misbehavior is rooted just in they're not getting enough of you.
Well, let's start with this anti-American statement. Activities are not good for your children. Now, let me ask Jean, does that cut against the mom feeling of keeping the kids busy is a good thing? It does. Busy hands are happy hands. And I mean, I can remember you did it.
It's better than selling crack cocaine on the street. I get it. Right. Well, and even, you know, I felt when our kids were young, I did not want them to spend too much time in sports. And I recognized that that wasn't positive and putting that pressure on them at such a young age.
However, as they got older, I wasn't sure that was the right decision. Well, now we have team soccer. We have city soccer. The whole weekend is geared around the kids soccer or softball or whatever.
I'm telling you, it's crazy. Kids, families don't go to church on Sunday because they're off playing in a softball tournament. Again, it's all, so much is just directed toward the children. The children are the centerpiece. We bring up kids that feel like they're the centerpiece of the world. I've said it many times, and I'll say it again. If you do that, where is the room for Almighty God in a kid's life? And I'm here to answer my own question. There's no room for God in that kid's life because you got him so busy and you're so busy. So when we talk about time, where's the time? The dinner table is a great time to talk. But other than that, I mean, and I've heard on Focus on the Family studies from other authors who said, dads will spend 37 seconds a day talking to their kids, things like that.
It's outrageous. So the mantra that imprinting, whatever you want to call it in this book, I call it the three basic. There's four, but the fourth one you don't see very often. So deal with the three attention getting power and revenge are mostly the motivation behind the poor behavior, the maladaptive behavior that you see in your home with your children. But you need to understand that message that the kids are feeling like they need more parent, they need more love, they need more acceptance. And that's the art of being a parent is making that kid feel special. That's a good way to look at it, and that's part of what you've included in your book there. Kevin, you're known as the birth order guy. And some people may not be familiar with that, believe it or not. Really? How many millions have you sold of that book?
Many trees died in its honor. And it's a great concept. It's one of those rare thoughts that you were able to grab and put into a book, the birth order book. But just lightly tell us how that functions and how that helps to shape who we are.
I'm sure we're not locked into that, but you generally learn certain behavior patterns depending upon where you are in the pecking order of your birth, right? Well, firstborns are the movers and shakers in our society. They're our leaders, our political leaders. They're our senators, our congresspeople. They're our presidents of the United States.
They're our astronauts into outer space. If they're something technical, the engineers, the accountants, you're going to see an inordinate number of firstborn and onlyborn children. They're sort of psychological cousins to each other. They do very well in life. The child right beneath them is a disadvantage. If that child's a middle child, they're going to end up a mediator, a negotiator, a compromiser.
They're going to be good at seeing life from both sides of the fence, which is pretty good. I love to tell middle children that peanut butter and jelly is a sandwich. The babies of the family, if you name a comedian right now, in all probability you're talking about a baby of the family. Just name one. They're babies across the board. Very few exceptions. All the late-night TV guys, I don't think they're very funny, quite frankly, but they're all youngest children.
Why is that? What action is in play there that makes them predominantly come from- The achiever role was filled by you firstborn children. The next child in line is the opposite of that firstborn.
So there's two roles, whatever they are. So that baby of the family, that humor guy, he can't compete. And that was true of my life. I couldn't compete with my sister and brother. So I became the best of the worst. I graduated fourth in my class in high school from the bottom. I mean, I was taking consumers mathematics, that's bonehead math, as a senior in high school.
I couldn't get it in college. I finally did get in college on probation. I mean, most of you know my story.
I mean, it was terrible. But you know, along came this woman when I was 19 years old after I was thrown out of college, and she was the one, my future wife, who I met in the men's room of a hospital, believe it or not. She was the one that God used to turn my whole life around, and God gave me motivation.
And I'm thankful for those years I struggled. But we are a product of our environment. And you as a parent, you've taken whatever you glean from mom and dad into that role of parenthood. It can work for you, but it can also work against you.
