Q&A with Dr. Kevin Leman
MTL Note: Does it feel like there is a constant power struggle between you and your children? In Parenting Your Powerful Child, New York Times bestselling author Dr. Kevin Leman offers a practical action plan to redirect your child’s power surges into positive traits. Recently, MTL had the opportunity to ask internationally known psychologist, radio and television personality, Dr. Kevin Leman what makes a powerful child and what can parents do about this.
MTL: What led you to write the book Parenting Your Powerful Child? And why is a book like this important today?
KL: I read my emails and homes are being invaded by these powerful little critters some people call children. They have a sense of entitlement that doesn’t stop and, like fools, parents have bent over backward trying to make sure that little Fletcher is always a happy Fletcher. Based on my Facebook feedback and my visiting with parents across the U.S. and Canada, parents will devour this book.
MTL: How has your background in family psychology played a part in writing this?
KL: One of the mainstays of Individual Psychology is the fact that children misbehave for primarily two basic reasons – 1) for attention and 2) to gain power.
MTL: What exactly is a “powerful child”?
KL: A powerful child is one that makes you want to Fed Ex him to a far off land. He always has to have the last word. Talking to him is like talking to the proverbial wall. A powerful child has an agenda—to win, to dominate, to control. There’s a power source for this child, it’s found in his home and it’s called a parent.
MTL: The subtitle of your first chapter is “Powerful kids don’t just happen; they’re created.” So are powerful children born that way or are they made to be that way?
KL: I’d be the first to say that everyone is born with a temperament; and although that’s part of the puzzle, the main determinate is the interaction between the parent and the child. For example, an 18-month old arches her back and makes it extra difficult to put her in the high chair. Parent says, “You know, this is too much trouble, I’ll just hold her.” Now, you be the 18-month old for just a minute. Would you rather eat your meal on the warm lap of Mommy or Daddy or in the uncomfortable plastic or wooden high chair? So through trial and error kids learn how to manipulate their environment and usurp power as they go through life.
MTL: How would you address someone who might say that you are stifling a child’s personality by trying to change his or her strong will?
KL: The book is not about changing a child’s strong will. Most of us would like our children to have a strong will. A powerful child has an agenda. You don’t want to know what I would tell that person.
MTL: What are some of the suggestions you have for parents to redirect their child’s need for power?
KL: I’d give them dominion over the rake, the snow shovel, the mop, and the cleanser.
MTL: How would you encourage a parent who feels overwhelmed by the task of redirecting their child’s power struggle?
KL: Stop asking questions. Don’t try to micromanage them. Let the reality of situation be the teacher to the child. (If a child chooses not to eat, he’s going to be hungry. And chances are he’ll probably eat before the sun goes down.) Eating, sleeping, and going potty are three of the most common natural things a human being can do. Parents get themselves into all kinds of trouble in these areas by overdoing it.