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Understanding the Root of Your Child’s Misbehavior (Part 1 of 2)

Focus on the Family / Jim Daly
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May 29, 2024 2:00 am

Understanding the Root of Your Child’s Misbehavior (Part 1 of 2)

Focus on the Family / Jim Daly

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May 29, 2024 2:00 am

Dr. Kevin Leman offers advice to help parents transform their child’s behavior. He discusses the benefits of allowing your kids to learn from real-life consequences and describes the importance of understanding your child’s temperament based on his or her birth order. Featuring Jean Daly (Part 1 of 2)


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Dave & Ann Wilson, Bob Lepine
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The words are a little different, but they all convey sort of the same thing, that you always had my back, you always loved me as I was, you know, you didn't compare me to my sister or my brother. And I think each kid always felt like they were the favorite. And so parents, listen to what I'm saying, your words make a difference.

That's a wonderful reminder for every mom and dad, your words really do matter. Dr. Kevin Lehman is a popular guest here and joins us again today on Focus on the Family, and he'll offer help for some of the most common behavior problems you'll experience with your kids. I'm John Fuller, along with Focus president and author Jim Daly. And Jim, we've got your wife Jean joining us as well. It's always good when Jean's here, I think. Great.

I mean, great. It's always great when Jean is here. She keeps me true, right? She's my North star. So, but it is good to have Jean here.

Of course, Dr. Kevin Lehman will do more to introduce him in a moment. But man, we're going to talk about parenting today. And parenting definitely has ups and downs. I'm thinking back to how many times Jean and I said to our boys, remember, say please. I mean, we must have said that 10,000 times, right? Say please and thank you.

Finally, I don't know what age it was, but like at 16, it kicked in. But it's one of those things. And parenting is just that way. You keep expressing the right thing to do. You keep encouraging your children and hopefully they get it. And today we're going to talk about those behavior types and what we can do to be the best parent we can be. And hopefully our children will follow suit.

And there are times when we pull our hair out because our kids are not following our plan. And we're going to address that with Dr. Kevin Lehman. He is a well-known psychologist and author and speaker, a radio and TV personality.

He's written, I don't know, 700 books or something like that. I think it's well over 50, right, Kevin? It's 60-some, believe it or not. It's crazy. The one we're going to be talking about today, why your kids misbehave and what to do about it. That second half is really important.

What to do about it, yes. And we're going to encourage you to get a copy from us at slash broadcast or call 800-A-FAMILY. John, we also have a little studio audience with us, some Focus staff people. Let's say hi, everybody.

Hi. And we're going to have a little Q&A at the end here. We will.

So be thinking of your questions as we move along. Also, you said Gene is here. Gene, it's great to have you here as always.

Dr. Kevin Lehman, great to have you both. Thanks for being with us. Oh, yes.

We're a winning combination. Well, I know that. You guys, I'm a little concerned, actually.

Well, last time we were together, we talked about marriage. I know. And it's really helped in Gene and I's relationship.

Thank you very much. Yeah, she called me. There have been times when I've come home and said, you know, Gene, I think we need to spend 15 minutes and let the kids go play.

And she'll say, who did you interview with today? That's true. That is true.

And so I could say, well, Dr. Kevin Lehman had that great idea. But you've worked with lots of families, Kevin, and you have noticed the ways kids work their parents. Now, I've never experienced that.

Have you, John? Oh, golly. So speak to that issue about how kids work their parents. And I think you had a specific example about being at a restaurant and seeing a little one work her parents. Oh, my goodness. You know, I've often said we've seen the enemy and they're small and they're unionized little suckers.

And they have a game plan. And we were at one of those commercial steakhouses and in Tucson where I lived most of the year. And a young family came in. It was mom, dad, maybe 12, 13 month old little child, grandma, grandpa, and maybe an aunt. And they were in one of those round booths, but right next to us.

I am an observer of people. Let's put it that way. And I just thought to myself, oh, this is going to be interesting because they brought over one of those little wooden high chairs. Right.