So what do we do knowing this and its predictability, because that's what's genius about it. It's generally true. It may not be absolutely true in every case, but I think you've done enough research and talked to enough people that you understand it the way you do. But how does a parent help augment that first-born child to actually maybe not be as uptight or rules-oriented, etc. Do you want to do that, or is this just the way God has planned it? And this is why kings and princes tend to be first-borns and leaders, as you said. Is it wrong to create a leader out of a last-born? Well, I tried and failed with my first-born daughter. I tried not to make her a first-born.
I'm here to tell you, I failed. She is a first-born. She was an English teacher.
She knew what a dangling part of SIPA was. A high achiever. So do you just roll with it?
I mean, is there a reason to try to augment that or just let it go? For all you first-born and only-born children listening to our broadcast today, you know you might have a tad bit of perfectionism in your life. And perfectionism is slow suicide.
That's what you have to understand. And I think the smart parent, when the kids are little and you're tucking them in, and this is the kid who's got to line up everything, you know, everything's got to be just sort of perfect. Kids love stories. Tell them stories. Make up stories. Embellish stories about your life. Share with them about the time you were embarrassed in school. About the time you got picked on. About the time you failed.
Whatever it is. Let the kids see the imperfect nature of you. I spoke in a church just three weeks ago, and I gave a talk on the title of my book, The Way of the Wise, which is Proverbs 3, verses 1 through 6. I gave a very simple altar call about the imperfection of all of us. We had over 100 people respond. I mean, I was sort of shaking my head. I was taken back. But how many people responded to that? We're all imperfect.
That's right. We need each other. Kids need to understand that we have their back. We love them with all their flaws. To our school teachers that I have some influence over, and we're talking about a fourth grade spelling test, why would you write minus four at the top of that?
What's wrong with plus 96? What's wrong with looking for the positive ways of expressing, hey, good job? Good job is what I think I call vitamin E. It's encouragement. We're not praise. Praise God.
All others pay cash, as someone once said. God's worthy of our praise. Your kid isn't. But your kid needs encouragement. Encouragement says, I got your back. I see how you're doing life. I'm proud to be your parent. You're doing good.
And if you get stuck, I'm here to help you. If that message comes across to your son or daughter, they're going to go out in life, and they're going to be a winner. And Dr. Lehman, isn't it important with, let's say, that firstborn, the high achiever, to acknowledge something other than just their performance, to acknowledge, to encourage something about them, their personality, their heart? Oh, you're the smart one around the table, Jean.
She is, actually. That's the diamond answer right there, because as I've said to my kids, it's not what you do. It's who you are. And my little daughter, Lauren, was talking to a kid on the phone for about 30 minutes, and I asked her who that was. I said, gee, I haven't heard that name. Is he a new kid? No, he's just a kid nobody likes.
And I said, what? It's a kid at school nobody likes. And she called him and talked to him about 30 minutes. And this little daughter of mine, the youngest, she's very sensitive to other kids. And she's the one in the lunchroom in school would see somebody sitting by themselves and go over and sit next to them. That's beautiful. And one thing I'm proud of, all my kids have a sensitivity to other people. And they've learned that my wife is a super wonderful human being, wouldn't hurt a fly, give you the shirt off her back, a lovely lady in every sense of the word, a much better person than I am. And I see those attributes that we have successfully passed along to our kids. And I think what I'm most proud of is they care about other people.
Wow, that's pretty cool. I reminded yesterday when I talked to the focus administrators about, you know, God hates the arrogant and he hates the proud. I think all of us have to do that homework to make sure that we understand that other people are important. We come to a stop sign or a red light, we stop.
Why? It's the law, yeah, get a ticket, yeah, get an accident. The best reason we stop is so we don't hurt somebody else.
But notice that's not our first response. And those are heartfelt good things about parenting and seeing your kids do the beautiful things and you go, great, okay, they caught that lesson. And I think that happens as your children get older, you see more of that.
Hopefully, that's the goal. In the book, you describe discipline 101 and in there you said discipline goes hand in hand with misbehavior. So what's the difference between discipline and punishment? Well, see, and this is sort of framed in our society today because if you just come across as I'm punishing you, let me tell you how a kid thinks today. They don't think of us on a different plane. They see themselves as social equals. So in their head, okay, if you're right to punish me, I have a right to punish you back.
