Dad: Ah … nothin’ like a quiet moment to myself.
Mom: Oh, that is all there is too it, Jenette, case closed!
Dad: What? Hey!
Teen: You haven’t heard a thing I said! You’re not being fair, Mother!
Mom: I’m not being fair?!
Teen: That’s what I said!
Mom: Listen, if you’re going to scream at me I am not going to listen to you.
Dad: Hey, hey, hey, hey! Now hold it, hold it! Now time out, you two! Look, why can you just work this out like reasonable adults without all this yelling?
Mom: Do you mind, Harold? Listen Jenette, my answer is final and that is that!!
Teen: Mother! (Sound of door slamming)
End of Teaser
John Fuller: Well, if that situation hits a little close to home for you, welcome to the club! Sometimes family involves conflict and you might wonder, why are we dealing with all this? How do we get out of this? We have some answers for you on today’s “Focus on the Family” with Focus president and author, Jim Daly and I’m John Fuller.
Jim Daly: John, I’m sure most people have had some kind of experience like that, whether you’re Christian or non-Christian. And you know what? That disclaimer doesn’t mean you won’t have conflict in your family. We live in a fallen world and we’re gonna have situations where we’re gonna have probably some pretty deep disagreements in the family.
But the fact is, you know, we’re all sinners. We marry sinners. We give birth to sinners and yes, your spouse also married a sinner (Laughter) and that’s you! God knows that and He can redeem that messiness. That’s the good news. That’s the Christian message. That’s the Gospel! And today we’re gonna talk about how we can move to a better place in our family, a place that hopefully brings joy and happiness with our guest.
John: And he offers some great biblically based wisdom and very practical advice. He’s Dr. Kevin Leman, internationally known as a psychologist, an author, a speaker. He’s written about 50 books, I think and has been addressing marriage and parenting topics here at Focus on the Family I think since back in the early ’80s, if I’m not mistaken. And uh he has four daughters, a son, three sons-in-law and two grandchildren!
Jim: The expanding family!
John: Uh-hm, so he’s an expert, Jim.
Jim: He definitely is. Dr. Leman, it’s great to have you back here at Focus.
Dr. Kevin Leman: Oh, it’s so nice to be here. Thank you. I was thinking about how many times I’ve been here. Well, I think one of your staff people told me that I’ve been here 40-some times.
Jim: We’re gonna have to get you an apartment! (Laughter)
Kevin: And I thought, my goodness, that means I’m gonna die soon. (Laughter) That’s a lot of times.
John: Hopefully, not during this–
Jim: … you mean that …
Kevin: No, we want to–
Kevin: –get these broadcasts out; then I can die.
Jim: So, let’s get to it. Your title here, Have a Happy Family by Friday.
Jim: Okay, I gotta go right to it and get on your ankle bone a little bit. You talk about the ankle biters, right?
Jim: Your kids. But come on; is being happy what it’s all about as a Christian?
Kevin: Well, the happy, happy, happy thing, I mean, I’m critical of myself of the word “happy” because I think parents today are driven to have happy, happy, happy children. And that is not the goal of the parent, shouldn’t be the goal. You want to have a responsible child, who learns to love and appreciate other people, love and worship God, okay? And appreciate and have a degree of gratitude for the things that they have in life, whatever those things are.
Jim: Well, let me ask you though, ’cause it seems we need that definition. What’s behind the word? Because again, every secular writer could write a book that wants you to be happy. I think there’s more to what you’re saying here and I think it’s a great book. But in a Christian context, isn’t it about contentment? Aren’t we really saying, when you have a family that’s content and in that you’re gonna find peace and joy in those things that really fulfill the Christian life?
Kevin: Yeah, I think we want peaceful families. We want families that are really respectful of other people and service oriented to other people. I mean, today’s hedonistic society, I mean, kids are the “gimme generation.” Like fools as parents, we run over each other trying to give our kids things. We want to push our kids. Parents won’t admit it, but they do. Whoever came up with Baby Einstein was a genius and made a few bucks on Baby Einstein, because every parent wants their kid to be “Little Albert” (Laughter) you know. And everybody wants their child to be a winner and everybody wants their child to get a trophy.