In fact, you've seen people maybe turn them upside down in a restaurant and they'll put a car seat in. Yes. And the dad tried to put a little cherub into the seat and instinctively the little cherub pulled up her legs. OK.

Going to make this hard. That's when I said, I'm going to pay attention because I know how this is going to play out. And God bless them, they tried to get that little ankle biter in there, but she had no part of it.

So what do you do? Dad goes and brings her and puts him on the seat. And I knew that child would be passed around, which happened during the meal, came back to dad. Dad was trying to feed the baby.

The baby took a spoonful offering and threw it over the shoulder. I mean, it was just hysterical, but it reminded me of one of the things I try to share with young parents. And that is don't start habits that you don't want to have continue throughout your child's college graduate years. In other words, there is some training. There is something to making, if you will, making.

I mean, you're training, if you prefer that word, but training children that you will sit in that high chair. OK. And it's a test of wills. And don't think these little guys don't have a will of their own. Right.

Let me ask you about that. So what would be the appropriate way that that mom and dad should have handled that? Put them in the high chair. Period. Put them in the high chair.

Even if you have to kind of spend some time working those ankles in there. The basic premise is kids will live up the expectations we give them. Now, if you're a young parent today and your goal is to create a happy child, we should all bow our heads and pray for you now because it's going to be disastrous.

If that's your goal, to create a happy child, there's times the kids need to feel unhappy, experience unhappiness because of their mouth or attitude, whatever. So take time for training. It's like if you have a puppy, when do you start the training? Kevin, you mentioned in the book that transformation, that's a good goal. What do you mean by transformation? And especially, obviously, with our children, what is that moment of transformation?

What does it look like? It's a process. You know, I mean, Steve Covey once said, start with the end in mind. It's a great thought. You're creating really a little adult. And not that we want kids at a young age to perform like little adults, I don't mean that, but you work toward the end of maturity. We give kids responsibility. And so many of us are rule conscious. We believe that rules are the way to rear children. Rules are not the way to rear children. Let me jump in on that.

I'm going to get Gene in here. Transformation, that's something I think you would agree, the boys, we've seen that in our own parenting, describe that and then talk about kind of the rules issue that Kevin's mentioning. Well, yes, I say to parents, be of good cheer because your strong, passionate, as Dr. Lehman says, power driven child will probably turn out to be a delightful young person, a productive member of society.

Not a car thief. Correct. And I've seen that in our home that, well, our oldest son who is strong and passionate is a delightful young person. Now, is this the child that you practiced on, by the way? Yes. Yes. Well, transformation is the key there.

He has turned a great corner. Absolutely. And I think, you know, there's many factors, but I think two main factors are I was the authoritarian parent and rules were important and respect was important. And parents, you cannot discipline your children enough to respect you. They will respect you less. You cannot force them to respect you. And I learned that too late, but I finally let go and stopped trying to control our oldest child.

And he responded beautifully. It was a process, but I needed to be treating him as a future adult. See, the opposite of fear is what? I think it's love.

Love and fear. So those of us who control, okay, we fear that somehow we're going to lose control. And, you know, when I think about adults I've dealt with in life, I've never had a woman say to me, you know what I really love about my husband? I love the way he controls me.

I've never heard that. And so the transformation, I mean, sometimes this little guy is three, four years old and the preschool teachers become your best friend because she's calling all the time telling you about the activities that little Timothy got into today. Well, you might have that discussion as husband and wife and say, you know, there's time for a transformation. It comes across as, okay, now hear this, starting tomorrow morning at 0800, this family is going to change.

And a lot of us, when we make that announcement, we just revert back to more authoritarian, strong-armed tactics rather than really try to get behind the eyes of this little guy. You know, before we move beyond the rules orientation, Kevin, there is a natural, I think a natural bias in the Christian community. We want to live up to expectations as Christians. We, in essence, subscribe to a set of boundaries that we're going to live by, etc. So rules aren't necessarily a terrible thing, but it's how you treat them, right?

The Pharisees, I mean, the biblical example is Jesus blew the Pharisees up in terms of, hey, it's not about the rules, it's about the heart. But elaborate because I think Christian parents, we tend to want to, how many of us have family rules? Oh, yeah. And we put it on the wall.

