Home » alien invasions » Who are you…and what have you done with my kid?!?

Who are you…and what have you done with my kid?!?

I talk too much.

OK, you can stop laughing. I’m serious. Those of you who know me In Real Life are laughing because I’m usually not one to speak up or share my thoughts. Those of you who knew me Way Back When are laughing because I used to not know when to shut up. Those of you who know me only from my writing are laughing…well, because it’s a funny thing to say. I talk too much. Especially when it comes to my kids. When one of the little buggers is out of line, they’re gonna hear about it from me.

Michael is guiltier of verbal parenting diarrhea than I am. He’s the peacemaker. He wants to talk it out, reason with our kids, help them understand, talk them down. (He learned awhile ago not to do that with me until I cool off and have some space.) The problem is that when our kids are all riled up and unkind and disrespectful, talking doesn’t work. Yelling, especially. Doesn’t work. In fact – and you probably know this as well as I do – yelling and screaming only makes both parties more angry and drives a big ol’ wedge between us and our kids. Everybody loses.

But here’s what I learned this week. When it comes to parenting, less is more. Less talking, more action. Let the actions speak instead of the words.

It’s been a rough summer. Back up. It’s been a rough…7+ years. Off and on. I’m not naming any names, but there’s a certain little someone who has been veeerrrrryyy unhappy for quite some time. And when he’s mad, he makes everyone…less than happy.

(How’s that for diplomatic?)

It seems we’ve tried everything. Threats. Bribes. Rewards. Punishments. Grounding. Swats. Choices.

And, of course, all the talking.

None seem to do the trick with this little certain, highly valuable and loved member of our family. At least for very long.

You probably know how that goes. (If you don’t, you haven’t been a parent long enough.) His behavior put a strain on everyone. “When he was good, he was very, very good/And when he was bad, he was horrid.” All he needs is a curl in the middle of his forehead…

(That probably makes no sense to you if you don’t know the rhyme. Sorry. There I go again with All The Talking.)

So Kevin Leman came to our church this week – Sunday morning, Sunday night, Monday night – speaking on marriage and parenting. He published a book a few years ago called “How to Have a New Kid by Friday: Changing your child’s Attitude, Behavior & Character in 5 days” (along with “Have a New Husband by Friday”) – both of which were the central topics to his lectures.

We bought a huge stack of books after the Sunday night session. I started reading “New Kid” on Monday morning and began putting some of his principles into practice as I was reading. Here’s how it went:

Monday morning. The kids had spent the night at my parents’ house on Sunday so we could go to the conference, and I met my mom on Monday morning to pick them up. Certain unnamed middle child was true-to-form. Unkind, disrespectful…just plain mean. I could tell my normally easy-going, tolerant, patient mother was done. (Can’t say that I blame her.) So we said good-bye at Starbuck’s and drove to Michael’s office to pick up the glasses for Oldest and Youngest. Middle was pushing all the buttons – whiny, argumentative, impatient, irritated. Miserable.

We left the office, stopped by home for some lunch, and then went to the library because Monday is Library Day and a highlight of my week because I can sit and read while the kids pick out their books and play on the computers and NO ONE TALKS TO ME. On the way out the door, I grabbed Dr. Leman’s book, and when we got to the library, I found My Spot and began reading.

Now as a bit of important background information, you should know that Middle’s birthday was last week, and he received a large number of Target gift cards, and he was anxious to spend them. I had gotten through Chapter 1 when he came to me and asked if we could go to Target after we left the library. I looked straight at him and calmly and respectfully replied, “No. We’re not going.” Which, of course, was countered with “WHHHHYYYYY????? MOOOOOMMMM! I WANNA GO TO TAAAARRRRRGET!”

Again, I calmly said, “No. I didn’t like the way you were treating your family this morning, so we’re not going.”

(More whining.)

So I stood up, turned my back, and walked to another chair, sat down, and continued my reading – which was followed by more whining and arguing. So I stood up, turned my back, and walked to another chair.

He gave up.


Back at home, more yelling, more unkindness, more disrespect. And as EXTREMELY DIFFICULT as it is for me to not dish out an immediate consequence, I said nothing.

Fast forward a couple of hours. Youngest had his weekly gymnastics class, at which Middle and I always sit and watch while Middle (occasionally) gets a snack from the vending machine and listens to my iPod. As we were walking in, Middle asks me about getting a snack and borrowing my iPod. As before, I said “no. I didn’t like the way you were treating your family this afternoon, so you may not get a snack, and you may not listen to my iPod.”

