Stepson problems: How do I get my husband to parent well? – Ask Dr. Leman 135 (Episode 287)

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By Dr. Kevin Leman: NY Times Best Selling Author. Discovered by Player FM and our community — copyright is owned by the publisher, not Player FM, and audio is streamed directly from their servers. Hit the Subscribe button to track updates in Player FM, or paste the feed URL into other podcast apps.

It’s time for another Ask Dr. Leman: “Stepson problems: How do I get my husband to parent well?” Dorthy is a stepmother struggling with her husband’s passiveness towards parenting his son. Listen in to find out what advice Dr. Leman gives her in today’s episode.

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Transcript

Doug: Do you have a husband who’s passive when it comes to parenting? Who just kind of sits there like a lump? And then once the kid bothers him enough he blows up like Mount Vesuvius? Well, we have a mom who’s calling in and saying, that’s my husband. Dr. Leman, fix him for me. Let’s find out how Dr. Leman can fix him.

Doug: Hi, I’m Doug Terpening.

Dorthy: And I’m Andrea.

Doug: And we are so happy that you are with us today. Truly, I am thankful that you are here, and just want to let you know if this is your first time, this is for your education and entertainment purposes only. If the subject matter raises any concerns for you or your child, please go seek a local professional for help.

Doug: Well, this is a podcast question that Dorthy is going to leave for us here in just a moment, and I just want to remind you, you guys can go to birthorderguy.com, birthorderguy.com/podcastquestion, or hunt around the website, and you can leave your own audio question. Also there’s resources in there. If you want to find out about Dr. Leman himself, go to birthorderguy.com.

Doug: Now, let’s jump in and hear Dorthy’s question.

Dorthy: I am Dorthy from Las Vegas. This is about my five year old stepson, Nathan. Upfront, letting you know I don’t discipline my stepson. His dad, my husband, should be in charge of that. He’s the parent, I’m not. Just asking this to help my husband. He says he’ll listen to what you say.

Dorthy: Nathan is five. He’s an only child. He is extremely powerful. Both of his parents are powerful people, but in different ways. His mother uses reward-punishment parenting. That does not work. My husband’s very passive with occasional eruptions of authoritarianism. Nathan’s very used to getting his way. He is coddled and spoiled by both sides of the family, which my husband acknowledges. He threw power tantrums, which finally stopped after I encouraged my husband to use the techniques in your books. When he complained, nothing he did worked. Now Nathan has moved on to what I call quiet tantrums. If he’s told no or his demands are not instantly met to his exact requirements, he throws himself to the floor in a dramatic heap and lays there, or he huffs, crosses his arms, and glares at you and stomps around.

Dorthy: So I guess my questions are what discipline should my husband use for the quiet tantrum? How long should that discipline be in effect? And will it even work if his mom has no interest in your advice and continues to coddle and spoil him?

Dr. Leman: Wow. Thanks for the easy question, Dorthy. Well, there’s so many things in that. Well, number one, hats off to you, Dorthy. You’re a good articulator of the problem for sure.

Dr. Leman: But let’s start with you. You have to understand something. That your husband, I don’t think you gave him a name. I’ll give him a name. Clem. The problem is that Clem married you because, or one of the reasons why he married you, is because he thought that you would be in charge of little Nathan, the tyrant. I mean, that’s how it is. If he’s passive, he’s saying you deal with it. I also love your diagnosis of him being a controller, because he is. He’s a powerful person. I think you said powerful. And powerful and controller are basically the same.

Dr. Leman: A couple of things I would suggest. Number one, I would suggest you say to your husband, Clem, Clem, would you just tell me what a perfect day would be in your life relating to me and your son, our relationship? Just tell me what a perfect day would be like. Now, the reason, I’m sure the Terpenings right now are rolling their eyes saying, where is Leman going with this? But people who sort of lay in the weeds and they’re passive and they’re quiet, they know exactly how life ought to be. They get angrier and angrier when they see life unfold before them that is not in accordance with how they think it ought to be. We can call him King Clem, which might give you some perspective on this, Dorthy. He’s the king, and when you cross the king, he’s going to explode. So you’ve got the explosive parent on one hand, and then you’ve got coddling mom on the other hand. I mean, if there’s a disastrous paradigm for raising a kid that will be monstrous, that’s it. So as you’ve already indicated, at age five he’s already a very powerful child.

