Focus on the Family Broadcast

Raising Kids of Character (Part 2 of 2)

Raising Kids of Character (Part 2 of 2)

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 2 of 2)



Dr. Todd Cartmell: What’s more important than a family devotional on one given Sunday is what happens between Sunday and the next Monday, and the Tuesday, and the Wednesday, and how we handle homework, and how we handle bedtime, and how we handle frustration. That’s where the leadership comes in.

End of Excerpt

John Fuller: That’s Dr. Todd Cartmell, and he’s back with us again on Focus on the Family. Your host is Focus president and author Jim Daly. And I’m John Fuller.

Jim Daly: John, last time we started a great conversation for parents, and probably you and I too, right?

John: I’m in there, yeah.

Jim: …On how to better connect with your child in conversation and the importance of spending both quality time and quantity time with your kids. That came out loud and clear. We didn’t say it specifically, but that’s one of the main points. We’re gonna to continue that discussion today and dig into the importance of pointing out the positive behavior in your child and how that can actually reduce sibling rivalry in your home. Now, Mom, isn’t that a good thing? Dad? Uh, if that’s the silver bullet, you’re gonna want to stick with us. We’ll also discuss the importance of leading and actively living out your faith so your kids can see that and begin to model that.

John: And you can, uh, get the first part of this conversation, and of course, today’s as well, on a CD or as a download at or get our broadcast app, and you can listen on the go. Dr. Todd Cartmell is a clinical child psychologist, lives in the Chicago area. And he and his wife, Lora, are empty nesters. They have two grown sons.


Jim: Todd, welcome back to the program.

Todd: Hey, guys. Good to be here.

Jim: We loved it. I mean, I was, you know – and making my notes and, you know, doing everything I need to do to improve my fathering. I hope all of you listening that heard the program last time did the same thing. If you missed it, uh, get the download, the smartphone, I mean, what John just said. Just get it because it was worth the time –8 Simple Tools For Raising Great Kids. We covered last time – listen, it comes down to relationship. The tools are ways to build the relationship. That’s the secret. And, uh, Todd, we did cover connecting and talking with your kids last time. Let’s talk about encouragement, which was another aspect of your book. How do you encourage? You had a story in there about, a young man, a 10-year-old boy who came to see you, and he refused to do what his parents asked him to do. Now everybody’s going, OK, that’s my kid.

John: I got one of them.

Todd: Yeah, right, right.

Jim: I got one, two, three, four or five of those. But, you know, A, what’s going on in that environment where a kid is defiant, and the parent can’t get them to do the simple things they need him to do? And this usually pushes a hot button, uh, for the parents, right? And you get frustrated.

Todd: Yeah, yeah, yeah.

Jim: And you go, what is the problem? All you gotta do is this simple task. Why can’t you do it? I’m gonna take away everything in the world – the universe – from you until you figure this out. You will not eat food. You will not have a bath. And you don’t want to take that one away too quickly, let me tell you.

Todd: No, no, you’re right, right. That’s not good.

Jim: But, I mean, you know, you just get in that parenting mode where you’re trying to find that secret key to unlock the amazing behavior that you know is inside that child of yours.


Todd: That’s right. Well, at least – at least you hope and believe it’s there.

Jim: (Laughter) You believe it.

Todd: Yeah, that’s right. Well, there’s a lot of possible answers to that question, obviously, depending on the family and the kid. Uh, you could have a such challenging kid, you could have a kid who’s got some impulsiveness, you could a kid who’s just really bad, inflexible tempers – you know, who knows? Often, you just – you could have a kid just has some bad habits. Quite honestly, it just has gotten the habit of not listening, and maybe you’ve, uh, unintentionally, uh, allowed those habits to, uh, grow and become a force of their own. And it’s a matter of changing it. So it just depends. But either way, there are certain things a parent has to do if – if they want that to get fixed up, and encouragement is certainly top of the list.

Jim: Well, yeah. And I would think one of the default positions of a parent – there’s probably two – you get really aggressive in that moment, or you back up. And neither of those extreme…

Todd: No.

Jim: …Kind of responses is the right one.

