Psychologist Dr. Kevin Leman shares valuable parenting lessons with personal stories and humor as he discusses the indelible imprint a father has on his daughter's life. (Part 2 of 2)
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Dr. Kevin Leman: If you have differences, iron them out, but be a united front, in front of the kids.
End of Recap
John Fuller: On the last "Focus on the Family" radio program, Dr. Kevin Leman shared why it's important for parents to be on the same page.
Dr. Kevin Leman: The No. 1 fear of kids today in America is not nuclear holocaust; it's mom and dad'll get a divorce.
End of Recap
John: This is "Focus on the Family" with Focus president and author, Jim Daly. I'm John Fuller and you know, Jim, I think too many times we have a different approach to parenting.
Jim Daly: Uh-hm.
John: And we don't understand how those disagreements or arguments in front of the children can really undermine what we're trying to accomplish.
Jim: We call those "discussions." (Laughter) But you know, it's true, John. How many times have you and Dena not agreed--just put it out there--on how to go after the discipline of the kids?
John: How many times have we disagreed? (Laughter) Four.
Jim: Puttin' you on the spot, aren't I? Yeah, four--
John: Four this past week--
Jim: --that's pretty good.
Jim: Yeah, I think it's a pretty regular occurrence--
John: It ... it does--
Jim: --because we're--
John: --seem to happen--
John: --more and more.
Jim: We're different people and you've gotta get on that same page with what Dr. Leman's talkin' about, because kids love the comfort of knowing everybody knows the rules. And parenting can be challenging because we're often attracted to people who are different from us--
Jim: --introversion, extroversion, scientists, you know, marketing guy. And I think when you do that, you've got to account for those differences and get on that same page. And the beauty is, when a husband and wife can agree on their parenting approach, it gives their children that sense of stability that Dr. Leman's talkin' about.
John: Uh-hm, yeah, and I think there's room for some disagreement, but unity still--
John: --and commitment. And Dr. Kevin Leman is back with us again and we have a dozen or so parents who have joined us around the edge of the studio here and I'll just remind you folks to be thinking of a question that you might have for Dr. Leman later on in the program. And we're talking about parenting generally, but more specifically, about the father-daughter relationship. And you can hear the entire conversation or get the download or CD at www.focusonthefamily.com/radio.
Jim: Kevin, thanks again for joining us.
Kevin: Hey, thank you. It's so good to be here.
Jim: I'm curious though in light of what we discussed last time, how does a parent go about interacting with each of their children in a unique way? I mean, that's kind of a challenge in itself, whether you have two boys like me, I'm sure, John, for you with boys and girls—
John: Uh-hm, yeah it is—
Jim: --it's a challenge.
Jim: God has wired each of them with those unique qualities, in addition to wiring us in a different way. How did you and Sande deal with it?
Kevin: I think, you know, the older I get, I just realize God made them all different. They all have different skills and attitudes. And they certainly have their differences, as they should and appreciating those differences. What you said earlieris downright profound, that you know, we're drawn to people who are different. And you have to have the same core values, that fundamental belief and all that. That has to be lined up perfectly. But you know, that firstborn wife of mine, quite frankly, she needs me. (Laughter) Because little things drive her nuts, you know. She can't find the 25 cents in the checkbook, drives her nuts, you know. And I want her to come to bed. "I can't come to bed; I can't find the 25 cents and it won't balance." "Honey, I'll give you a quarter. Come to bed," you know what I'm sayin'? Not a big deal. But the differences make us a couple.
Kevin: But what a good thing for kids to look up and see a mom and dad that are a couple and that have this common faith in God and it's good for kidsto see that if we have differences, that we solve those differences.
I always get asked, should you let kids see you fight? No, you shouldn't. Fighting's an act of cooperation. You're just getting' a leg up on the next guy and puttin' kerosene on the fire. But it's good for kids to see that you have a difference of opinion—
Jim: And you work it through.
Kevin: --and let them see how it got worked out, because being married to a woman is not an easy thing to do. They are weird.