And I just think there’s so many different components to having a happy family by Friday. And by the way, I mean, I did Have A New Kid by Friday, HaveA New Husband by Friday, Have A New You by Friday, Have A New Teenager by Friday and now I have [Have] A Happy Family by Friday. I want to be clear on this. All those books are scams (Laughter), because really, you could have a new husband by Wednesday, a new kid by Wednesday. You can have a happy family by Wednesday if you do a few basic things differently.
Jim: Well, let’s start by painting the picture what the average family, if we could call it that, what does the average family look like today?
Kevin: It’s horrible, in a word.
Kevin: Husband and wife are on a different page. They’re stressed to the max. Kids are entitled. They’re the “gimme generation” in spades. We are broken families.
Kevin: Divorced, you know, several times married. So, to say the family is not intact today is an understatement. But Steve Covey, the great business writer said, “Start with the end in mind.” I’ve never forgot[ten] that. It was such a profound statement. Well, what do you want your family to be like? What do you want your kids to be like? Do you want ’em to be responsible? You give ’em responsibility. You want ’em to be thoughtful? Teach ’em how to be thoughtful. I think gratitude is one of the things that’s just missing in our families today and kids don’t have opportunities to experience things that would say, I oughta be grateful for what I have.
Jim: And although we’re talking about how to be happy, we’re not talking about a family that needs deeper counseling needs where there may be abuse or something like that. Am I fair? A person in more severe situations should not be looking to the book to solve that. They should be looking for help?
Kevin: Yeah, help beyond this book probably, but here’s the clincher, I think. And if I was gonna answer the question, why would someone want to read this book, here’s a profound statement, I think. The words you choose to use with those you love can change the very trajectory of that relationship.
And I start the book off with an example of a kid who’s 14-years-old, who comes home and announces, okay, that he is now the proud half-owner of a used motorcycle. (Laughter) And he had saved $200 over the summer doing odd jobs, and he gave his buddy’s older brother 200 bucks to be part owner in this old motorcycle.
Jim: Part owner! (Laughter)
Kevin: All right now (Laughter), everybody be a dad for a moment. What is a dad gonna say to a kid that does that?
Jim: Why did you do that?
Kevin: You did what?! You must be the sucker of the year. You gave your buddy’s two … you’re 14 years of age. You don’t even have a driver’s permit. What is wrong with you? I’m telling you, if a bird had your brain, he’d fly sideways. What is wrong …? That is the stupidest thing I’ve ever heard of.”
Well, you can imagine what happened at the dinner table. The kid took off, you know, to his bedroom. Slammed the door and didn’t talk to his dad for six days. Well, the old man calls me. “Kevin, what do I do?” I said, “Well, the first thing you do is you apologize to your son.” “Me, apologize? You didn’t hear what he…” I said, “I heard what he did. You’re the adult here and you acted like an idiot, quite frankly. You need to go and you need to apologize to your kid for your overreaction.”
And so, he got the courage to do exactly that. He said, “All right, tell me about the motorcycle.” And the kid told him about it and the dad was just impressed with how much this 14-year-old kid knew about motorcycles. And the dad being pretty smart at this point arranged for him to go up to Menomonee Falls Wisconsin and took him through the plant where they make these motorcycles. And it opened a whole new avenue for father and son.
Kevin: So, many times what we do is, we just react as parents. Now Jim, if you go to your physician, or John, and your physician says you had a reaction to the medication, that ain’t good to put it bluntly, okay? Now if he says, you responded to the medication, that’s good. So, if that’ll help people remember, hey, respond, don’t react.
Kevin: I mean, it’s like the single mom, you know, havin’ breakfast with her son at 9-year-old son on a Saturday morning. And the little guy looks up at mommy and says, “Mommy, I want a pony.” And she says, “A pony!” She’s got a deep voice. “A pony?! (Laughter) That’s the stupidest thing I ever heard of. What do you mean a pony? Well, a pony?! What do you think? We can’t have a pony here. You know that. That’s the stupidest thing.” You know, that’s a reaction. But you’re the adult. Do you think you could say, “Wow, a pony. Can you imagine havin’ your own pony? Can you imagine riding to school in the morning, you know, seein’ the kids at the bus stop, wavin’ to ’em?