We do have family rules. And you teach kids that when you come to a street, you look both ways. I'm reminded of the flat cat who got hit. No, really, it was flat. Yeah, it was. Poor little guy ran out in the street and he got hit by a truck.

He was pretty flat and everybody was devastated. But the lesson was, you know, little Chuckie would be alive today if he would have looked both ways. And so as a parent, sometimes you use those natural things in life to show kids why there's rules in life. Rules are healthy, okay, if they're presented, like Jim says, you know, in a positive, good way.

In a context. We all need rules. But the point is, as kids grow older, I made the point in my book, our kids never had a curfew, ever.

They never had a curfew. People look at me like I got a screw loose. And the kids would always say, they would say, what time do I need to be home? And I was always come back with the same answer.

Be home in a reasonable hour. Dad, would you just tell me? They don't like that answer. They want the rule. What were you achieving by doing that? What were you teaching them? I'm teaching them that I believe in them, that they have a good brain in their head and they're going to use good judgment.

Yeah. We're hearing from Kevin Lehman today on Focus on the Family and taking some content from his book, Why Your Kids Misbehave and What to Do About It. Look for your copy at slash broadcast or give us a call.

800, the letter A in the word family. And Jim, you mentioned having a list of rules printed up. One of the things we never did, and I wish we would have, is have a family motto. And Kevin, you spent some time in the book talking about family mottos and how that kind of imprints us and how we kind of lead and parent that same way we grew up. One of yours is pretty obvious, and Jim shares this one. It's let's have fun.

Talk about that a little bit. It's a last born thing, right? Yeah, what does a family motto of let's have fun lead us to be like his parents?

Yeah, it can get us in trouble once in a while, that's for sure. Yeah, you have to understand that you took away as a youngster a mantra about life. Those mantras are things like I only count life when I have fun, when I'm the center of attention, when I get people to do what I ask them to do. Now there's your typical baby the family. They are social. They can be fun. They're whimsical.

They change from moment to moment. They could sell dead rats for a living. I have an early childhood memory of selling bags of dirt in sandwich bags door to door for 10 cents a bag. And people bought it. Yeah, and they were silver dimes back in those days, I want you to know.

People bought them. But, you know, so you grow up with that and now you're a daddy and my wife remembers me taking little Holly, our little Holly dolly we called her, our first born. And I would say little Holly's flying through the air and I'd throw in the air like a lot of dads do and I'd get her off at about eight feet. My wife was done.

I mean, it's like we got this fun thing and it walks and it wets and it does all kinds of things, you know. And thank God I married the first born who had rules, okay. And she was the good balancer for me. So our kids actually ended up in a pretty healthy environment.

They never got seriously injured. But when I, this is, I shouldn't admit this, but when I drove our youngest, Lauren, to school in the morning, we have five kids, okay. I'm driving little Lauren, she's in seventh grade, to school. And we had different things that we would do.

And she always had a little girlfriend. I picked up a little girlfriend with her in seventh grade and I'd drive them to school. And we had special delivery day where I literally came into the parking lot.

They have a flat sidewalk approach. And that's why I say, I shouldn't say this on the air, I would drive right up to the door. I was six feet from the door and let the kids out.

And they were, and of course the other kids, I became known as, I was very popular on the campus. Crazy dad. Crazy, yeah, thank you. I'm glad you said that Jim. Just popped into my head.

You know, we did crazy fun things. Would Mrs. Uppington, my bride, ever do that? No. There are rules.

You just don't do things like that. And so the atmosphere, and that's what I want parents to understand. Whatever you grow up with is somehow going to be communicated to those kids. And I would like to add that God puts men and women together who are unlike each other, who are different. And we're often opposite. Generally.

Yes. And now in hindsight, I appreciate those differences in parenting, it's really important. Wait a second, wait a second, say it again, say it again. I really appreciate you Jim, as a father, the fun, he was the fun dad. But he was the good guy, the fun guy.