Todd: No. Well, you know, we talked about last time – the idea, you know, this would be a perfect situation or example of it, uh. It’s not just what you do in this situation, it’s having a plan. It’s having a plan for how to address, uh, the whole situation and help your kid, you know, again, drop some bad habits, and kick up some good habits. And so that’s what you’re going to be teaching. And now, of course, you know, teaching turning on, turning off, and the turning on would be the encouragement, you know, part.

Jim: Yeah, and – and that can be hard when you’re really frustrated (laughter).

Todd: It can be real hard. It can be real hard. Uh, yes, it can be. But again, you know – a word I love, uh, is training. You are training your kid. This is training. Put your training hat on. They train dolphins at SeaWorld. OK, you know, they train, all right?

Jim: (Laughter).

Todd: Well, uh, and they can get those dolphins to do some crazy things. OK, so you got things to train.

Jim: And they’re pretty smart.

Todd: And they’re pretty smart. So, um, and training includes teaching, includes actively reinforcing and encouraging the behaviors you’re teaching, and then includes, you know, responding well when we have the wrong kind of behavior. So in this category, and we want to max out each of those columns. So in this category, we’re – or you know, in this part of our discussion, we’re talking about the encouragement part – the middle part. And you want to max that out.

Jim: Yeah, and is there science, is there research that shows that that affirmation and that encouragement actually works (laughter)?

Todd: Yeah, there is – there’s a ton.

Jim: ‘Cause if I’m going to that effort, Todd, I want evidence. Come on.

Todd: Well, then you come in the right place. Yeah, there’s a lot. And in this, there – there’s a variety of things that work and actively – but it’s not just every now and then because you’re in a good mood saying, hey, nice job. Because you happen to think about that. That’s worthless. I mean, it’s not worthless, but that’s not helpful in terms of, uh, really creating lasting behavior change, which is your point. You want lasting behavior. You’re trying, again, create a good habit to take, uh, the place of the bad habit. And you have to think a little bit like a trainer, like a teacher. And you’ve got some kids, uh, if you’re – if, you know – if you know, little Andrew here is not listening very well. Well, again, then I need to teach him how to listen properly. There’s that part. Let’s assume I’ve done that and I’ve gone on, and, of course, I’m big into practicing. We practiced it with him. Let’s assume that’s happening. So then, what’s going to happen is every now and then – even sheer randomness – he’s going to listen. He’s going to occasionally listen. Maybe he’s tired, maybe he’s sick.

He’s going listen on those days. OK, he’s going to listen somewhere. And, of course, the more I practice, the more he’s going to listen. So I’m going increase the frequency of that. Now what matters is what do I do with those listening moments? Do I let ‘em slip by? Do I ignore ‘em? Do I – am I – am I so not paying attention, I don’t even notice ‘em because I’m so caught up on the dirt behavior that I don’t even notice the little gold-nugget flashes, so I don’t – I don’t catch them? Then, it’s all just gonna, you know, it’s gonna go up and it’s going to go back down because I’m not catching the moments. I want him to come to the conclusion that whatever our behavior is – so let’s say listening or responding respectfully to Mom and Dad – I want him to think that that works out great. When he does that, I want him to go, oh, wow. Oh, I’m glad I did that.

John: One of the things I appreciated about the book – in this segment of the book – is that it doesn’t have to be, you’ve just mowed the yard and it looks like Coors Field, like a – like a baseball stadium.

Todd: (Laughter) Right.

John: Way to go. It can be something as simple as, you just said a really nice thing to your mom, and I really appreciate that.

Todd: Oh, man. Uh, totally, absolutely. Uh, in fact, you can almost manufacture them. Here’s a little trick.

Jim: Trick of the trade.

Todd: Yeah, trick of the trade, yeah. You can actually, when you’re doing this and you’re trying to get your kid to, you know, to shift habits, you can ask them to do something so unbelievably minor, you know, there’s a high probability he’s going to do it.

Jim: (Laughter).

Todd: Seriously, that’s what you do, yeah.

Jim: I love it…

John: Yeah, high probability. You’re not sure…

Jim: I’m concerned with how low that bar could go. Let me hear it.