Jim: Well, but on behalf of many women, I'd say (Laughing) being married to a man has it challenges, too.
Kevin: Yeah, 'cause we're strange. We can eat a pizza in our boxer shorts, watching two ballgames simultaneously, belching. Yes, ladies, this is your gift from God. (Laughter)
Jim: Yeah, right. Not too good. Let me ask you though, on this differences. In this culture today, we tend to want to make everybody the same. Sometimes we call it "political correctness," whatever it might be. We want to make little girls into little boys, little boys into little girls. The point of that being, maybe we in the Christian community should be celebrating these differences, knowing that God brings these differences together, I think for the purpose of learning selflessness frankly. I think He's done this attraction between men and women in such a way that we can learn to give of ourselves and embrace someone who thinks differently. That's true in our parenting, as well, isn't it?
Kevin: Yeah, differences rule. But culture rules today, as you know.
Jim: But we don't celebrate differences; we argue differences.
Kevin: Right, yeah. And I think you do have to celebrate those differences, but parents do so many stupid things. I don't know how else to say it. Why would you give a kid 8 or 9 years of age, a cell phone? I'm writing a book right now called Planet Middle School, Planet Middle School.
Jim: (Chuckling) It's a different planet.
Kevin: Yeah, because this alien has come into your life, you know. And I've been going out and talking to principals and to counselors and saying, "What percentage of kids in this middle school have iPhones?" Ninety to ninety-five percent. You put in that kid's hand the modern-day Goliath—
John: Which is the Internet on a phone.
Kevin: And it's crazy what's happening. So again, parents, you need to stand up and be the parent you need to be, okay? You need to be an authority without being an authoritarian. Certainly don't want to be the permissive, okay? You have to give your kids vitamin N, which is "no," Vitamin E, which is encouragement. But you have to be open to these kids. You have to listen to your kids. If I'm a dad and I want a good relationship with my daughter, I'm gonna say, "Honey, help me out. Does this shirt go with this pair of pants? Do these socks match?" I mean, asking your daughter to give you her opinion is such a strong thing for that daughter, 'cause that daughter quite frankly, wants to please her daddy.
Jim: Let me play this out with you. I'm sure in the dad's mind he's movin' fast, thinkin', even if he has the thought to do that, he's thinking, "I don't have time to do that." How do you as a dad, remember to think that far down the line, even if it's in the moment, to engage my daughter, I want her opinion on what I'm wearing today.
Kevin: I think sometimes we need reminders. I remember there was a marquee in Tucson on Speedway, one of our main drags in Tucson, Arizona. And they put a little sign out on a marquee, "Sweetheart Roses, $6.99." I appreciated that reminder, 'cause I'd hang a right-hand turn and go in and bring my sweetheart home some roses. But I'm famous for sending my kids little gifts for the little benchmarks in life—
Kevin: --the little personal notes. And we're a family that writes each other notes a lot. I've kept every note my kids have ever given me. When I croak someday, they're gonna be so surprised. I have a bushel basket full--
Jim: That's great though.
Kevin: --from "I love you very muck," to a more (Laughter) profound statements that that, you know. But it's such a special relationship between a daddy and a daughter. And what dads have to understand is that critical tongue, that critical eye, we can just blow that daughter's candle out. And we have to understand that this is a feminine girl. It's a girl you have to talk to differently. She wants to feel like she's in good hands, tender hands, loving hands that only you as a dad can provide.
Jim: And that's one of the points you make in your book, Be the Dad She Needs You to Be, about saying I love you. That's something I champion. It's something I try to say to my kids every day. Not all of us got that. Why is that particularly important for a daughter?
Kevin: "Daddy attention deficit disorder." If a daughter does not have those affirming words and words matter, now again, men, I'm reminding you. You need to talk in full sentences, full paragraphs, complete ideas. Grunts and groans and yes and no's don't cut it. And your daughter has to be feeling these words of love around you.