You were Attila the Hun that came across with all these things. Absolutely, oh yes, yes. But you know we learn from each other. Oh that's true. And I've learned that I need to grow up to put it bluntly.

I'm with you there. Life isn't always a party, you know. And I tell some of these stories and I get a few Pharisee letters because I tell those kind of stories. Because somehow people think that I ought to be up on some kind of pedestal. No, if anybody who knows me, I'm not a pedestal person.

I'm a roll up your sleeves and let's see if we can get things done, let's be real. But I would point out for all you young parents that are so worried about your kids liking you someday, our five kids like nothing better, the youngest is 28, than hanging out with us old people. They like their parents and the proof's in the pudding. So the fun you put into your family, the investment that you put in, in getting behind the eyes of each of your kids and realizing they're all different and treating them differently. Almighty God treats us different. Why don't you treat your kids differently? Kevin, one of the things you point out in the book is that we as parents can inadvertently kind of pave the way for our kids to misbehave.

I think it's a really important point. So how do we do that? We train them to misbehave.

But be specific. Well, when you go in a supermarket or store, mommy's, I'll pick on you. What's the conversation with your kids? I want that.

I want that. That's the first thing. So what does the parent say? Alright, listen up. We're going in the store. Don't ask for a thing, because the answer is no.

Wait, have you had a recorder in my van? Oh yeah, but that's what we do. What have we just said to the kids? And no running around, no fooling around, and don't ask for any candy. Say it again, just so they can hear you.

Say it louder. Well, what happens is you've just said, I really don't trust you, you're going to misbehave. And what do the kids do?

They misbehave. And they're in a public place, and you're the one. I mean, people will look at your kids and shake their head, but they're looking at you as a parent and say, oh boy, the parent, not a good job, parent.

Okay, so what's the right way to do that? Well, I think you take advantage of situations where the kids are very well behaved and very respectful. And just a simple comment that, you know, I got to tell you, that was really fun today.

It was really fun to be with you guys, and I got to tell you, I'm proud to be your mom, I'm proud to be your dad. You know, I look around sometimes, I see how other kids behave. I was going to tell you, I call it slipping your kid a commercial announcement. And you have to slip those messages to kids. And the kids walk away with, guess what, mom and dad believe in me. And that's really important that a son or daughter feels like you have their back.

I was in our summer cottage this past week back in New York State, and I was going through pictures. And I found all the fathers they get, fathers, they cry, they make me cry to this day. But I look at what the kids have said, you know, and they just, the words are a little different, but they all convey sort of the same thing. That you always had my back, you always loved me as I was, you know, you didn't compare me to my sister or my brother.

And I think each kid always felt like they were the favorite. And so, parents, listen to what I'm saying, your words make a difference. Those words of encouragement that you give to your kids, that's that indelible imprint.

Those two big boys of yours, Gene, I got news for you. I know they're big like your husband, but they have your indelible imprint on them as a mom. And every young man needs a good dose of, guess what, femininity. Every young daughter needs a good dose of, guess what, masculinity. So it's that cross-sexual relationship between a daddy and a daughter, a mother and a son, that are the building blocks to make that kid a real healthy human being. Yeah, and it's so good, and our boys love their mom.

I know that. So, Kevin, let's open it up. We've got some folks around the table here. I want them to have a moment to ask some questions, so let's move to that right now. I'm Troy, and I feel like I'm kind of interpreting two different messages. One is, like you were sharing at the restaurant, you've got to put them in the high chair.

And then another side is, we parents can focus too much on the rules or being too strict on things. I'm curious what that balance is practically when I'm in the restaurant. Where do I bend? Where do I not?

I hope you're hearing balance, because it is a balanced attack. Using a sport analogy, you can have a great offense, but there's not a defense. You're not going to do well. And that's the art of parenting. It's knowing when to throw that flag. It's knowing when to say, hey, time out. You don't talk to your mother like that.

You don't talk to me like that. And it's action, not words. We use too many words with kids in parenting. We need more action. Sometimes you take the little buzzard by the beak, so to speak, or you pull a rug out and let the little buzzard tumble, as I like to say.