Todd: Yeah, I mean, if – if he’s sitting next to you and there’s a spoon there, say, hey, pal could you hand me that spoon? I mean, it takes, like, two seconds, you know, of energy for him to slide that over or whatever it’s going to be. We don’t really care.Because you don’t really need him to do the thing. We want him to do it, and then you have a chance to pour on that encouragement. And how you pour it on is – is very, very important.Sometimes, you know, I call this support on technique, actually. Uh, you want to be very specific in your wording. You want to add physical touch, and you want to do it with a – a – a strong amount of frequency. You want to do this a lot. And when you do, and, you know, say, hey, pal, hey, hey, thanks for handing me that spoon, buddy. That was – that was really – then – then, I can even bonus point – I can throw on a character word. I can throw on a character word. I can say, pal, that was really helpful. That was really respectful. That was really thoughtful. I don’t have to say that, but just extra bonus for me because the truth is, my kid – my oppositional kid – did just give me that spoon. I’m not making it up. He actually chose to do it. Maybe, now that’s a low ratio. Maybe most of time, he doesn’t. OK, here’s one of the times he just did. Those are the ones I care about. I wanna make that column go up.

Jim: You know, Todd, for the parent who’s saying, it’s hard to catch my kids doing something good. I mean, seriously, there’s going to be some parents, of course, they’re doing some things well, but, um, just think in the 180-degree opposite direction how quick you are to point out something bad. So our ability – our observation skills are capable of noticing both good and bad.

Todd: Oh, yeah, absolutely. It us much like John said, we’re looking to – look and setting the sights too high. I can think of one example, uh, where, it struck me so – so obvious I – I just remembered it. There’s a boy – oppositional behavior, uh, coming to see me. Uh, we’re starting to work on – I just taught the parents this technique. So now I go out to the waiting room in the office to pull him in, and – and, uh, the parent and the, uh – the boy are sitting there, uh, playing a little game of checkers, you know, in the waiting room chairs. And then, I – I kind of signal time to come in. And then, the, uh, I believe it was the dad. The dad – kind of said to the kid, OK, well, start putting them away. And the kid start putting them away. So I’m thinking (snap), there it is. He’s doing right it there.

Jim: Right.

Todd: And so I think, oh, that’s great. Oh, I’ll point that out. So everybody comes in and sits down, and the first thing Dad says to me is, well, I haven’t had any opportunities to give that boy any pour-it-on; I haven’t even seen a thing.

Jim: Oh, my goodness.

Todd: I think, dude, there was one right there. I just saw it, and – and he missed it.

Jim: Yeah.

Todd: So it really comes to looking for any choice that kid makes that is in that positive direction. And when you – when you’re really looking, there are way more than you think…

Jim: And that’s so important for us to do. I mean, and the sights can be set so high that you expect everything to be polished and cleaned – and all the closets cleaned out, and then he gets my ‘that-a-boy’ or ‘that-a-girl,’ right?

Todd: Yeah, you know, if that’s how they did SeaWorld, there wouldn’t be a SeaWorld. I mean, quite honestly, I mean, they – they don’t teach – you know, don’t wait till dolphin jumps up and hits a ball, hey, now will give him a fish. I mean, they get the dolphin just to jump out of the water at all.

Jim: Then they get a fish.

Todd: Then they get a fish, and then they – they build that up.

Jim: Boy, that’s so good.

J ohn: But our parental expectations, I mean, there – there’s a sense of, well, you should just do that, and you should do a good job of that because.

Todd: Yeah, because we’re forgetting that we’re training. Back to training. A trainer doesn’t think that way, uh. You know, there’s – there’s lots of lessons I want my boys to learn. I’m thinking of when they’re younger, um, you know, and they’re a kid. They don’t know how to do that. Maybe they’re a challenging kid, I don’t know. What – whatever. Fine, wherever they are, whatever their challenges are, it’s my job to be their teacher and trainer. So there’s lots of lessons. And so I’m in lesson-teaching mode all the time.

Jim: So, Todd, I can hear the listener – the parent saying, yeah, but, you know, negative behavior needs some boundaries and needs to be pointed out as well. So we got to – let’s cover that because there’s a healthy way to do that. There’s many unhealthy ways to do that. So let’s say little Mary is not doing it well. How do you approach the negative correction in a way that actually works?

Todd: Yup, well, this is – if I was having a parent session right now, there would be about an hour long explanation, so I’ll try to…

Jim: I need about 30 seconds.