And if she doesn't have that, then she develops daddy hunger, okay? So, she wants male attention. Now let's talk about the 13-, 14-year-old daughter growing up today and she doesn't have the proper male attention that she craves. How easy is it for a 13- or 14-year-old kid to get male attention? And what are the repercussions of that? Don't go let your mind wander too far to know that is disaster waitin' to happen.
Well, that's what happens. That's what happens in families across America, because there's so many dads that are AWOL. They're not there. I mean, if you've ever gone to California or Arizona now, we have 'em there. Ever have an In-N-Out burger?
Jim: Oh, yeah.
Kevin: In-N-out burgers--
Jim: I've had one or two.
Kevin: --I'm tellin' you, that's a pretty good burger. But you know, the "in-and-out daddy" is not good for kids.
Kevin: And you have those dads who come and they see their kids for a couple weeks and then they disappear. They sort of come on their schedule. Quite frankly, that kid's better off without that dad in their life. That's a brave statement. I'd much rather have that daughter in that single mom's home, who's consistent and loving, than having that in-and-out dad coming when he feels like he wants to come by and feel good about himself for visiting his daughter.
Jim: Well, let me push on that a little bit, 'cause that's a bold statement and that—
Kevin: I'm always in trouble.
Jim: --that can be unfair, because a dad is trying to make a living. Maybe they travel quite a bit and maybe they're thinking, how do I maximize my time, even though I've got all these other responsibilities? I mean, I guess in some ways, you might suggest them pursuing a different career that keeps them at home every night. That may not be doable for all dads, I guess. But I mean …
Kevin: Yeah, I would, 'cause I think that's important. I'd push back and I'd say, yeah, you know, you guys who insist that these kids spend one week here and one week here, okay …
Jim: In a divorce situation.
Kevin: Oh, yeah, in a divorce situation.
Jim: That's a different situation.
Kevin: If you guys are so cool on movin', why don't you move?
Kevin: Okay. This isn't King Solomon and splittin' the kid in half, okay. And what happens in divorce situations, all of the tension, the fighting that led to the divorce, continues after the fact. And again, the kid ends up being that breastbone that we used to pull apart at Thanksgiving time—
Jim: The wish bone.
Kevin: --to see who wins. And the kid feels like that sometimes. And so, I think we do a number on kids, quite frankly. No kid's ever asked their parents to get a divorce. I mean, divorce hurts. It hurts a lot of different people.
Jim: With divorce being so prevalent in our culture even within the Christian community, what should a good father do? Let's say the mistakes have been made. It's done. Their relationship has ended, but they still have a 9-, 10-, 12-year-old daughter or maybe more. How does that dad not harm then any further and how does he do a better job now than he did in the past?
Kevin: No. 1, dad, you never bad mouth mom. I don't care if she's a sleaze ball to put it bluntly. You wouldn't bad mouth her. As soon as you do that, you're in trouble, okay. Ditto for mom to dad, okay, so we don't bad mouth each other.
You spend the time and you get into that daughter's head. What she's interested in, you become interested in. And chances are, if you're like most of us as men, that's a difficult thing, because young girls' interests and dads' interests are usually miles apart. Well, grow up; you're the dad. Learn something.
Kevin: And have your daughter's back and tell her you believe in her and tell her you love her. And I mean, she needs to feel that daddy presence. And daddy presence in a daughter's life is just absolutely critical to that young woman's success.
Jim: We talked earlier about mom being that constant, kind of … I described her as the bull's eye. Moms usually know what to do instinctively and do it well every day. Dads are the wild card. They don't know quite what to do in every situation the way moms do.
But you talk about the power of forgiveness and the importance of forgiveness. I would think that a daughter particularly, who perhaps has disappointed her dad by her behavior or whatever's gone on, that ability of a dad to forgive her could be powerful, can't it?
Kevin: Absolutely. I always tell people, forgive and remember. We always say, "Forgive and forget," but I think you have to forgive and remember. It's sorta like when you play golf. Did you ever hit a nice shot out on the fairway out to where the ball landed, you look back at the tee and you realize, wow. For some reason to me, it looks further. When you look at the ball back to the tee, it looks further. And I think sometimes we have to look back and realize where we've come from.