And it's sort of shocking. You sort of blindside them. Honey, I don't feel like getting you a glass of milk right now.

I don't feel like driving you to your girlfriend's house right now. Let them figure out what's wrong. Let them come around and say, is something wrong? Actually, honey, there's several things wrong. Are you ready to discuss them? Yeah. I didn't like the way you talked to me this morning.

Now, there's your balance. I mean, Jesus told us to turn the other cheek. So do we go through life turning the cheek with people? If you look at Jesus' life, he was a man of action.

He saw the money changers in the temple. He didn't turn the other cheek. He took action. And so that's the job of all of us as parents, to be able to discern how far do I let this child go?

What are our parameters? Remember, many times as parents, you know, we want to just control everything. You just have to back off. Let kids figure out these boundaries here in the families. They pretty much know what mom and dad's expectations are. You don't have to remind them a thousand times, like Jim shared earlier about, say please, say please, say please, say please. They get it. Don't you think the kids are saying after about the 16th time? What, do you think I'm stupid? You didn't think I heard the first 15 times you told me to say please?

I got it, dad. But we're creatures of habit. Don't poke your eye out. When was the last time you saw a kid poke his eye out? I mean, we say things to kids that are repetitive from our own mind. It makes the kids sort of shrug their shoulders. I guess that's what parents do. But if you want to connect with kids, you need to have a balanced attack.

And that would be my message back to you, is you are hearing two messages. That there's times you take the buzzard by the beak and you make things happen. There's other times you let them figure it out that this isn't going to work out really good. You sit back and you're almost laissez faire, almost permissive to a point where they're in trouble and now they need help.

Then it becomes a teachable moment. Nobody ever said parenting was easy, right? And no matter what stage of life your children are in, you're always learning as a mom or a dad on how you can do the job better. And hopefully we've given some encouragement along the way today on Focus on the Family with Jim Daly. Our guest has been Dr. Kevin Lehman and he shared a lot of insights from his book, Why Your Kids Misbehave and What to Do About It, and he'll have more to share next time.

And Jon, it was nice having my wife Jean with us in the studio as well. What I took away from this conversation was the need for parents to be more intentional and engaged. Our families are so busy today and we often let the schedule run our lives. As a result, there's no family time left, no time for dinner around the table or simply time to hang out and have fun with each other.

We've got to change that dynamic in our homes. You want to see better behavior in your kids, right? Well, spend time with them.

Have regular conversations and find fun things to do together. And I believe making your family a priority over a career or anything else will be one of the best decisions you can make in your lifetime. Well, I'd agree and that's one of the reasons Focus on the Family exists. We want to equip you as a mom or a dad to be the best parent you can be. That's why we create programs like this one and provide resources like Dr. Lehman's book.

Absolutely. Let us help you strengthen the relationships in your home. Contact us today to get a copy of Why Your Kids Misbehave. We'll send that to you when you make a monthly pledge of any amount to Focus on the Family. And monthly givers really help us balance our budget and strategically deploy the resources we need for the nearly 700,000 parents who will contact us each and every year. They're looking for help with parenting skills and passing on their faith to the next generation. You can be a part of that family building ministry when you sign up for a monthly pledge today. And of course a one-time gift will also make a difference for families and we welcome any support you can offer today.

Our number is 800, the letter A in the word family, 800-232-6459. Or you can donate and get Kevin Lehman's book by clicking on the link in the show notes. Another great resource we have for you is our free 7 Traits of Effective Parenting Assessment, which is an online tool. It'll take maybe 10 minutes of your time and it's going to help identify your strengths and evaluate areas where you can maybe make an improvement or two. We'll plan now to join us for part two of our conversation with Dr. Lehman.

You can do that very easily on your own time whenever you want when you download our mobile app. He'll be sharing one of the greatest gifts you can give your child and that is time with you. 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. Thanks for listening to Focus on the Family with Jim Daly.

I'm John Fuller inviting you back next time as we once again help you and your family thrive in Christ. that considers your individual strengths, areas of growth, and how unique people like you can better come together. To get started on your marriage assessment, visit That's
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