John: Air time, clock is running, so tighten it up.

Todd: And here – here – here – here’s why. Because, um, when you have a negative behavior, if all we’re doing is just, OK, well, you’re in time out and this and that – those are – would be some of the right things to do, um. If that’s all you do, then – then it’s nothing. You want to have that overall three-step plan. If my son is not listening or he’s – he’s – he’s getting mad when he’s doing homework, throwing a big fit, I handle that one as well as I can, and I – ‘cause I want him to understand that being disrespectful is not going to pay off. So maybe he’s in his room, maybe he’s lost a privilege for the day. That’s how I – I get through that situation as well as I can. What many – I’d even say most parents I meet, that is their understanding. OK, that’s what I’m supposed – that’s it. I mean, that is it. That is what they do. OK, well, I handled that situation pretty well. I hope it works. I hope maybe he learns his lesson. That is one of the three, uh, steps of the plan.What the parent needs to do now is say, well, OK, my son was in a homework situation. He obviously got all mad and didn’t handle it well. What was it that I wish he was thinking, saying or doing that he obviously wasn’t in that situation? And so how can I go back now – I’m going back to teaching – how can I now help him get better at that for the next time? It’s almost like a coach. Uh, if a kid is a bad tackler, misses a couple of tackles in a football game, OK, well, I can bench him, I suppose, or I can say, well, OK, he’s missing his tackles, his form is really off. Next football practice, I know what he and I need to work on. So you prep for the next time.

Jim: Yeah.

Todd: And then when he does it good, you encourage him saying, pal, that was awesome. So you’re looking for those. You do all three strategies, and that is an effective plan.

John: Dr. Todd Cartmell is our guest on Focus on the Family, and his book is,8 Simple Tools For Raising Great Kids- full of wonderful wisdom, as we’re hearing today. I’ll encourage you to get a copy of the book and a CD or download of our program at If you need some help in your parenting journey, we do have some great resources, and even a counseling team. And our number is 800-232-6459.

Jim: Todd, let’s talk about leading.

Todd: Sure.

Jim: I love that. We’ve, uh, touched on it from time to time in the conversation last time and this time, but this idea that parents looking in a mirror – you’re setting the example, you’re leading your – your children, whether you know it or not.

Todd: Yeah.

Jim: And oftentimes, when we feel disconnected emotionally is maybe the time we’re leading the most, ironically.

Todd: Yeah, well, you know, uh, leading is a huge topic.

Jim: In a poor way, I mean.

Todd: Yeah, yeah, yeah. Well, you know, your kids are always watching you, and, they’re never not, you know, so that’s kind of, like, scary, actually thinking…

Jim: That’s so…

John: Yeah.

Jim: We all went, really? That’s true.

John: I hate that.

Todd: Not an encouraging, um, comment there. But, you know, um – you know, you talked about perfection earlier, uh. You know, one of the things I, uh – I think to myself is, you know, my kids aren’t going to get a perfect parent, so we can establish that right off – right off the bat. But, you know, in a way, um, maybe they don’t need a perfect parent.

Jim: That’s right.

Todd: In fact, in some research on modeling, uh, if the model is too perfect, the – the – the person watching doesn’t relate to it and doesn’t end up kind of modeling the behavior. If the model shows a bit more more, uh, behavior that’s a bit more relatable or – or – or normative…

Jim: Brokenness.

Todd: Yeah, so to speak. That, you know, the person watching tends to copy more. So, you know, for myself and really for, I guess for anybody, I would say that, you know, our kids don’t need a perfect model. They need a genuine model, an authentic model.

Jim: Right.

Todd: That’s – that they need.

Jim: Well, and in this area of faith, let me just pull this out of you, too. You need to practice your faith with your kids. What are some ways – practical ways – we can actually do that?

Todd:Well,part of the answer to that, in a sad way, would be the, uh, picture I would have of a family or a mom or dad where they’re heavy on the bible studies, but the relationship bridge is not good. And communication is not good. And, you know, that’s the polar opposite of – of what we’re shooting for here, um.

Jim: OK, so for the mom or the dad that just heard that…

Todd: Yeah.

Jim: …Really, I thought I was doing the right thing.

