Dr. Kevin Leman is a father of five and the New York Times bestselling author of Have a New Kid by Friday (Revell). The book takes a parents-in-charge, common sense approach to raising kids. If you are exhausted from the everyday melee, the eye-rolls, the huffy, indignant sighs, just keep reading. Then pick up a copy — by Monday.
Memphis Parent : The book is described as a five-day plan to change your child’s attitude, behavior and character. Can you summarize the action plan for each day?
Author Kevin Leman:
Monday: Take charge without warning. Many parents spend too much time warning their kids instead of training them. Consequently, the first day has to be all about putting the parents back in charge. Don’t have a family meeting; don’t make an announcement; just begin behaving differently, giving them something new to react to. Make a commitment to say something once, turn your back and walk away, then follow through with consequences.
Tuesday: Focus on setting and holding boundaries. Let reality be the teacher in forming what I call the three pillars: attitude, behavior and character. Parents must first realize that the key to changing their kids’ attitude is by first changing their own attitude. If you tell your 17-year-old to clean the garage and he forgets, for example, be ready to follow through with consequences. When he comes looking for the car keys, and he will, keep the keys until the garage is cleaned.
Wednesday: Remove your sails from your child’s wind. By that I mean don’t get sucked into the power struggles. I emphasize the three simple strategies for success: perspective, balance and connection. Perspective means taking the long look — where do you want your child to be as an adult? Balance emphasizes discovering your parenting style and finding the middle ground between being authoritative and permissive. And connection simply means to make the relationship with your kids a priority. All the rules in the world won’t work without a relationship.
Thursday: The theme for Thursday is accepting, belonging, and competence. Acceptance means that children long for their parents’ approval. Don’t withhold approval for things kids have no control over. Belonging because no matter what is going on with your kid, he needs to know he belongs. That being said, no one member is more important than the family unit. Consequently, everyone has to give back. And competence means helping your child reach his potential while giving the whole family a chance to survive. Remember, overscheduling is not good for kids, home life, or marriage.
Friday: Review and resolve to launch the plan. The book offers action-oriented ways to get kids’ attention and to help you as a parent identify the things that you need to do differently, resulting in new behavior. I hope that every parent says to him or herself, “I can’t wait for them to misbehave, I am ready.”
MP: Any tips on how parents can maximize the effectiveness of this book?
KL: I think that reading this book with a group of like-minded parents might be effective and might help parents stick with it. In fact, Revell has made available a full curriculum kit that includes six DVDs and a workbook (available at CBD.com).
MP: In the back of the book there is an “Ask Dr. Leman” section. What are your three most frequently asked questions?
KL: The most frequent question is about kids who are not motivated. In today’s permissive society, I think it is safe to say that kids are not held accountable. Instead of excuses, offer accountability to your kids. Helping around the house, for instance, should not be an option. This will ensure kids know the difference between a hotel that offers maid and room service and a home where everyone pitches in.
After motivation, parents ask me about peer pressure and how to best approach the teenage years.
MP: How should parents approach the teenage years?
KL: I am a big proponent of equipping parents, and one thing I repeatedly cite in this book is hold your boundary because healthy boundaries give parents power. Parents today worry that if they hold a boundary with their son, he won’t like them. It is as if parents need permission to be parents and not best friends to their kids.
For instance, if you have a teenager that is saying ‘Get out of my life’ or ‘Give me some space, man,’ that same kid will eventually ask to use the car or have some money for a movie. When he does, say, ‘Well, I would love to help you but I am out of your life right now.’
Parents can require good old-fashioned common courtesy and common sense. I find it amazing how much common sense has been lost in parenting.
MP: Is this approach doable with just one parent on board?
KL: Absolutely. Single parents need to recognize that guilt is often the propellant for most of the lousy decisions they will make. Get rid of the guilt, be decisive, act consistently with your kids. The other parent is often not around at all. Be consistent and loving as you can and if you do you will end up with a great kid.
MP: How about two parents in the same house on the opposite ends of the spectrum?
KL: If the other parent won’t intervene, it is doable. A smart parent knows the difference between what kids need and what they want. When a teenager wrecks a car, for instance, don’t buy them another one. Letting your kids call the shots isn’t good for the kids, for you, or for your marriage.
MP: What do you say to the parent who has trouble with consistency following through?
KL: You are the adult here. If you lack maturity, deal with it. Do what you have to do. The only kid it may not work with is a special-needs kid. But even in that circumstance, I would advise not to let the special need become the reason why a kid can behave inappropriately. If you love your kid, find a way to pull it off. It is the best thing you can ever do for them.
Margie Sims is a freelance writer and mother of nine who lives in upstate New York. Follow her daily mom blog at margiesims.com