I know there's been moments in my life where I've made just a buffoon of myself, run over my kids' feelings big time. I've been smart enough to say, "You know, honey, dad misspoke. I owe you an apology." And my experience has been that kids are resilient. They bounce back and they're eager to grant you that forgiveness and we start a new day.
Jim: And in that forgiveness, in fact, in your book you talk about a story from Guideposts, I believe.
Kevin: Oh, that was a killer.
Jim: Tell that story, 'cause—
Kevin: Yeah. I hope I can pull this up like it was, but anyway, this young woman was estranged from her dad. And they hadn't talked in years. And she got the call that dad had suffered a heart attack and she tried to get there. She tried to get there in time.
And she got there only to hear the aftermath of the code, whatever it was, because the guy went into cardiac arrest. And you're waiting for the happy ending and you find out when she goes to the room, that it's empty and he had died.
She cried and sobbed and a nurse was there and comforted her. And on the way out, they found a crumpled up piece of paper that he had written. And I think her name was Janie, if I remember right, "To Janie, I forgive you. I love you. Daddy"
And so, you know, those of us who've had, you know, strained relationships, I had strained relationships with my dad growin' up as a kid. He was an alcoholic, drank way too many beers in his life. It's interesting. I'm near death and have not had a first beer.
Kevin: So, some of us that grew up in alcoholic families, tend to go the opposite way. But my dad and I did not have a good relationship at all when I was growin' up as a kid. And he was a very distant dad in many ways. And like many men of that era, he just worked hard. But we came to a point in life and he had become a Christian at age 56, where I had 20 great years with my dad.
Kevin: And just so thankful to God for that. So, you know, I lived it. I've lived forgiveness. But I say, forgive and remember, because remember that forgiveness is a little bit like eatin' a pizza on a Saturday night. You have the pizza (Laughter) at 6:30. It's now 10 o'clock at night and you still taste the pizza.
Jim: (Laughing) Right.
Kevin: Sometimes when you're hurt by life with people, it sorta comes back at you. And you have to battle that forgiveness and thing. You have to fork that over bit by bit, piece by piece until you really get to a point of peace. But forgiveness is a key in all relationships.
Jim: Kevin, that's so true and if you need some help getting through that forgiveness issue, let me encourage you to call our caring Christian counselors here at Focus. That's what they're here to do and they're here to help you and to be there for you. So, take that first step. We don't know who you are, but you've gotta take that first step to call us.
John: Our number here is 800-232-6459 and when you get in touch, you might ask about a copy of Dr. Leman's book, Be the Dad She Needs You to Be, as well as a CD or a download of this program. You can also find those at www.focusonthefamily.com/radio and we'll send a copy of Dr. Leman's book to you when you make a gift of any amount to Focus today.
Jim: And John, we have talked about the audience sitting around the discussion today.
John: So patient, yes.
Jim: Let's engage them and it looks like they've got some questions. So let's have you come to the mic and state your name and where you're from and then ask your question to Kevin.
Jane: Hi, my name is Jane from Toronto, Ontario. And I work with women and I'd like some advice. What do you say? How do you give advice to women who are living with husbands that aren't doing what you're saying?
Jim: They're not being the dads they should be. What husband hasn't heard that?
Kevin: Well, yeah. Well, I think you slip them what I call a commercial announcement. You share with him what your heart is. And I would share it in this manner. I'd say, "Honey, you know, when I was at work today I kept wandering off on this one thought and it's just something that would really please me. And as the man I married and the man I love, I just thought, you know what? I need to share this with you.
One of the things that would really just please me beyond anything would [be] to see you be more active with our daughter, Megan. She's growing up before our very eyes and I just feel like she's slippin' away. And I know down deep in, she really wants to please you. But it seems to me and I know that you work hard, that when you come home, you just want no part of anybody. And I'm feeling that as a wife, but I know our daughter's feeling that, as well. I'd love to see a time where you could sort of turn off the spigot of work and do some specific things with your daughter. I think she really needs you now. And I'm fearful of what's gonna happen if she doesn't get enough of you now.
