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Raising Kids of Character (Part 1 of 2)

Air Date 11/13/2017

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Parents often don't have a plan for addressing and correcting their children's undesirable behavior. Dr. Todd Cartmell discusses practical tools parents can use and outlines a three-step process that can help transform their interactions with their kids. (Part 1 of 2)

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Episode Transcript

Opening:

Excerpt:

Dr. Todd Cartmell: All a parent has to do in any way that’s genuine for them is just to make an effort to connect with their kids, whatever that is, and the kids know, “Hey, mom and dad is spending some time with me or doing this thing with me-- why? Well, one reason only-- because they love me, they want to connect with me.”

End of Excerpt

John Fuller: Dr. Todd Cartmell is with us today, and you’ll hear more from him about parenting. This is Focus on the Family, with your host, Focus president and author Jim Daly. Thanks for joining us. I’m John Fuller.

Jim Daly: As parents, we all want to maintain a healthy relationship with our kids that is built on trust, respect and love. But sometimes it can be hard to know how to do that, especially when our kids are misbehaving or make poor choices and we get frustrated. Do you ever get frustrated?

Todd: I like the way you said that. Frustrated.

Jim: (Laughter) Yes.

John: Yeah, I’ve been there.

Jim: And here’s a painful realization - sometimes our kids’ behavior is a result of them following our example. So today, we want to empower you as the parents to relate to your kids even in the midst of misbehavior through how you talk to them, connect with them, encourage them and lead them.

John: And Dr. Cartmell is a clinical child psychologist. He’s written a number of books, including8 Simple Tools For Raising Great Kids. And he and his wife Lora live in the Chicago area. They have two grown sons. When we had him back last time, Jim, we talked about kids being like dump trucks...

Jim: (Laughter) Yeah, that was good.

John: ...The importance of your words, which have power, uh, avoiding the dirt-watcher phase of parenting...

Jim: (Laughter) These are too complicated. (Laughter)

John: ...And being flexible in thinking. That’s - that’s some of the content we covered. That’s a free download, by the way. You can get that at focusonthefamily.com/radio.

Body:

Jim: Todd, welcome back to Focus.

Todd: Hey Jim, John. Good to see you guys.

Jim: It was really good last time. And I - we’re not going to be able to explain those things that we covered. I’d get the free download if I...

Todd: I don’t know if I could explain them.

Jim: (Laughter) No. I know you can. But we don’t want to take time because we want to cover some of the other content from your great book,8 Simple Tools For Raising Great Kids.Now, I got to press you a little bit right from the get-go. Is it really that formulaic?

Todd: Ah, 8 Simple Tools? Well, um...

Jim: I mean, just parenting in general.

Todd: Yeah. Oh, gosh, yeah.

Jim: Can you say, if I apply these eight principles, I’m going to have great kids? It’s a good title. Gives me a lot of hope. (LAUGHTER) But come on, does it really work that way?

Todd: Well, it sure can increase your odds. That’s for sure.

Jim: That’s the point. I like that. Because there’s nothing that’s foolproof like that. You’ve got - these are ideas and steps you can take to enhance your relationship with your child. And the irony is-- that’s the key. Having a good, healthy relationship with your child is what will make the difference.

Todd: Yeah. It starts with that, you know. When I think about the eight tools in this book, you know, I - I thought about it like, if I - you know, if I could’ve made it six tools, I would - I, you know, would have made a shorter book, I guess. But, you know, there’s not one of those eight tools I can think that you can do without. I really - I really can’t. And - but, yeah, it starts - you know, you’re going to have a hard time, for instance, teaching your kids if you don’t have a strong relationship. So that’s right. That’s where it starts.

Jim: Well, we’re going to - we’re going to cover some of that today.Uh, Todd, you are a clinical child psychologist for 20 years, so you’ve seen many people come through your door.

Todd: I have.

Jim: (Laughter) And so the obvious first question is, what’s the most common piece of advice you have to give the parents that come in?