Once again, there was an expected and appropriate amount of arguing and whining. I didn’t react. I calmly repeated (once) the reason, then I ignored the subsequent arguments. He finally gave up and sat quietly next to me for the remainder of class. As he sat there, I ran my fingers through that curly mop on his head – one of his favorite forms of my affection.

And then…

This was amazing. Unbelieveable. I was floored.

At the end of class, Middle stood up and retrieved Youngest’s shoes from the cubby, hugged him as he finished his class, and for the rest of the evening WAS PERFECTLY PLEASANT AND AGREEABLE.

Forget 5 days. I had a new kid by 5:00.

I promise I’m not making this up.

Tuesday morning. Middle child was once again pleasant and compliant, and he asked if we could go to Target. We had a crazy day ahead of us, but I told him that depending on time and his behavior, we could possibly go.

Not ten minutes later, he was yelling at Youngest and taking a (stupid) video game away from him. Once again, even though it KILLED ME to restrain myself, I didn’t say a word. I looked at him, but I didn’t say anything.

Sure enough, it wasn’t long before he asked me again to go to Target. And, once again, I responded, “No. We’re not going.” Whining, arguing, complaining, yelling. “I didn’t like the way you treated your brother this morning. We’re not going.”

This time, he didn’t argue. He knew he was busted, and he knew I wasn’t going to engage in any type of argument with him.

I’m not lying. The rest of the day, he was pretty darn near perfect. Pleasant. Agreeable. Respectful. Kind.

It worked!

{insert angelic chorus}

Wednesday morning. Who are you and what have you done with my disrespectful, argumentative, whiny kid?

We had to clean the house because the cleaning lady was coming (which has never made sense to me, but that’s the way it is). Miraculously Transformed Middle Child was playing the Wii when I spoke his name. He immediately paused the game, turned and looked at me, and when I asked him to go pick up his things off the playroom floor, he chimed, “OK,” went into the playroom – then turned and said, “May you please ask Youngest to come help me?” I calmly explained that Youngest had already picked up their shared bedroom, and that there wasn’t much to do in the playroom. He chimed, “OK” and proceeded to clean up.

My jaw was on the floor.

It’s been like that ALL. DAY. LONG. I keep waiting for his skin to unzip and reveal the alien hidden inside.

We spent two hours merrily roaming the aisles of Target while he found junk treasures to purchase with his birthday gift cards. Two hours. And we had a really good time together. (Did I mention it was TWO HOURS? Picture that. Two hours. In Target. With three kids. And one of those very large motorhome-type carts. And everyone is smiling. Miraculous, I’m tellin’ ya.)

When we came home? No fighting. No yelling. No arguing. (Well, except that one time when Youngest wanted to play with a toy that Middle had bought with his gift cards – the second he took it out of the package and had it in his hands – minor scuffle, then at my gentle suggestion, Middle told Youngest that he could play with the toy at Sometime O’Clock. End of disagreement.)

Now, as this was my first day and all, my strategy wasn’t textbook Leman. Even though I used very few words, I probably used more than he would have recommended. But it still worked beautifully. Love this book. It does go into more detail about shaping Attitude, Behavior & Character; reality discipline (aka, natural consequences); parenting styles; praise vs. encouragement; instilling true self-worth with Acceptance, Belonging & Competence. Really good stuff. Then the second half of the book addresses specific situations and questions, such as allowance, slamming doors, sibling rivalry, stealing, bedtime battles, manners, etc. (I haven’t read the second half yet. Getting there.)

So there ya go. Less talking. More action. Happy kid. Happy mom. Happy family. I’m waiting for the bubble to burst and the aliens to return my son back to Earth and tell me it was all a big misunderstanding…but I’ll be ready when they do. Bring it on.


5 thoughts on “Who are you…and what have you done with my kid?!?

  1. So what if you don't talk but only grunt and throw the tupperware across the kitchen that you just removed from the dishwasher? Never mind…after I "cooled down" and came back to the kitchen I still had to vent my frustration at my children's ability to make an argument out of nothing!!! I swear that is what they live for…what can we argue about next. Maybe they need to sign up for the debate team. On the other hand, as much as I wish I had handled my frustration differently, they were all very nice to each other after my little tantrum. Hmmmm…what would Leman say about that? BTW…love all of my little darlings and yours too!

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