Dr. Leman: In terms of you asking the question, what discipline should Clem use? Well, you’ve got the books, you’ve read the books, you know what he should be doing. The problem is he doesn’t do it. So as long as you step in and do anything, we get nowhere. So you need to go on strike. Your commitment to your husband has to be, I’m not dealing with this stuff. Now again, the question has to be asked, well, who is around five-year-old the most? If the answer is you, and your husband’s at work someplace and you’re at home with the child, and I have no idea if that’s true or not, but who was ever around that child the most is the one that’s going to have more influence on him.

Dr. Leman: So when he does things like he throws himself on the floor, leave him there. I mean, please don’t try to get him up. If he wants to make it a power tantrum by pounding the floor or hitting his head or whatever kids want to do, I mean, so be it. It won’t last for long as long as he doesn’t have an audience. Again, that’s purpose of behavior. That power tantrum serves a purpose in his life. So when you remove the audience from the temper tantrum, there’s no sense to little Nathan to keep doing his dog and pony show.

Dr. Leman: Now he stares at you. I can just see him crossing his arms and give you this vicious stare. I would just smile like the village idiot back at him when he does that, and then I turn and I’d leave. I wouldn’t get caught up in his power moves. He’s like the spider that’s inviting you into his web, and stay out of his web.

Dr. Leman: You need to have a heart to heart with your husband and say, Clem, my man, I’m about done here. I didn’t sign up for this. We’re partners in this thing and so far you’re not pulling your share, and I’m getting mighty sick of it. And so that straight talk ought to get his attention if he really cares for you.

Dr. Leman: So those are a few openers and Dr. Terpening and his wife, Mrs. Dr. Terpening, will now interject their ideas because their parents of four children.

Doug: I’m going back to your… You’re right. I am scratching my chin and head and saying, why would I ask Clem what is your ideal day? How is that going to help the parenting process?

Dr. Leman: Because it’s going to reveal that he does know exactly how he wants to be treated as king and how he thinks ought to be going on in his life, in his home. It gives you a roadmap to what he expects. Because see the guy that’s just going to explode, he doesn’t tell people this is bothering me, I’m uncomfortable with this, I don’t like that. He just simmers and then he gets to a boil and then he explodes. So if we’re going to have any kind of communication from this guy, we have to understand what’s a perfect day? How can I help you have a perfect day, hubby?

Dr. Leman: I mean it’s almost funny to say. None of us have perfect days. But at least you get a roadmap in your mind of what he thinks ought to happen. But when he starts to share that, it certainly is a time for Dorthy to give her side of the things about how she sees it in his lack of partnership and how that’s taking a toll on their relationship, because clearly it does.

Andrea: Do you think he’ll recognize that he’s treating them as though he should be king, or do you think this is more for Dorthy to recognize that?

Dr. Leman: No, I think that would be new information for him. But if you look at the behavior, what’s the purpose of the nature of the explosive behavior, the yelling, the screaming, the overt action to pounding on a table or whatever? It’s sometimes just people are getting too close to me, or sometimes the situation has just got to a point where I can’t tolerate it anymore. What you want him to be able to do is articulate his feelings before they get to a blowout place.

Dr. Leman: So tell me, how would you like your day to go? Now let’s just assume she’s a stay at home mom and he comes home from work and he has expectations about what should happen when the king comes through the door. Well, I’ve got news for you, every queen in America has assumptions about what happens when the king comes home. And what she wants to hear is, honey, what can I do to help? Especially if there’s a five-year-old in the house. So it gives her a platform to say, hey, wait a minute. This is a partnership, and right now I feel like I’m doing 95% of it, and much of that is caring for your son. He’s not my son.

Dr. Leman: I applaud Dorthy. Dorthy sees it as it is. She sees real clearly. And the books are there. Those techniques are time tested. Things like B doesn’t start till A gets completed. What could be more basic than that?