Todd: Hm. Most common piece of advice probably is that, uh, no matter what - you know, the - no matter what they’re working on, what behavior, what situation, is they - not just to wing it, but to come up with a plan. You know, to put together a plan, have something - you know, doesn’t have to be complicated, but, you know, plan for what you’re going to teach them, how you’re going to help that behavior to maintain. A lot of times it’s, you know, taking a bad habit and trying to switch that with a good habit. Well, you know, how are you going to do that? You know. And so coming up with some kind of a plan that, you know, that will work.

Jim: Now, it sounds - that sounds complicated. Uh, what does a plan typically look like?

Todd: All right.

Jim: Just pick a behavioral problem and talk to me like you’re counseling me about my kid’s problem.

Todd: Sure. Well, I’ll make it super easy. Let’s say the problem was, you know, some kind of arguing about whatever - homework or going to bed or turning off electric - you know, anything. Um, the plan - here’s a easy way to think of the plan, to remember it. Teach, turn on, turn off.

Jim: That’s easy.

Todd: Yep, that’s easy.

Jim: So what is teach?

Todd: Teach.Teach means - you know - you know what you want your kids to stop. You figure out what you want them to start. And - and you define that in terms of - there’s only three categories, actually. Uh, it could be something you want them to, uh, think differently or say differently or do differently. It’s always going to be a combination of, uh, one or more of those. So I’ll just say, if a kid’s arguing about something, well, uh, maybe, in that situation, you want your kid talk differently or to maybe make a different action. So you come up with some - and you can talk with your kid about it. You can come up with a plan together. But you figure out, well, in this situation when it’s time to turn off the Xbox, you know, uh, here’s what you can think. Here’s what you could say. Here’s what you could do. This would work great. So you come up with a simple plan. And like we talked about last time, you practice the plan. When you - if a kid wants to get good at soccer, you don’t say, well, here. There’s a soccer ball. Here’s what it looks like. And, you know, theoretically, uh, here’s a picture of a soccer ball. And you would kick it with your foot. That’s what you would do.

(LAUGHTER)

No. No, you go out there, and you’re going to play soccer. You’re going to practice. So you come up with a little simple plan - this is the teaching - uh, not complicated, uh, very simple. Maybe say, okay, Mom, and just do it. You know. I mean, you know, it can be as simple as that. But then you’re going to practice it. You’re going to role play it together. That’s the teaching. Um, because we want this plan to become a habit, a new habit, to take place of their old not-listening good habit.

John: So are you saying that we’re going to - you’re going to go down to the basement. And I’m going to holler at you, it’s time to turn it off. And you’ll say, yes, Mom. (Laughter) You know, about...

Jim: No, I think you create the plan before. That’s what I’m hearing.

Todd: Well, you create the plan. But yeah, I mean...

Jim: But practice it.

Todd: Totally. 100 percent, that’s exactly what you do. I mean, no - no joke. Exactly. I do this in my office all day long. Literally, we - we practice it. We role play it. It’s - it’s really fun. You make it fun. But yeah, we - we’re - we’re trying to get the new set of behaviors in - in place.

Jim: Well, and for a defiant child, which many are - you know, they’re stretching their wings. They may be 14, 15, right in that age where they’re trying to get a little separation from you. This isn’t abnormal. But you don’t want that defiance to linger. And, you know, it’s funny how we - as parents, we don’t think of just asking them. OK, I’m obviously not communicating very well when I need something done, when you need to get off the gaming console, whatever it is - Xbox, whatever. So how can I get that point across to you in a way that’s going to be effective, and it doesn’t end up in us arguing about it?

Todd: Oh, yeah. No. Well, that’s nice. I mean, that - that’s even - even a little different approach. So you’re talking about your relationship, your communication style, which I’m sure we’re going to get to. But for a plan for what your kid is going to do - and for an older kid, sometimes you’re not so much role playing it like that. That may be a touch younger. For an older kid, a lot of times you’re working on how can they think in a way that’s helpful to them in that situation. But either way - so - so you come up with some kind of plan. You kind of go over it. The second step, the turn-on step, is you want that plan to turn into reality. You want it to become a new habit...

Jim: Turn on in their minds.