Todd: Yeah.

Jim: How do I change that? What – what – what are you really saying to me, Todd?

Todd: Well, I’m saying you can’t build a third story of your house without building the foundation first. You know, you don’t start on story number three. You don’t start on the bedrooms, uh. You can’t. It’s impossible. And what you end up with is with a kid who, um, has heard all the Bible stories, but they’re – they’re empty. They’re – becausewhat’s more important than a family devotional on one given Sunday is what happens between Sunday and the next Monday, and the Tuesday, and the Wednesday, and how we handle homework, and how we handle bedtime, and how we handle frustration. That’s where the leadership comes in. I mean, any – I mean, you can get a parrot to do a Bible study, I suppose. You know, but you can’t get a parrot to really – I’m saying a parrot, like, you know, Polly wants a cracker.

Jim: (Laughter) Right. Just to regurgitate a study, yeah.

Todd: Yeah, but you can’t get a parrot to, uh, to build a strong relationship bridge. And, you know – the old saying, people don’t care what you know unless they know that you care – I mean, my kids aren’t going to care at all about what my faith is or what I think about, you know, some apologetic issue, if I don’t have a strong relationship bridge.

Jim: Todd, I want to unbundle this because I think you’re really on to something that’s really important for us in the Christian community. When you see your child not behaving in a way that you think is appropriate, maybe it’s that defiant behavior – disobedient…

Todd: Sure.

Jim: …Those things that are causing you concern, you think the right thing to do is build the third story. OK, we’re going to do bible study, um. You know, Mom and I are concerned about where you’re at, so our remedy for you is we’re going to get into the Word more because, obviously, you don’t know the Word well enough because you’re not behaving the way that demonstrates to me as a parent that you actually know what we’ve been talking about for the last 15 years. (Laughter) I mean, I see the grimness on your face.

Todd: Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah. Yeah, yeah, yeah, no, yeah.

Jim: And we may not say it in that way, but we may say it in our actions.

Todd: Yeah, we might – might, yeah.

Jim: What do you do? I mean, OK, you’re saying back up, build relationship, then begin to introduce these faith concepts in a way that can be heard.

Todd: Yeah, well, to say it in a phrase, I’d say if, you knowto the mom or dad or to myself – I’d say you start with you. I start with me. And I go back and I’d say, um, hey, how am I living? How am I acting? How am I relating? If I got a kid who’s – who’s not talking well, hey, you know, am I willing say, how well am I – how do I communicate? Am I, you know, am I talking? Am I yelling my brains out? Am I harsh? Am I whatever? You, uh, you take the focus off of them and you put that spotlight right square back on yourself, and you get – you get – it’s like a train. If I’m – if I’m the dad or the mom, OK, I’m the, you know, whatever the – I don’t know – train cars – what do you call them? – but wherever the engine of the train is. So if I’m leading the train, well, I better make sure I’m on track before I worry about cart number three or four. ‘Cause if I’m off track, I don’t know how I’m going to help cart number three or four back down there if I’m off track. But if I’m on track, well, then I can do something to help them. So I get myself on track, not in terms of my – my bible study, but in terms of how I’m – how I’m acting out my bible study Monday through Friday.

Jim: How I’m living.

Todd: How I’m talking. How I’m living. I’m connecting, and…

Jim: That’s so true.

Todd: …When that stuff’s on track, then I have built the foundation. Then, I can work on the next story of the house.

Jim: In fact, in the book, and, you know, with these last few minutes I want to concentrate on this. You mention, uh, the idea to do right, right. And then secondly, to do wrong, right. Elaborate on those concepts.

Todd: Sure.

Jim: How do you do right, right?

Todd: Well, I think actually – actually that’s exactly what we’re talking about, uh. My, I’ll just speak of in terms of myself. My boys need a dad who they see, uh, who’s doing his level best, certainly less than perfectly, of course, but who’s – who’s making a genuine effort to, you know, be the kind of Christian he talks about, to – to live properly, to relate properly, to put relationships above things. Though anyway I want to say that, who’s doing his best to do that. And that’s – that’s a good model. And again, that’s what I call an authentic, or just a genuine, not perfect, but just, hey, there’s – you can tell that, that’s what this guy or this lady is about. So they need to see that, but they’re also gonna see lots of mistakes and errors and faults and bad moments in – in that, too. So when that happens, you know, in a sense, you haven’t really blown it as a parent. But what you do have is a unique opportunity.