And discipline, I think, takes on a little different color that we acknowledge that mistakes were made. We turn things into teachable moments. I love to tell a story about our high school invited me to be on their wall of fame and I jumped at the opportunity to do it.
Because I was such a little cut up in high school. But on the way up, I was talking to my mother who was 90 years old at the time and I said, Mom, we fool a few people. You know, honey, I'm so proud of you. And I reminded her about time the police brought me home. I'll never forget what she said.
She said, oh, I do remember that, but you were such a good boy. So somehow we still have to come across with the fact that, you know, we love you anyway and we accept you flaws and all. So discipline is, hey, you take the kid behind the closed door and you have a little talk and you give them the look. And they get the message that what happened at dinner or what happened at school was not cool at all. And my expectation for you is that we see a change in your behavior. It's a teachable moment.
And you ask the kid, what are you going to do to change that? We talked about rules afterward. All the Lehman children wrote rules governing the use of the family car. I didn't give them the rules. They wrote the rules. I didn't ask them to write the rules.
How'd that happen? They must have assumed that they realized it was a privilege to have that key to that car. You give a key to a car to a kid that's not responsible, that's on you. You're a dummy parent.
Don't do that. Have expectations for your kids that are reasonable, not unreasonable. And what I continually hear from you, Kevin, is put that on your child to give you the boundaries. I mean, you're pretty consistent with that. I like that idea, although it's a nail biter for some parents, especially firstborn parents. Yes, but it helps reinforce the goal.
Are you raising a child or are you trying to raise an adult? Again, that's a gold star observation. But, you know, as you were speaking, I was thinking of my sister, Sally. I was speaking to a Christian education group in Grand Rapids, Michigan, an auditorium of 6,000 people. I'll never forget this moment because we had breakfast together that day and she was doing a workshop at the same event. She said, Kevin, what are you speaking about this morning?
It was an hour and five minutes away from time. I said, I don't know yet. And she looked at me and her eyes narrowed. And you could see, and she said, well, you must know what you're going to be speaking about. You're going to be speaking in 55 minutes. I said, well, when I look at them, I'll decide.
And she said, and she said, you are making my stomach turn. We've never had that discussion, have we, Gene? And what you have to understand is that the genes of life, if she's going to speak to a woman's group, that sucker is going to be organized, she's going to have her PowerPoints, it's going to be lockstep, and yet if Jim was going to speak, he'd show up and say, oh, it's great to be here at the Rotary Club and say, actually, it's not the Rotary Club, it's the Christians of, oh, excuse me, yes. But here's the thought, he's like I am, he's just going to go in there and do it. And he's a much better speaker than I am.
Well, that's generous. Kevin, let me ask you this. Parents, we can emotionally overreact, obviously.
And I think it's really critical as we wind down the time, we're going to take some questions in a minute. But one of the things that we trip on as parents is that we can get sucked into the emotional argument. And we end up, I mean, I did this with the boys when they were younger.
I mean, I'd be right down at their level emotionally. I'm going, oh, my goodness, who's the adult in the room? You know, the question I have for you is just how do we as the parent remember we're the parent? And don't be, you know, tricked getting into that game with your kid. Don't take the bait.
Don't take the bait. Well, remember, fighting is an act of cooperation. When you fight with your husband or your wife, you know exactly what to say to escalate the battle, okay?
Same thing is true of kids. When kids fight, they know exactly what to say to escalate the battle. And furthermore, they know how to engage you in the battle.
You need to stay out of that battle. So you don't react, you respond. And you're authentic, and you learn to say things like, I'm sure you can handle it. Turn your back and walk out of the room.
If you see blood 20 minutes later, I'd get involved. But let the kids have a track record, so to speak, in their own home that they're going to solve their own problems. And so I would say don't panic, don't overreact, be a listener, and listen again. If you can listen without judgment, if you remember this, judgments will separate you from your child. Judgments will separate you from your husband or your wife. What's a judgment sound like? You're wrong, being prescriptive, you know. You should have done that kind of thing.