Todd: Yeah. And so you want to encourage that. But when they do that, you want to be watching for it. You want to be encouraging. You want to say, hey, pal, that was awesome, what you did. You want to be touching them. You want to be making - we want them to think this plan that you - that you all just came up with is the best thing ever happened to them. And - because when they think that, they will want to do it more.

Jim: That’s exactly right.

Todd: Yeah. So that’s the turning on. Then, of course, the turning off is when they (laughter) do the old plan, when they’re behaving, you know, poorly, you respond in such a way to help them come to the conclusion that that - that that wasn’t the best choice, that that wasn’t that - that - I don’t really want to do that anymore. So teach, turn on, turn off. That would be a simple idea, uh, a simple formula, for how you kind of tackle a problem behavior. But that - what most people do is they just do the turn-off. They don’t do the teach. They don’t do the turn-on. They just tackle the turn-off. Hey, you just did this things. Now - now here’s the trouble you’re in. And that’s - you know, that’s one third of the plan. And it...

Jim: Well, and the difficulty in that is you stay in that cycle, then. As a parent, you’re always having them turn off the behavior you don’t appreciate.

Todd: Yeah. And it’s not turning off very well.

Jim: So you’re just stuck there.

Todd: Yeah. You’re stuck there because you’re not identifying and helping them improve their skill for how to handle it well, smartly, respectfully. And you’re not - and you’re not helping them learn that, and then you’re not actively encouraging and - and strengthening that behavior.

Jim: Um, Todd, I’m thinking of the parents who - let’s just go age and stage, because I’m sure that defiance is different at three and eight compared to 13 and maybe even 17, you know, where you - when you’re at the end of the road. So just hit real quick kind of age-appropriate ways of turning off and turning on. Start young.

Todd: Yeah, sure. Well, for the - uh, well, you know, actually, it’s interesting. Uh, some of it’s going to be very similar for the turning-on. For a younger kid, you might - I mean, well, the part that’s going to be the same really, almost, no matter what the age will be the relation stuff - ship stuff, the - the encouraging, the pointing out the positive behaviors, the pointing out the positive traits underneath the behaviors, uh, the physical touch. Those - those are huge. Those are - in psych language, those are called social rewards. But they’re - they’re powerful habit builder, relationship builders. And you’d - you would do that with a 3-year-old. You do that with a 17-year-old. Heck, you do that with your husband - you know, spouse, you know. So...

Jim: Right. Hopefully. (Laughter)

Todd: Yeah, ideally. So that - that one doesn’t stop. Um, for the younger kids, you know, you might, you know, periodically use a little point system or some chips or some...

Jim: Some kind of reward mechanism.

Todd: Yeah, some kind of reward thing. I kind of think about that as like jumping a car. You know, I got a dead battery. You know, you got to put a little extra juice on for a while. But then - then, you don’t need the juice after a while. You pull the jumper cables off. But what keeps that car battery running is the alternator. And that’s the, uh, encouragement. That’s the - that’s the pour-it-ons. That’s the verbals. So I - you know, you have some of those little reward systems for the younger kids. Um, and as you get older, you know, well,you don’t have to necessarily reward systems for the older kids, but, you know, there are rewards. There are privileges. And those are linked to the respectful behavior. This is what in some of my stuff I’ve called the respect-privilege connection, like the circles. You guys can see me having circles with my fingers here. If your respect circle is high, well, your privilege circle just gets connected to your respect circle. So if the only way in this universe your privilege circle is going high is if your respect circle takes it high. If your respect circle goes low, your privilege circle doesn’t free-flow it up here. It stays connected. So your privileges - if you’re a 14, 15-year-old, if you’re a 17-year-old, and you want to be, you know, driving a car. You want to be playing Xbox or whatnot, there’s no way in this universe that that’s happening unless your respectful behavior is pulling it up. So you - so you don’t have a point system necessarily, but you still have the same principle.

Jim: And it’s important to link that, uh, for the teenager’s mind to understand it, the way you just did. You need to explain it. I think sometimes as parents we tend to act in the way we want to act that way, but we don’t tell them why they’re losing privileges. You know why. (Laughter) That’s not a good question, either.