You have an opportunity to show your kids how to do wrong, right. If you goof up, well, what do you do now? Because as a parent, you can just kind of, say, well, you know, whatever, you know. No one’s sending me to timeout, so I’m OK. And you can just use your parental position of power just to kind of, you know, well, you know, I can lose it and shout, and let’s forget it and just talk about you. And that’s doing wrong, wrong. You want to do wrong, right. And doing wrong, right means if you’ve damaged your relationship, sometimes in my sessions I’ll say, whoever did the hurting should do the fixing, and if that’s me – if I’ve done the hurting if – if I’ve handled a situation poorly, then I need to – I need to own up to that, and I need to apologize. You know, after you’ve apologized to your kids a couple times, you get kind of tired of doing that. You kind of go, I need to straighten this up because I’m not – I don’t want to be apologizing every two days.

Yeah, so you apologize. You take ownership of it. You – you fix the relationship damage that you’ve done, and then you do your level best to get that fixed up in yourself, so you get your train on the track. And then, you can start worrying about their trains.

Jim: I hadn’t thought about this, but it just hit me in the last couple minutes here (laughter). What about you, as parents, if you’re not on the same page? Like one is doing this reasonably well, not perfectly, and the other is – is more rigid, and you’re not in agreement? And you are saying to yourself – maybe not to your spouse – if he or she would just do this differently, our kids would be in a better place? And the other one’s saying the same thing about you.

Todd: Oh, yeah, no.

Jim: And this probably shows up in that passive parenting versus the more rules-oriented parent. And they’re both kind of struggling in that space. Address that.

Todd: Sure.

Jim: Because I think that’s critical.

Todd: Well, that’s – that’s a hard one.

Jim: It is.

Todd: And that’s a tricky spot. Um, because in anything you say, your spouse will be perceived as a criticism. And yeah, it’s a – I’ve certainly run into that a bunch of times. It’s tough. Sometimes that’s where, quite honestly, you need – it would be – you would benefit from a third party there to help. But then what if, you know, parent number two isn’t interested in the third party?

Jim: (Laughter).

Todd: Yeah, so, yeah, yeah.

Jim: Right. You’re the one that needs it, by the way.

John: I’m already doing it right. You’re not.

Jim: Yeah, that confirms my concern about you, Dad. Uh, I’ve been doing it well for years. You’re the problem.

Todd: It’s tough. And then, there’s – there’s not a quick answer. Any parent who’s listening who’s in that spot, they go, yeah, that’s a tough one. The best a parent can do there is, well, a couple of things. They’ll continue to do as well as they can on their own. Um, the one thing I found that – that has been helpful when I’ve had the chance to talk to that second parent in – in a session, is to bring up something that I know that they’re very, very – is very, very important to them, and that is, you know – you know, I’ll just – not to pick on dads, but I’ll say there’s a dad, who’s…

Jim: Ah, pick on dads.

John: Why not?

Jim: We’re used to it.

Todd: So, uh, even – even though that dad may be a little, uh, you know, strong in his style, and maybe that’s not helping so much, maybe he’s not aware of that, um, or not open to it, one of the things that is so important to that dad that I know is in there somewhere is he loves his kids.

Jim: Right.

Todd: And he wants to be a good dad. He’s not like, I want to be the worst dad in the world. He wants to be a good dad. And maybe he’s not aware – maybe it hasn’t, you know, he hasn’t really considered the fact that some of his style, uh, is, over time, going to be pushing his kids away. And – and so – and for – for a mom to even, you know, express that kind of concern – here’s what I’m concerned about – that’s a relationship concern. That, you know, that’s out of love. That – that’s not a criticism. Here’s what I’m afraid might happen. I don’t want to because I know you want to – I – I know you want to be close with with our kids. I know you want to be a great dad, in many ways you are, but when I see this and this happen, this is what I’m afraid of. That’s one way of, at least, getting that conversation started.

Jim: And ironically, that comes down to good communication within your marriage…

Todd: It does.