Jim: Let me ask you though, why is it that our reactions typically lean in the wrong direction that way? Why do we, either by nature or by default …
Kevin: We’re “I centered.”
Jim: So, what does that mean?
Kevin: Well, we’re hedonistic ourselves. As men, we think we have all the answers in life in our back pocket. As man, we love to tell people what to do. As men, we love to solve problems. There’s not a woman on this earth that wants to be told how to solve a problem by her husband.
Jim: But again, it seems like, I don’t know if it’s the flesh, why wouldn’t we react with what we see or envision as a more heavenly Father kind of approach, where we can relax a little bit and say, “Come, come. Let’s reason this together.”
Kevin: Well …
Jim: “Let’s talk about it.”
Kevin: That’s what I’ve tried to teach people in this book, that you’re the adult here, which means you might have to think things through before you engage in just conversation, that’s–
Jim: Is it stress?
Kevin: –usually negative.
Jim: Are the parents under too much stress or they think they are?
Kevin: Everybody’s under stress today.
Jim: Is that different from 40 years ago?
Kevin: Yes, it’s worse. It’s just tough. The economy’s tough. Being married’s tough. Both couples are working. Kids are in too many activities. We’re trying to do too many things. We give kids too many things. It’s endless and that’s one reason why Have a Happy Family by Friday is gonna scratch where people itch, ’cause it’s gonna say, slow down; back off. Let’s take the big picture here and turn things around. And again, I go back to that profound point that the words you choose to use with those you love can alter that whole relationship.
Kevin: So, this is universal. When your husband says something really stupid, ladies, okay, really stupid, do you think you could look at him and say, “Wow. Wow. That is absolutely fascinating.” (Laughter) Now you can be thinkin’, you’re an idiot, but don’t say it. Just say, wow, that’s fascinating.
Jim: Okay, but now there’s a degree of honesty.
Kevin: Hear him out; hear him out, okay? Because we need to give people an opportunity. And I’ve done marriage counseling for years, okay. Probably 40 years behind closed doors with couples. And one of the things I try to teach couples to do who don’t communicate is, all right, if we have to structure it, let’s structure it this way.
You say what’s on your mind, okay. The other person has to listen and cannot interrupt, cannot say one word. When that person is done, then you tell your mate what you just hear ’em say. And you’ll be surprised how hard it is to get couples to follow that paradigm, that model, because they want to jump in. And it’s how you get to resolving conflict.
Jim: Is it as simple as training, though? It sounds like you’re teachin’ a dog how to sit.
Kevin: Well, there is some training to it and I’ve said many times, we talk about rearing kids, it’s train up a child, not train down a child. In the way he should go doesn’t mean the way you think he should go, which is a curve ball for most parents. It’s how God would have your kid go. It speaks to the individual bent of all of your kids. So, if you’re treating all your kids the same, “All right, everybody listen up. I want everybody in bed now. It’s 9 o’clock.” Why do you say that? ‘Cause you want to fool around with the wife. Tell the truth. You want the kids out of the way. Not a good idea. Treat your kids differently. Grant the birth order, the birthright to the oldest child. He gets to stay up longer than the other kids. They go along …
Jim: Okay, my kids … that just started a fight at my household! (Laughter)
John: Did it really?
Jim: It’s only two years difference, one’s 12, one’s 14! Why should the 14-year-old stay up later?
Kevin: Jim Daly, you listen to me. You let that oldest kid have privilege.
Jim: Oh, I hope he’s not listening right now. (Laughter)
Kevin: You let him have privilege. I’m tellin’ ya. Listen and you know …
Jim: Jean, disregard this last statement! (Laughing)
Kevin: And the other thing is, wives, you come along to the second one, the younger one and you pull him aside and say, “Hey, can we talk?” “About what?” “About your brother. Is he a little over the top or is it me?” I’m telling you, sometimes you have to get into that kid’s head and see where that kid is in your family. I mean, no one ever asked the middle child, “What do you think (Laughter) we should do?” Do you want to improve a relationship with a middle child, there, I usually say, don’t ask kids questions. There’s a question.