Todd: Yeah. Well...

Jim: Actually, I don’t.

(LAUGHTER)

Todd: Right.

John: What was disrespectful about that?

Jim: (Laughter) Right. Exactly.

Todd: Well, that gets back to the teaching part and to the relationship part. I mean, you’re not - you’re not trying to, you know - you know, just, you know, whack them out of the blue with privilege losses. You don’t want them - you don’t want them to lose anything. You want them to be doing great. And you want to help them do that.

Jim: Yeah, that’s key. Um, here’s the question, perhaps of the entire program.

Todd: All right.

Jim: (Laughter) I love this. How can we get our kids to listen to us? (Laughter)

Todd: Well, I - now, you...

Jim: OK. Mom and Dad, everybody just leaned in. Here it is. The golden question.

Todd: Well, do you mean listen as in obey, or listen as in be open to what we have to say?

Jim: Probably yes and yes.

Todd: OK. OK. OK. Well, I just tackled the listen-obey part a little bit, just in that - in that three-step plan. The teaching, turning on, turning off, that’s how you get kind of good habits of - so what I call fast listening or slow listening, you know, that kind of thing. Um, relationship-wise, it’s even a step bigger. Um - um, I’m a dad. You - you guys are dads. I have two boys. Um, uh, I - I desperately want my boys to, uh - to listen to me. Like I don’t mean in the obey sense, I mean in the..

Jim: It’s just tough.

Todd: ...In the relationship sense, I want them not - actually, I’ll rephrase it. I want them to want to listen to me. You know, I really do. I always have. And so I think about me like - if I can do a picture - like I’m over here. There’s a gulf between us. It’s almost like the Salvation picture, just different. And then there’s a bridge between us. And I’m here. They’re there. There’s a bridge. And that bridge is our relationship. And if our relationship bridge is strong, well, then they’re going to want to hear what I have to say. But if I’m damaging the bridge by how I talk, by how I act, well, then they’re going to see Dad coming and go, oh, gosh, put up the gate. You know - you know, got - get away. And, you know, that’s the last thing I would ever want. So when you think about it like that, uh, when I think about it like that, then - then it - that just flavors everything I do, every conversation I have. I want to talk to my kids, I want to act to my kids, in a way that strengthens the bridge, that builds the bridge.

Jim: You know, a story often helps. You had a - in the book, a story about Daniel, who was a 10-year-old, I think, who came in with his parents, obviously, to get some help. What happened?

Todd: Well, this story has happened a bunch of times. Uh, I can think of, uh, boys and girls where they’re very similar, where there’s a kid talking to me. And, uh, parents are not in the room, just the kid. And - and the poor kid’s crying. I mean, they - you know, and the kid’s - (laughter) you know, kid’s not an angel. Kids can, you know, do some better on some things too. But, you know, that’s not what we’re talking about at the moment with the kid. And the kid’s crying. Like, oh, hey, kid, why you-- why are you upset? And, you know, it has to do with the relationship. And in the couple situations I’m thinking of, it was the relationship with the dad, where the dad - and sometimes at that point, I had maybe never met the dad. Other times, maybe I had. But either way, it all kind of works out the same. The dad had a communication style that was just - you know, like, some - maybe not even always the dad’s fault. I - look, I know a couple dads who are just big guys. They just have big, loud voices. You know, like I don’t. But, you know, other guys do, right? So sometimes it’s that. They just came off - come off as intimidating, or maybe there was a bit of an anger thing. Either - either way, the kid’s just kind of going ‘whoa’ and crying like - because they want to be close to the dad, and they’re afraid. I mean, literally, the word is afraid.

And they would say, I’m afraid. I’m afraid to talk to Dad. He’s going to get mad. I’m afraid of what he’s going to do. Not that he’s, like, going to hurt him, but, you know, just anger and angry response and, uh, kind of a intimidating or loud verbal response. And I can think of a couple times where I - well, I would say to the kid, hey, does your dad know? That - well, they’re afraid to tell the dad, so of course he doesn’t know this, right? And so I said, hey, do you mind if - you know, sometime if I talked to your dad, uh, if I told him this? And they said, no, that’s all right. So I did. And I can think of a couple times - one comes to mind particularly - where I, uh, and in the nicest way, said, hey, Dad. You’ve got a great kid. And I know, I know, and then yeah. Well, then I’m - you know, hey - hey, but here’s something maybe you don’t know. Your boy or girl here, you’re not going to believe this. They were crying. And they’re - they’re afraid to talk to you. And I can think of one particular dad. He was crying. He just...