Doug: So Dorthy goes to Clem and says, Clem, listen. I’m not doing anymore. I’m taking a step back. This is your son. You’ve got to deal with it. Blah, blah, blah. And he just blankly looks at her and blinks and just kind of shuts down. And how does she deal with that?

Dr. Leman: I’m calling daycare. We’re going to set something up where instead of coming home from school here, since you’re not here, he’s going to go to a daycare facility. Which we are going to pay for.

Dr. Leman: Or you know what? I haven’t visited my mom in a long time. I’m out for a month. You deal with this. When you come up with a viable plan, I’ll pitch in and meet you 50-50. But I feel like I’m being taken advantage of.

Dr. Leman: I think Dorthy’s got some guts and I think she will.

Doug: Andrea, could you say that, do you think? I’m leaving to go see mom for a month, and when you decide that we’re going to do 50-50, I’ll come back.

Andrea: I don’t think I could. But from listening to Dorthy, I think she could.

Dr. Leman: I think you could, Mrs. Terpening. I think you could, and you would, if you were married to Clem. You’re lucky, you’re married to a sweet boy. Future Farmer of America, or whatever he is.

Doug: What did you drink?

Dr. Leman: Listen people, this is a guy that’s comfortable around pigs. Okay? He loves animals.

Doug: Oh my gosh.

Dr. Leman: They’ve got a barnyard out there, I’m telling you.

Andrea: Yeah.

Dr. Leman: They have to close the barn door when we do the podcast because you hear the chickens.

Doug: Oh my gosh. Oh my God. That’s because I’m married to Farmer Andrea, right?

Andrea: That is the truth.

Dr. Leman: We’re going too far this morning, aren’t we?

Doug: Yes, we are. We are.

Andrea: Back to Dorthy and Nathan.

Doug: Back to Dorthy. So Dorthy has the moxie to do this. But what about all these other ladies that are out there that are like, ooh wow, if I really stood up to my husband and said, guess what? I’m going to mom’s for a month until you decide to meet me 50-50. And that husband says, you dare leave this house and blah, blah, blah, blah, blah. What advice would you give those gals?

Dr. Leman: You have to remember that the situation we’re talking about is a situation where this is not her child. Okay? And remember what I said. This husband, when he married Dorthy, said, oh great, Dorthy will care of Nathan. I’m out. I’m free. He’s washing his hands.

Dr. Leman: And he’s passive. Now, what’s the other side of passive? What’s the word? Aggressive. So lots of times people who seem very milk toast-like are very aggressive in seemingly not an aggressive manner, if that makes sense.

Andrea: Yeah.

Dr. Leman: So again, ladies, if you’re in a situation, okay, and you just feel like you’re trapped, you don’t know what to do, I’ll give you a suggestion. Pick up a copy of Smart Women Know When To Say No. It’s a little paperback book by me. It costs, I think, a whole 6.99 in paperback. It’s one of those little pocket books. It’s jam packed with great stuff. It was a national bestseller, okay? That book has all kinds of great stuff. So if you’re a person who just sort of goes with the flow, and people say to you, oh, I don’t know how you do it, and might admit you have a little martyr in you and you have a hard time standing up for yourself, or if you just need a little push, Smart Women Know When To Say No is a great resource for you.

Doug: It’s a great idea. We’re going to take a break because I don’t want to forget to do the ebook promotion, but when I come back, Andrea, I’m going to ask you, do you remember when you finally figured out how to say no and what happened to you?

Doug: So the ebook promotion that I’m super excited about is Have A New Sex Life By Friday. November 12th through 30th of 2019 for a 1.99. While the title is fairly clear, Dr. Leman, what is this book about?

Dr. Leman: Well again, you know, I think it’s interesting. I think our last offer was on the book Under The Sheets, and I noticed they extended the sale of it. When they extend the sale of something, it’s not because it’s not selling, it’s because people are buying it.