Now is that beating him over the head? Or is it slipping him a commercial announcement. I think it's slippin' him a commercial announcement. If you want him to overly listen to you, touch him while you're talking to him. And don't ask him questions; just tell him what your feelings are. And then you sit back and you shut up.
Jim: Well, it also sounds like you're appealing a bit to the competitive nature of a man.
Jim: You know, this would really please me. If—
Kevin: Oh, yeah.
Jim: --you did this, this would uh—
Jim: --bring me joy.
Kevin: --but Jim, you're right. I think most of us as men, really want to please our wives.
Jim: But knowing the target to hit is—
Kevin: But I think most of us need a little help.
Jim: Right. No, I think—
Jim: --that's true.
Kevin: --and who is better at relationships, women or men? Women win hands down. There's no contest. You kiddin' me? When I go and speak in a church and I speak in a lot of 'em; I'm all over the place, I always tell people, get yourself a group of women, a committee and put those women together and just turn 'em loose. And they'll fill the event. Why? Because they thrive on relationships, where men thrive on arms' length relationships. But arms' length relationships don't cut it in families. You have to embrace these kids one by one and embrace 'em differently and that's the hard part.
Jim: Kevin, you may be touching the very point in many men's hearts right now. Now they've figured it out. That is the difference. I can't connect relationally like my wife and my daughters. And you're saying it's because of who we are as men. I mean that is, I think, a stroke of genius and a great help to so many of us. It's natural that these differences exist, because God created men and women differently. That was His purpose, but it doesn't mean that dads don't care. And so often, I think wives do tend to suggest that we may not be as caring. You're smiling there, John. But you know what? We're not as relational typically as women. I know some guys can be. In fact, in the end of your book, Kevin, you talk about a dad protecting his daughter and there's a powerful story. Share it with us.
Kevin: Yeah, you know, I'd almost have to read it to you to share it properly. But I was very close to a cousin that lived just a couple streets from me back in Williamsville, New York. And recently I received one of the most touching e-mails I ever received. It was from my second cousin, Carol, who was the youngest child of my cousin, Carlton. We called him Mo.
Kevin: But he was 20 years my senior and she and her family grew up just a couple streets from me with her husband. Bob and her now live in North Carolina. And I've asked permission to share this e-mail with people, because it just hit me like a ton of bricks about what relationship is like between a dad and a daughter and how profound that really can be and the whole idea that a dad really does want to protect his daughter.
And she says, "Kevin, it was great to talk to you. It really warms my heart to hear all those stories about your kids. It's so awesome that you are so close and loving. Makes me really miss all those Andersons." My middle name is Anderson.
"And all the aunts and uncles were so cute. There were nine of them. I can't remember a family reunion where there weren't at least three of those cuties crying with happiness. Makes me really miss my dad, too. Even though he could be a bit tough at times, he was such a great dad to me.
"Don't know if I ever told you this, but my dad was in a home for the last few years. Bob and the boys and I would go and visit him every week. His tiny room was filled with pictures the boys would draw for their Papa. My dad had no idea who we were at that stage.
"Anyway, every time we'd go to leave, he would cry and ask us to take him with us. He said, even though he didn't know us, we seemed like real nice people. It would break my heart to leave him. The day after Easter, I went to see him without Bob and the boys. I took him a really big chocolate bunny sucker and a chocolate shake, two of his favorites.
"As I walked into his room, there he sat in some other person's clothing--this was typical—with his Velcro sneakers on the wrong feet. I sat beside him and gave him his treats. He lit up like a 4-year-old sitting on Santa's lap. I told him what the boys are up to, even though he had no clue who the boys were.
"Then he finished his treats. There was chocolate all over his face. As I was cleaning his face, he looked at me. All of a sudden he said, 'You can go now; I'm fine.' I laughed and said, 'I'm not going anywhere.' He said it again, but this time almost like he knew what he was saying.