Jim: Didn’t he know what he was doing?

Todd: He did not. He had no idea. His eyes filled up with tears, because I was telling him very nicely but very straight, you know. And - and it was the last thing in the world he ever wanted. He did not know. And boy, was he ever hit by that. And he wanted to do anything in the universe to - to fix that.

Jim: I mean, that’s the good thing.

Todd: That was great.

John: Little self-reflection going on here for some of us as we listen to Todd Cartmell on Focus on the Family. Your host is Jim Daly. And the book we’re talking about is8 Simple Tools For Raising Great Kids. We’ve got that. And, uh, as I mentioned, we have a free download of Dr. Cartmell’s previous visit with us all at focusonthefamily.com/radio.

Jim: Todd, I don’t want that story to get away from us without, uh, him or fathers like him. What do you do? How do you - you want to improve that. You don’t want your child to be afraid of you. So what do you do?

Todd: Well, the good news is that that’s - that’s pretty fixable. And this guy did all the right things. And a couple of dads I know have done the right things. Uh, well, number one, he listened to that. He understood it. He wasn’t mad at his kid. He said, I - I need to fix this. Keyword, I need to fix this.

John: He owned it.

Todd: He started with himself. Yeah. And so we talked about some steps, uh, for him. Number one step was for him to immediately address this with his kid and say, hey, I didn’t know this was the case. I’m so sorry. And he almost - like our relationship bridge - I’ve been hurting our bridge, but I don’t want anything to ever get hurt between you. I want you and me to be as close as we can. And I’ve been making it hard. I’m so sorry. And he just - he just nailed that.

Jim: Yeah, so that was good. And that’s a good response.

Todd: Oh, it was a great response.

Jim: Um, what about this one - um, you know, the teenagers tend to get into this grunt mode...

Todd: (Laughter).

Jim: ...Especially boys. I think teen girls, from what I understand - you can jump in here, John, to illuminate us but - ‘cause I don’t have girls. But, uh, you know, they tend to remain verbal...

Todd: Yeah.

Jim: ...And...

Todd: Yeah.

Jim: ...Communicate. But when you’re the dad of boys, or the mom of boys, boys tend to go in one-word explanations.

Todd: Yeah.

Jim: You have a great day at school? Yeah. What’d you do? Nothing. (Laughter) I mean...

Todd: Yeah, yeah.

Jim: ...You know. Or can you get this done? (Grunt) I mean, it’s that kind of thing. (chuckling) Now, A, what’s happening there? I mean, we’re often told that boys and girls are exactly the same. It is not true.

Todd: Right, right.

Jim: And you can see it right there in the communication.

Todd: Sure.

Jim: Girls tend...

Todd: Sure.

Jim: ...Not to respond that way - boys do. So why are boys responding that way? How does that trigger the parent to say, OK, now, we’ve got a problem?

Todd: Yeah.

Jim: It may not be a problem.

Todd: No.

Jim: It may be personality.

John: Right, sure.

Jim: But how do you manage it?

Todd: I think there are some, you know, some - uh, some truth in that, you know, some general differences - boys and girls. Uh, but I’ve known plenty of girls who are - who are kind of, you know, just not the most verbal, uh - you know, some are nice and chatty in general, but, yeah, I’ve known lots of girls who - who - who parents wish they talked more, expressed more and kind of hit that - teen - teenage - teenage years, for sure. Well, you know, when I think about it for myself, um, - uh - and I think for a lot of boys, this would be the case, as well. You know, when they’re asked to - you know, just a nice, you know, innocent, uh, you know, caring question about their day or whatnot, and it’s certainly, on the parents’ part, just showing interest and love towards the kid. You know, it’s work. Like, it’s work for the kid to mentally, uh, you know, recap. I got to rethink - I got - really, I got to think about what I did all day long. I don’t even remember what I did all day long. And - and it’s- it literally takes effort that that they would, um, you know, rather not, uh, put into it, uh, really. And so - so it’s not a necessarily a, um, uh, relationship problem or anything, but it’s just, uh - it’s - it’s easier for them just to give a simpler answer.