Jim: …That then translates into your parenting.

Todd: Right.

Jim: Todd, let me ask you this, the, um, best case study you’ve seen in your own practice, where they came in, you heard what was going on, and you’re going, I don’t think I possess the wisdom to help this couple get to where they need to get to, but it happened. What is that hope story that we can end with today that you thought, even as a clinical psychologist, you thought, no way? And then God did a miracle.

Todd: Yeah, yeah. I’ve seen a few. The ones that come to mind, now, I almost hate to say these because I don’t want to like, you know, these these are atypical. So these are – these are not the norm, um, but there’s been a few really, really tough kids – bunch of tough kids. There’s been a few I can think of where we’re at – we’re in our first session, you know, and I’m writing my notes on – to myself I’m going, whoa, OK, this is going to be – woo, this is going to be tough, you know.

Jim: So that’s – you’re not playing tic-tac-toe.

Todd: Yeah, no, no. Yeah, I think, OK, this is – this is some challenging behavior here.

Jim: Yeah.

Todd: And there’s one example that just strikes me – it is really – it was funny, uh. This was a little girl, and she was, oh, I forget, you know, 4 to 6 – somewhere in there. And – and cute little kid. But, boy, was she a handful. (whistle)

Jim: (laughter)

Todd: And uh, and I remember – I remember thinking, whoa, boy, OK, here we go? See, oh, I’ll see what we can do. And, um, got – got teaching her some of the skills that I often teach kids, you know, fast listening and some good, very simple, but really nice little skills. And then I remember, you know, speaking of encouragement. I taught the mom and dad, you know, that word that I call the “pour it on” technique that we talked about a little bit today. And this mom and dad were just all over. They said, oh, we totally get that. That makes perfect sense to us. And they just went like gangbusters. And they just knocked that one out of the ballpark, and this was a really challenging little girl. And the next time I saw ‘em, I’ll never forget. It was – it was humorous. When Mom and dad came in, maybe two weeks later, the Dad wouldn’t stop shaking my hand. I mean, I’m serious. He wouldn’t let my hand go.

Jim: Of the relief they found.

Todd: Oh, yeah. Because – ‘cause they they went home that night, and they just started pouring on like crazy for this little girl. And this little girl was very, very receptive to that. And so we were working on the skills, they were working on their encouragement. Of course, there’s negative consequences as well, you know, during those times, but they really nailed the encouragement part. And this – and he said, uh, you know, her behavior started switching around that day because, you know, you could see her eyes light up. She kind of got, you know, that encouragement was so powerful to her, and the parents did it right and in a very potent way, which is the touch and the specific words. They did it in high frequency. They just nailed it, and, um, yeah, it was crazy.

Jim: And I’m so glad you pointed that out because of everything we’ve talked about, I think the human heart needs that kind of encouragement.

Todd: Sure. Yeah, yeah.

Jim: And you can overcome a lot when you have somebody encouraging you. That’s what the scripture does for us, right? You read Psalms, it’s – it’s encouraging us to get through our tough times. And, uh, that’s what you do as a good parent. And I think that’s, maybe, the most important ingredient, and I’m glad you ended with that. Todd, this has been great.

Todd: Well, Jim, John, always a pleasure, guys.


Jim: I mean, so much fun. Thanks for being with us. Thanks for the insights, and, uh, let me turn to you. If this program and last time has touched your heart, get a copy of Todd’s book,8 Simple Tools For Raising Great Kids. Order it through Focus on the Family. For a gift of any amount, we will send that. If you can’t afford it, we’ll send it, too. And for those that can help us with the gift, um, to cover those costs, I would appreciate it.

John: And you can make a donationand, uh, get Todd’s book,8 Simple Tools For Raising Great Kids, as well as a CD or download of our conversation – we’ll include both days, uh, in that CD or download – at, or give us a call 1-800-A-FAMILY.

Next time, we’ll have a powerful discussion with Stephen Arterburn and Dr. David Stoop about healing from a painful past.


Stephen Arterburn: And if you are saturated with guilt, shame, bitterness, anger– all these things– there is a whole other world waiting for you. But first, you gotta decide, I’m gonna take my life back.

End of Teaser

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8 Simple Tools for Raising Great Kids

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