Jim: That’s a good one. Okay, that’s day one of your, you know, Happy Family by Friday. So, that … that’s Monday, which is choose your words and speak, I guess in a way that shows the wisdom that you should possess as a husband, as a wife, as a parent. Now you’re moving into the second day, which would be Tuesday, and that’s, how do you spend your time? Well, what’s so important about how you spend your time?
Kevin: Well, we all have the same amount of time. It’s a matter of how we choose it. And again, all I can do is tell you personally that the Lemans, we’ve always protected our time and we’ve also made a big thing about “Remember you’re a Leman.”
Jim: (Chuckling) What did that mean to you?
Kevin: Well, this is the funny part ’cause I was asked that question and somebody once said, “Well, what does that mean?” I said, “I don’t have a clue.” (Laughter)
John: So, you didn’t have it posted on the side of the wall–
Kevin: It just–
John: –of anything.
Kevin: –it just means—
Jim: Good to say, huh?
Kevin: —“Remember you’re a Leman.”
Kevin: In other words, there’s an expectation that you’re gonna, you know, behave in a proper, smart, reasonable way. And I mean, parents are always confounded when they hear me say, “Well, the Leman kids never had curfews.” And they say, “What do you mean, didn’t have curfews?” Well, let’s try it in English. They never had curfews. Does that mean they didn’t have …? That’s right; they didn’t have a time to be home at night. And they hated it. Not one kid liked it. They all hated it. “Dad, would you just tell me what time I need to be home!?”
Jim: So, what was the outcome of it?
Kevin: They just …
Jim: What happened when you didn’t–
Kevin: Well, I always–
Jim: –tell them …
Kevin: –they had to be home at a reasonable hour.
Jim: (Chuckling) What time would they come home?
Kevin: Well, they’d always be home early.
Jim: Earlier than you thought–
Kevin: Oh, yeah.
Jim: –you would be …
Kevin: And they’d call. And sometimes we had funny conversations where they’d call and they were out. I remember Krissy, our second daughter was out at a football game. And we live in Tucson, so an out-of-town football game could be, you know, 30 miles away. And she was saying, “Dad, dad, we just got here to the pizza place.” I said, “Well, honey, be home at a reasonable hour.” “Dad, would you just tell me?” I said, “Honey, I did” and I hung up on her. And she called me back about 45 minutes later. “Dad, dad.” “Who is this? Who is this?” “Dad, what time…?” “Honey, we’ve had this conversation. Be home at a reasonable hour.” I heard the garage door go up about 1 o’clock.
And you know, as a parent, you really don’t go to sleep till all the little cubs are back in the den, if you know what I mean, but you know, placing that responsibility on kids. Now I’m at a point now where our youngest is 22. But you know what? We believed in the kids. And everybody in our listening audience, I got news for you. There were people who believed in you. And that’s one of the reasons why you go to where you are today in life.
Jim: Okay, so Krissy comes home at 1 a.m. Was that too late?
Kevin: No, I’m glad she was home.
Jim: That was the point.
Kevin: That was all right.
Jim: Just making sure she’d–
Kevin: Now some people–
Jim: –make it in.
Kevin: –are sayin’, “Leman, if I said that to my kid, he’d be home at 4 a.m. in the morning.” Well, I’m just goin’ on record as saying, “Okay. Yeah. He’d be home at 4, but that’d be the last time he’d be home at 4 with my car, that I own, that I insure, for a very long time.” There would be a teachable moment.
Kevin: And so, we’re always teaching the kids. But I want to expect the best of kids. And I think quite frankly, what we do with kids is, we expect the worst of kids. To wit, here’s a young mom going in a grocery store and she’s got the 9-year-old and the 10-year-old. I mean, everybody in our listening audience knows what the conversation’s gonna be. “All right, listen up. No running around. No fooling around. Don’t ask for anything. I’m just gonna run over here and get a few things. Your father’s gonna be home for dinner in a few minutes.” Well, what have you just told the kids to do? You expect them to misbehave. What do they do when they get in the store? They misbehave.
I mean, it’s crazy. We set kids up for failure and so I’m just saying, be positive in your expectations with kids. Be clear about things. Make sure kids give back to the family. And see, this is the cooperation part that no one member of the family’s more important than the family. So, we all have responsibilities. Everybody gives back. Everybody pitches in and that’s how a family survives.