John: Would have been good for you to have been in the car just a couple of days ago.

(LAUGHTER)

John: I was talking to my son...

Jim: Do tell, John. Do tell.

John: Fourteen-year-old. And I asked him a question. And he’s like, I don’t want to talk. I don’t like conversation.

(LAUGHTER)

Todd: Oh, well, there you go.

John: I said, well, this is what people do in the world. But I backed off...

Todd: Yeah.

John: ...Because my tendency was to kind of go into teach and train mode.

Todd: Yeah.

John: And I realized...

Todd: Yeah.

John: ...No, he just doesn’t want to.

Todd: Well, you know, I think –depending on the kid, um, there’s different things you can - you know, you can experiment with different types of questions you can ask. You know, sometimes I’ll say, hey, what’s one thing you did at recess today? Or who - or who’d you sit by at lunch today?

Jim: Played.

Todd: Yeah. Well...

Jim: (Laughter).

Todd: You know, you know, and, you know, then you can go, well, played what? Or you can do multiple choice. Well, did you play - did you play on the playground equipment? Did you play a running game? - inside - outside? I mean, I do that all the time. It’ll just make it easier for them...

Jim: Yeah, and sometimes...

Todd: ...To go with categories.

Jim: ...Get them to emote is what you want to do. How did...

Todd: Yeah.

Jim: How did you feel when you’re out there playing? Was it fun?

Todd: Well, if you - yeah, you know, good luck with that one.

Jim: Yeah (laughter).

Todd: Yeah, that - maybe that works. Um, the other thing - and this is almost always - works - but it doesn’t - maybe it’s not working in your car ride home at the moment. But, you know, kids, um - even kids who aren’t that talkative, they will get a lot more talkative during activity, you know.

John: Yes.

Todd: If you’re - so maybe the parent just has to adjust their expectations for that particular kid. This kid - and not always, but during this, maybe little phase of life isn’t super talkative right now in this setting. It feels like 20 questions, like a - like a police drill. OK, well, then maybe I’ll have to see - maybe I’ll take the pressure off here. No, I’ll try a different tack, you know.

Jim: Yeah. Well, and moving it to the parent’s side of this...

Todd: Yeah.

Jim: ...Um, you know, connecting is key.

Todd: Yeah.

Jim: And kids aren’t going to be necessarily gifted at saying, oh, I got to connect with mom or dad.

Todd: (Laughter) Right.

Jim: They’re not thinking that way.

Todd: And it’s not their...

Jim: So it’s up to the adult in the...

Todd: Well, it’s not their job to be thinking that way.

Jim: And, in fact, you had a story in the book about 8-year-old Sophia. I’m - I know you’ve changed all these names...

Todd: Yes...

Jim: ...To protect the kids.

Todd: ...Of course.

Jim: But Sophia, as she’s known, what was that story there with her dad? And this is a common one in terms of connecting.

Todd: Yeah, um, another kind of sad one. This one actually got rectified really quickly. Um, yeah, it was - uh, she just was sad again, just, uh...

Jim: Feeling distance.