Yeah, anything along that line. So if you learn to listen without judgment, okay, just hear them out. Lots of times the situation will calm down by itself. So we make things worse. It's like we throw kerosene on the fire.
It just flames up. But just remember, fighting's not after cooperation. And some people are listening right now and saying, boy, my kids sure cooperate. Because they fight over everything. Well, if you have trouble getting the kid out the door to school, and maybe you're in a carpool.
In fact, I have that example in this book. You want that to change? I can tell you how to change.
It'll change in one day. Leave your 11-year-old home. Don't call him. Don't get him up in the morning.
Take the other kids to school. He'll be waiting there in the carport. He'll be out in front of the house. He'll be mad.
He'll be angry. He's late for school. Honey, we've had this talk so many times. I'm not your alarm clock anymore. From now on, you're either up, you're on the train, or you're not. And I'm not real happy because now I have to drive you back to school. But be smart. Send an email or call the principal.
Have them call that kid in and talk with them about being late. It works beautifully. Action, not words. You've already used words. You use them every day, over and over and over again.
It hasn't got you the results. You want the kid to be up in the morning and on the school bus? Use action, not words. That's why the little Why Kids Misbehave is such a good practical book.
Because the back part of it is what to do about it. And those are some of the things you do about it. Yeah, and you have a whole host of time-tested strategies in there, Kevin.
It's a great resource. But let's open it up now. Let's have a couple of questions from our guests here today and see if they can stump the expert. Hi, Dr. Lehman.
My name is Evan. You talked about the importance of training children and, like with a puppy, starting when they're young. For those of us who may not have done well at that when they're young, is there hope for us? And how might we say with elementary school children, start to be more intentional about that training without causing a shock to the family? Well, I love your question, Evan. But, you know, I think one of the real joys of parenting sometimes is blindsiding those little signs. That's a spiritual truth, right?
It really gets their attention. And, see, you have the heart of a parent. You're saying, hey, Lehman, okay, I'm with you. I understand, you know, maybe you've got a kid still sleeping in your bed, for example. And Dr. Lehman says, don't start habits. You don't want to continue forever.
So get that little sucker out of bed. And you're saying, well, I'm looking at my life and, you know, there's some things that we need to change, but how can I change them without being injurious to little Buford? And I'm saying, no, Evan, let's try it a different way.
Let's blindside that little sucker, Evan, and really get his attention. And then say, you know something? Mommy and Daddy have done some real heart searching, and we think that things have to change here in the family, and you're going to see some changes in us that you're probably not going to like because we're all creatures of habit. We've all learned to do things a certain way, but there's some things happening soon. You're going to see that, and you're going to have to deal with it as best you can.
I prefer that over trying to make this a soft, easy transformation into a new world for that son or daughter. Isn't that great advice from Dr. Kevin Lehman? We're concluding our two-day conversation with him, talking primarily about his book, Why Your Kids Misbehave and What to Do About It. We highly recommend that book. It's a wonderful resource. We're making that available today so you can make a donation of any amount to the work of Focus on the Family. It's our way of saying thank you for joining the support team and enabling us to do ministry literally around the world. Donate and get your copy when you call 800, the letter A in the word family, 800-232-6459, or you can donate and get the book.
The links are in the episode notes. And coming up next time on yet another Best of 2021 broadcast, a powerful story of Dr. Patty Giebink, a former abortion doctor, who became an advocate for life. And I just intensively was studying the Bible with direction and understanding it. And at some point, and I don't exactly know when, but it became so clear to me that God is a God of life. That's his character. That's his heart.
There should be no question. On behalf of Jim Daly and the entire team, thanks for joining us today for Focus on the Family. I'm John Fuller inviting you back as we once again help you and your family thrive in Christ. Christmas memories of baking and sharing stories with your family. They are depicted in the giclee from Focus on the Family titled Family Traditions. This story and paint by artist Morgan Weisling, a portrait of a lively family kitchen scene, will find a special place in your home and heart. Find out how to get a signed version of this special edition print at focusonthefamily.com slash family traditions. Focus on the Family dot com slash family traditions.
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