Dr. Leman: So a lot of people are a little timid about going into a bookstore and picking up a copy of Have A New Sex Life By Friday, but like all books relating to sex, a great majority of that book ought to be talking about communication and how to develop that intimate connection. In fact, I wrote a book called The Intimate Connection. But as we strive to become one in marriage, there’s a lot of variables that get in your way. And a lot of them you brought from your home that you grew up in. Your prejudices, your thoughts, and your ideas, and all that. So Have A New Sex Life By Friday is an opportunity for you to examine your life in relationship to the one you love.

Dr. Leman: It’s a gut check. You’ll be challenged to think through some things, and maybe see things a little bit more realistically than you do right now. It’s well worth it. It’s a fun book to read. Anytime you talk about sex, I think there ought to be humor in it, and there is humor in that book.

Dr. Leman: And speaking of humor, this just jettisoned into my mind, excuse me. But early in my marriage I decided that after a shower what I really needed to do was just dance for my wife. And I thought, wow, she’s going to love this. And I’ll never forget what she said. She said, Lemy, Lemy, Lemy, that is not a good look. So you know, men, we don’t always see things accurately. Women don’t always understand us. There’s a lot to figuring out where you are in marriage, and sex is such an important part of it. Whether you’re struggling or whether you’re enjoying it, it’s a great part of your relationship. So pick up a copy, and you can do that right now by just downloading it, right? For how much? 1.99?

Doug: Yes. A $1.99.

Doug: Dr. Leman, we have lost Andrea for the rest of the podcast. She’s over there just cracking up laughing. You have killed her with your story. Oh my gosh. Andrea can’t-

Andrea: Thanks, Dr. Leman.

Doug: She’s got tears in her eyes. Oh my God.

Andrea: I think it’s time for that no nonsense moment with Dr. Leman.

Doug: She is ready to move on. We’re moving.

Dr. Leman: It’s a visual. It’s a visual. Everybody visualize that.

Doug: Oh, you’ve killed her. You’ve killed her. Okay, what am I supposed to do? Oh, I’m supposed to tell you how much. $1.99 on ebook, November 12th through the 30th of 2019.

Doug: And now as Andrew would like us to go to, a no nonsense parenting moment with Dr. Kevin Leman.

Dr. Leman: Here’s one for you, and it’s not even brought to you by State Farm Insurance, but when do you let your son or daughter drive the family car? That’s the question. I get asked that a lot. Well, obviously you have to wait until they’re of age. In most states it’s 16 when they can get a permit. Some states you can get at 15 and a few months. But here’s the question I’d ask you to ask yourselves. Did that son or daughter take care of their bike? Did they take care of other things they’ve owned along the way? Or were they the ones that just threw things down, left things out in the rain, didn’t seem to take much care and pride in what you got them? If that’s the case, I’d be leery at the get go to think that I’m going to hand the keys over to a kid who hasn’t got a good track record of taking care of things.

Dr. Leman: If I’m going to give my son or daughter a car, I want to know that they’re going to take pride in the fact that I believe in them, that I trust him with this automobile, that if there’s an accident it could cost me a lot of grief, time, and money. So that’s checkpoint number one.

Dr. Leman: Checkpoint number two. Is your son or daughter responsible in a general sense? Do they get good grades in school? I mean, insurance companies will offer you a discount if they have a B average or above. So these are all sort of background things. Then when you come to when do you let a kid drive the family car, there has to be some rules governing the use of family car. And who better to come up with those rules than your son or your daughter? They’ll be tougher on themselves, trust me. We did this with all of our kids.

Dr. Leman: And by the way, I taught four of our five kids to drive. By the time the fifth one came around, I went Mr. B’s Driving School, or something to that effect. And they did a great job and it saved me a lot of stress, let’s put it that way. If you’ve taught kids to drive, you know what I’m talking about. Oh my goodness. We have some stories in the Leman family about that wonderful adventure.

Dr. Leman: But the point is, you give the keys to the car to a kid when you can really honestly look yourself in the mirror and say, you know, I really trust this son, I really trust his daughter. They’ve got good judgment. And of course, you do have to make sure they’re ready to take the wheel of that car by themselves, and obviously there’s a lot of time and hours spent with supervision before you turn those kids loose.