Todd: Yeah, yeah, missing her dad. Uh, no negative feelings towards dad. There was just a time thing. Dad had been very busy with his job - maybe it was a season. And she just - she just really, really felt it. And, um - and again, I don’t know why, but she just hadn’t really - there was no anger. There was - there was not a - you know, there was - there was no bad relationship between her and her dad. And, uh - but she hadn’t really mentioned it to him. And - and he wasn’t aware. So again - had this chance to chat with dad and let him know. And, boy, he - again, he just hopped right on it. And he got that thing fixed up. And before you know it, they’re doing some camping or whatever. And in both of the stories - this one and the one we spoke of earlier - it - the one thing that really struck me, and it was really neat, is afterwards, like, you know, two weeks later. Uh, and this is particularly - it’s in Sophia’s case, as well - but particularly in the case of the, um - where we had the dad with the angry response, I- it was stunning - the look on the kid. (Unintelligible). I really don’t tend to exaggerate at all - no exaggeration. Um, the look on the kid’s face, like a couple of weeks later, when these situations had been rectified, I mean, with this one girl who was crying about the kind of the intense dad, you should have seen her. Um, she was just smiling. She couldn’t smile any bigger. When I asked her how things were with dad, she said, oh, they’re great. They’re fixed. You know, and she was just - this crying girl was just elated.

Jim: Yeah.

Todd: And, you know, the dad really had done a nice job...

Jim: Let me ask you this - in your practice, is that sustainable? Do you have those dads or those moms that come back - maybe not two weeks later, because they’re fixing it in the moment.

Todd: Yes.

Jim: But everybody kind of falls back into their routine.

Todd: Yes, yes.

Jim: And it’s not intentional. It’s not...

Todd: Yeah.

Jim: ...Mean-spirited. But...

Todd: Yeah.

Jim: ...I get busy. And dad’s busy, and I’m traveling a lot for my job. And, you know, when I get home, I just need to recharge a bit. I mean, so over the course of six months or a year...

Todd: Yes.

Jim: ...Do these families come back to you to say...

Todd: Yes.

Jim: ...We’re back in the same spot?

Todd: Well, is it sustainable? Yes.

Jim: Correct, that’s the right answer.

Todd: Yeah. Um, does everyone sustain it? No. A lot of people do. A lot of people do. And you know what? They do when they are thinking right, when the parents are thinking right, when they’re remembering - again, forgive me for being repetitive - but when they’re thinking about the bridge. When you’re remembering that stuff, it affects everything you do. When you’re - when you’re thinking about, hey, I have lots of lessons I want to teach my kids. But again, our - I’m not going to teach them anything if our relationship is all blown to smithereens. So like that - that is number one. And we keep that solid, then a lot of things are possible. And when a parent’s remembering that and focusing on that, then all sorts of things are possible, and all sorts of good things happen. So for those parents who remember that stuff, um, yeah, yeah, they do sustain.

Jim: What about this idea of getting into their world? I mean, a lot of people encourage their - the parents to get into your teen’s world, or your kid’s world. It’s easier when they’re younger. It’s a little more difficult when they’re older, and they’re saying, hey, why you in my world?

(LAUGHTER)

Jim: But what does it look like...

Todd: Sure.

Jim: ...You know, to be in their world to where it’s not like stepping on their air hose?

Todd: Sure, sure. Yeah, well, I - yeah. You know, it’s funny when you - when I hear you say that, Jim, I - I - I don’t comprehend it as being difficult. I - I can’t figure - I mean, I’m trying to think, well, how could it be difficult? I don’t even get how it would be difficult.

Jim: Well, busyness...

Todd: Yeah.

Jim: ...Back to that...

Todd: OK.

Jim: ...It can keep you from getting engaged. And - and, you know what? You’re not getting cueing from the team...

Todd: Yeah.

Jim: ...To say, come into my world.

Todd: Yeah.

Jim: Dad, I’d love you to know more about my friends.

Todd: Yeah, yeah.

Jim: It usually doesn’t happen that way.

Todd: Yeah. Well, you know, it doesn’t happen that way out of the blue.

Jim: Right.

Todd: That’s for sure. And if you haven’t been, um, kind of sowing those seeds from beginning, uh, then, you know, it might take a little work to get that kicked into gear. But for those of people who are listening now who have younger kids, if you get this stuff on the road now, uh, boy, I’ll tell you, you can - you’ll be...

Jim: It’ll be a lot healthier.