Jim: Okay, let me push you a little bit there. And then, so you’re walk into the store, the mother of the 9- and the 10-year-old, what’s the right way to do it?
Kevin: Well, no; No. 1, not to give the negative at all.
Jim: How would you set it up? What’s that conversation sound like in the car?
Kevin: I’d say, “Honey, dad’s gonna be home in just a few minutes. I need some help. I need some help.” Now believe it or not, most of us want to help. If you give people an opportunity to help, most people want to help.
Jim: Including children.
Kevin: Yes, and so, “Honey, would you get these things? They’re over in the frozen foods and you get this and I’m gonna back that. I’ll meet you back here in five minutes.”
Jim: Make it a game.
Kevin: “We’re just gonna do a quick run.” Yeah, That’s all and see who can get what?
Jim: I like that.
Kevin: And sometimes you miss it, but 3-year-olds can help set a table. And all I’m saying is set the paradigm in your family where everybody gives back.I’ve said for years, are you rearing your kid in a home or a hotel? Hotels, you give ’em food service, linen service, everything’s done for them. That’s not right. Kids need to learn to give back to the family. Talk to anybody who grew up in a farm and there’s not much Kevin Leman can teach people who grew up on a farm, because on a farm, you work.
Jim: You know what to do.
Kevin: You gave back to the family and that’s missing in condominium American today.
Jim: So, this is Day 2. This is the idea of how you spend your time with your priorities, your activities, your work, your finances, etc. And once …
Kevin: Well, activity is the killer.
Kevin: Because I mean, you should hear me when I’m on Network TV in New York, okay. Here’s the introduction. “Our next guest says that activities are destructive with children and are not a good idea. Stay tuned after this commercial break, we’ll have this nut on.” (Laughter)
Jim: Okay, let me repeat that. (Laughter)
Kevin: Well, yeah and it sounds so anti-American because everybody knows that activities are good for kids. Well, here I’m gonna tell you, 4-H is a great activity for kids, okay. There are some activities that are just super. Scouting is great, you know. But I’m here to tell you that if you have three kids, one of the realizations in this Have a Happy Family by Friday is, you know, there’s more of them than there are of you. (Laughter)
Kevin: Yeah and so, if you’ve got three or four kids and they’re involved in three or four activities, uh … you’re like a cabbie, you know, that’s got a[n] SUV that’s not yellow.
Jim: So, your goal there is, maybe one thing a semester—
Jim: –which I think that’s what we do.
Kevin; And that’s what we did and it worked, because if you’ve got kids who are athletic, they go from season to season, all that, that’s fine. But the kids have to make choices so that you can’t do everything, because the couple needs to be able to be a couple.
And I always told parents, when that firstborn comes home from the hospital, when the first couple of weeks, you need to leave that baby at home. Now that’s a tough one for most young mommies. Most people want a Ph.D. in pediatric nursing in order to take care of their own firstborn. But Grandma will suffice, but you set the paradigm, that you go out and enjoy a dinner and it begins this … give you freedom, that you have a life and a marriage to make work and that’s the best thing you can do for your kids is to show ’em a real marriage that works.
Jim: Well, in this idea of time and how you spend it, I was surprised to read the statistic in your book about fathers spending–
Jim: —-8 minutes with their child per day, 8 minutes. That seems terribly small.
Kevin: It’s miniscule. And yet, it’s true, because a lot of males tell themselves, hey, I gotta go out there and make a buck. And he says to his wife, “Hey, what are you talkin’ about, Margaret? What do you think I’m goin’ out there, beatin’ my head against the wall for? It’s for you and the kids. And see, there’s enough truth in that, that somehow that makes his wife feel guilty for even bringing up the point that you don’t seem to be abound and available for me or the children. On top of that, she’s out there working in the workplace, as well. So, it’s hit and miss at best. We’re just trying to survive in families today unfortunately.
Jim: You talk about it as being like a hamster. I don’t think many of us appreciate being called a hamster, but what do you mean by it?
Kevin: Well, I wrote a book called It’s Your Kid, Not a Gerbil. (Laughter) And it seems to me, we put these kids on these we push kids. Today there’s great stress on families for kids to do well academically. I’m on record as saying, if you’re in doubt if your kid’s born late in the year, old ’em back a year. Give your kid that ability to thrive, especially boys who grow up and mature later than little girls. And I just think there’s great wisdom in that.