Dr. Leman: You know, I’m well past social security age now, and I still remember what my father told me. Never make a left hand turn until you can see the complete lane. To this day, I have never ever taken a left hand turn without seeing that clear lane. That’s how you stay out of terrible accidents, isn’t it?

Dr. Leman: So we all need guidance from our parents, Hey, give your kids guidance, but do you really trust them? Are they really responsible? Those are the questions only you can answer.

Doug: Alrighty. So, Andrea.

Andrea: Yeah.

Doug: So Dr. Leman is saying smart women know when to say no. Do you remember when you finally had the guts to finally say no to me?

Andrea: Yeah. I think maybe we’ve shared this on the podcast before, but you were really angry at me, and you were calling me a liar. Right?

Doug: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Andrea: Yeah. And I just remember that part. What did I say?

Doug: Oh, you just fired back up to me.

Andrea: Yeah, I yelled at you.

Doug: Yeah.

Andrea: I don’t remember what I said.

Doug: Yeah.

Andrea: But then you started applauding me, and you were glad that I actually stood up to you.

Doug: Right.

Andrea: That I didn’t let you continue to run over me.

Doug: Correct. But just for context, this is like six years, seven years in to our marriage, probably, before-

Andrea: No, no, no. Oh, into our marriage. Yes.

Doug: Yeah. So it took her a long time. But after that, what changed?

Andrea: You started respecting me more and listening to what I had to say.

Doug: And I went and read some books about my anger and it changed me. So Dr. Leman, for those women that hear Andrea’s story, like I live with this vicious beast and if I stand up to him, he’s just going to fire up more. What have you found is historically what happens when women finally say no?

Dr. Leman: What happens is men do pay attention. We get used to patterns. If you married a pleaser who wants the oceans to lie smooth, most of those women just sort of roll with the punches, and before long you figure, hey, what I say goes around here. I’ve got it made. And in the process you start to take this lovely gift, your wife, for granted. Which is never good. And then all of a sudden whatever happens and she stands up to you, all of a sudden you take notice. You realize that maybe there’s some things in your life you should really be changing or you’re going to ruin this relationship.

Dr. Leman: And if more people could do what you were able to do, Doug, and just sort of do a self examination and say, okay Lord, I’ve got to do some changing in my life here, and do so, it would be a much, much better world for sure.

Dr. Leman: But hey, before I forget, I want to tell our podcast guys on November 16 and 17, those are weekend days if I remember right, I will be on The Huckabee Show with Mike Huckabee. Mike is one likable guy. He is the real deal. You’ll find him, if you’re unfamiliar, with the TBN Network. That’s the Trinity Broadcasting Network. It’s one of the Christian networks. But I have Dish at my home, and it’s number 260 on Dish.

Dr. Leman: I’ve watched his show, and it’s a fun, entertaining show that has comedians, actors, actresses, politicians, shrinks, authors. It’s a fun show. Huckabee Show. It’s on Saturdays and Sundays on the TBN Network. And I’ll be there on November 16 and 17. Tune in. We’re talking about the intimate connection. We’re talking about marriage. So if you’re interested, November 16 and 17. Make a note.

Doug: And look for your socks, right? The socks that you’ll be wearing, Dr. Leman.

Dr. Leman: Yeah.

Doug: Okay, moving on. And so you have the ebook promotion of Have A New Sex Life By Friday, but also Dr. Leman has helped you if you don’t feel as strong as Dorthy, Smart Women Know When To Say No. Highly, highly, highly recommend it for you so that you can have the confidence and see the changes in your marriage like Andrea and I saw in ours. So I highly encourage you.

Doug: Dorthy, thank you a ton for your question. We love it, and we just cherish that you guys would trust us with your questions, and hopefully you’re finding the answers and solutions to the problems that you have so that you can add to that parenting toolbox and love them kids more and more.

Doug: Well, it was great to be with you today and we look forward to the next time.

Andrea: Have a great week.

Doug: Take care. Bye-bye.

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