Todd: A lot - well, you don’t run into some of these problems. Or if you do, you don’t - they’re not as hard, or they’re easier to steer around, or easier to get through because you’ve been laying a strong relationship foundation from the beginning. But,yeah, I mean, you know, um - getting into your kid’s world obviously, you know, differs from kid to kid. And, you know, if I had a girl, and she would be into cheerleading, guess what? I could tell you lots about cheerleading. You know, I mean, so - so kind of whatever - the content doesn’t matter. And, you know, on occasion, um, I’ve just been, uh, kind of - I don’t know what the word is - stunned, surprised to see a dad or mom who, for whatever reason - I don’t always have time to explore it all - just wasn’t interested in that - just wasn’t doing that.

Jim: Yeah.

Todd: And, um, you know, and they got, you know, a kid who’s got all sorts of things they could get into. And they’re just not. And their - the opportunity is just passing them by. And then you’re going to end up with a kid who’s 14 or 15, 16 and kind of - and I’ve seen this - and it feels like it’s too late. You know, they have - they’re hurt enough. They almost don’t want you to. And there’s still a way to do it, but it’s harder. Uh, so way easier. And, you know, you know, time, Jim, like you were saying - if the intent is there and then the motivation there - is there - and even if there’s sometimes when you can’t be done, and it’s busy, well, sure, if the kid knows you care about them, and you’re trying and you’re doing everything you can do, you’re fine. I mean, there...

Jim: Yeah.

Todd: There’s no problem.

Jim: Well, and sometimes that’s one of our difficulties. We aim for perfect...

Todd: Yeah.

Jim: ...When good is good. And, uh, Todd, this has been so good. But we’ve only - I mean, like, I’ve got so many more questions for you here.

Todd: (Laughter).

Jim: I think, unfortunately, I got to, like, a third of them.

Todd: Well...

Jim: So let’s stick with the come back next time and, uh, speak to parents about these challenges and these opportunities...

Todd: Yeah.

Jim: ...As I know you would like to say...

Todd: Yup.

Jim: ...About how to create that relationship with your child that will last a lifetime...

Todd: That’s right.

Jim: ...And will help them, uh, to really have a strong foundation as they move forward. Um, this conversation’s really highlighted our desire here at Focus to be in your corner, Mom and Dad. That’s part of it. We want to equip you. We want to give you the tools to do not just a fair job, but a really solid, good job in your parenting. So contact us today, support the ministry, and our way of saying thank you will be, uh, to send you a copy of8 Simple Tools For Raising Great Kids. And this is, again, just full of the right stuff.

John: And our website is focusonthefamily.com/radio. Or call 1-800, the letter A and the word FAMILY. Contribute generously, get a copy of Dr. Cartmell’s book and a CD of today’s conversation, as well. Again, focusonthefamily.com/radio.

Jim: Todd, one last thing - the parents who are listening, who are going, wow, I just haven’t paid attention - it’s not a guilt trip. It’s just, you know, some things are loose, they’re out of control a bit, maybe you haven’t done this. What can that parent do tonight that will be different and begin to change the course of the relationship?

Todd: Uh, that’s, uh, almost pretty easy. All a parent has to do, in any way that’s genuine for them, is just to make an effort to connect with their kids - whatever that is. And the kids know, hey, mom and dad is, you know - is spending some time with me or doing this thing with me. Why? Well, one reason only - because they love me. They want to connect with me. When parents do that by spending time, by increasing physical touch, anything that just builds that relationship - and the kids know it just from their hearts. And - and it has only one motive, which is ‘cause I love you, and I want to be close with you. That’s where you start.

Jim: That is good.

Closing:

John: Well, really great advice. And you’ll hear more from Dr. Todd Cartmell as we come back next time. Join us then. Meantime, I’m John Fuller. And on behalf of Jim Daly and the entire team, thanks for listening to Focus on the Family.

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Guest

Todd Cartmell

View Bio

Dr. Todd Cartmell is a child psychologist who's been working with children, teens and their families for about 20 years at his clinical practice in Wheaton, Ill. He's a popular public speaker, a parenting workshop presenter and the author of seven books including 8 Simple Tools for Raising Great Kids, Raising Flexible Kids and Project Dad: The Complete Do-It-Yourself-Guide for Becoming a Great Father. Todd and his wife, Lora, have two grown sons. You can learn more about Todd by visiting his blog.