"This took me by surprise, since he always cried when I left. I told him, 'Okay.' I gave him a hug and kiss and told him I loved him. As I walked to the door to leave, my dad said to me, 'Boy, I never thought I'd be treated this good today.' I smiled and told him I'd see him in a few days and left.
"Ten minutes later after I left, he died of a heart attack. It was though I was the one they called. I'm positive he knew he was gonna die and didn't want me to be there. My daddy even protected me to the end. [I] love that man."
Jim: Ah … that's powerful.
Kevin: You know, we get to a point in life as we grow older, our parents grow older. It sorta puts in proper perspective what life's all about. I'm always telling parents and grandparents, you want to give your kids a great gift, your grandchildren a great gift, make a video of your life. Look into that camera and share from your heart what's really the most meaningful things in life.
And your legacy will live on and there'll be days that they'll be poppin that in the video and sayin', "Look at grandpa, look at grandma." And they'll see that smile and those expressions. And you're gonna reach right from your heart and mine into your future generations of kids that maybe you've never laid eyes on.
So, we all have a legacy. We all have a story, not a perfect story, but a great story. And we worship a God who loves us despite our frailty and our failures. And that's a good ending note, isn't it?
Jim: Man, Kevin, that is so good and it's a good reminder to all of us. We're charting a legacy for our family and we can make our family tree, as you described it, stronger than perhaps we had growing up, strengthen that tree. And next question right over here.
Becky: I'm Becky and if we struggled with our relationship with our dad when we were younger and he's still around, how do we go about trying to improve that relationship, now that we're both adults?
Kevin: You know, I think a simple statement to dad that really sorta calls a spade a spade, that says, "Dad, you know, I was thinkin' about our relationship and wow. You know, there's so many different parts of our relationship that I wish [it] was different than it was. And I'm sure I am very much a part of that not being the relationship it should've been. But I'd sure like to give it a second shot. I'd sure like to improve some things. I don't know where you are on this thing, but I want so much to be more a part of your life than I am. And I'd like you to be more a part of my life.
And I just want you to know as your daughter, I love you with all my heart. I'd like things to be different. If there's anything that we can do, just time that we spend together, I just want you to know I'm available. I want to do anything I can with you. I want to get to know you better than I know you and I want to feel better about our relationship."
So, I think when you state that thing as honestly as you can, you're not beatin' him over the head. You'll never get anywhere beatin' a man over the head. He'll just shut you down. I think that's the safe approachable, best way to take on that situation.
Jim: Well, Dr. Kevin Leman, author of the book, Be the Dad She Needs You to Be, great wisdom and as John, you've said, for a gift of any amount, we'll send this book as our way of saying thank you. And Dr. Leman, it's always so pleasurable to talk with you. Your wisdom runs deep, because you've lived it. And it's great to have you with us.
Kevin: Thank you, Jim. Thank you, John. Always good to be here. I'm with friends when I'm at Focus on the Family. Thanks.
Jim: Hm … thank you.
John: And you always bring such great reminders to us as parents. There's always a practical aspect to the conversation and we're grateful that you were able to share that with us today.
And if you'd like to order the book, just call us here. Our number is 800-232-6459 or you'll find it at www.focusonthefamily.com/radio .
And our program today was provided by Focus on the Family. On behalf of Jim Daly and the entire team here, thanks for listening in. I'm John Fuller, hoping you have a great weekend and inviting you back on Monday. We'll have Susie Larson and Lisa Anderson in the studio with us, talking about how to raise grateful children, as we once again, offer trusted advice to help your family thrive.
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Kevin LemanView Bio
Dr. Kevin Leman is an internationally known family psychologist and an award-winning, New York Times best-selling author. He is also a popular public speaker and media personality who has made countless guest appearances on numerous radio and TV programs. Dr. Leman and his wife, Sande, reside in Tucson, Ariz., and have five children.