Kevin: But this whole hurried approach to growing up, kids grow up way, way, way too fast. And parents, you’re the ones that throw the kerosene on the fire. You’re the one that buys a cell phone for a kid at a far too early age. You’re the one that gives your kid complete access to the Internet. I love the Internet. I love my cell phone. I wrote books on cell phones. But um … when you put that in a kid’s hand, that’s the modern day Goliath. You’re really biting off an awful lot, parents…
Jim: What’s an age appropriate suggestion? I mean, what do you is a general rule of thumb?
Kevin: Well, you know, I threw some of this stuff out on my Facebook and I put some things out there. And I’m surprised at the numbers of people who saw it; 256,000 people saw a little piece I put out there the other day about just how to keep your teenagers close. And I’ve examined this thing on cell phones and most middle schoolers, 90, 95 percent of middle schoolers have iPhones, which is …
Jim: Of middle school?
Kevin: Middle schoolers.
Jim: Ninety-nine percent?
Kevin: Ninety to 95 percent.
Jim: (Chuckling) Oh, my goodness!
Kevin: That’s crazy. That’s absolutely crazy. But everybody has them, you know. And parents, again, if you’re gonna give your kid a cell phone, at a young age and you’re concerned about safety, you’re givin’ a 10-year-old a cell phone, give him a dumb phone. Give him a phone that’s just a phone, that doesn’t have Internet access.
Jim: I think our rule of thumb is, when you drive, you can have a dumb phone! (Laughter)
Kevin: Well, I think, you know, and again, pinning down age is always interesting, because you do have kids who are much more mature but I did a little gut check on our own family and our daughter, Lauren got a cell phone—a dumb phone at age 14.
But psychologically she’s an only child, did very well in school, won an $80,000 scholarship out of high school. So (Laughter), yeah, I think 14, 15, 16 years of age is appropriate. I think especially when kids drive. I think of another turning point is, if your kid’s in too many activities, which again, is not a great idea in my estimation, but if a kid’s in a lot of activities, a cell phone comes in real handy.
Jim: Well, yeah, I mean, I think yeah, it depends on the level maturity for that child. I think for us, I mean, we’re waiting until they drive. So… (Laughter)
Kevin: Well, parents want it for their convenience, too.
Jim: Trent and Troy–
Kevin: That’s the other part of it.
Jim: –tough luck, guys. But hey, let’s go next time. We talked about the two steps in the Have a Happy Family by Friday approach. That’s Monday and Tuesday. We’ve talked about your words and how you use them as the Monday’s issue. And then Tuesday your time and how you use your time. Let’s come back next time and talk about the perfect storm as you describe it–
Kevin: Oh, yeah.
Jim: –those adolescent years, that’s where I’m living. John, you’re living there, too. And so many of you are living in that spot. I can’t wait till next time. Can you stay with us?
Kevin: Hey, I’m–
Jim: –And let’s talk perfect storm.
Kevin: –I am ready. And this perfect storm, the book could end at the perfect storm, it’s so important.
Jim: Well, let’s do that. Have a Happy Family by Friday, Dr. Kevin Leman, come back next time to find out how to sail in the perfect storm.
Kevin: I love you guys and love doin’ this. Sure can.
John: You know, several of my kids have weathered that storm of adolescence and we’re still goin’ through that a little bit in the house. And this conversation’s been very timely and very helpful, as you said, Jim. Now maybe you’re in the same life stage and you have some teens in the home. We really do recommend you get a copy of Dr. Leman’s book and we’ve really only touched on a few highlights in our conversation today. There is a lot of great content in there that can help your family–things like the power of using compliments and how the birth order can affect your relationships and tips on getting behind the eyes of your child. It’s all trustworthy parenting advice and encouragement and it’s gonna help your family thrive. Order your copy of Have a Happy Family by Friday when you call 1-800-232-6459; 800, the letter A and the word FAMILY or you can find details at www.focusonthefamily.com/radio .
And when you get in touch, I hope you’ll consider a financial gift to Focus on the Family. We’re a not-for-profit organization. We depend on friends like