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Kevin Leman: Parenting Your Powerful Child

An adult who throws a temper tantrum at home or work, a teenager who has to have things his way all the time, an 8 year old who throws a baseball bat or a 3 year old who refuses to go potty are all examples of powerful people. Dr. Leman says every family has a powerful child that controls your family. He’s the child who is orchestrating your entire household by his antics – or the fear of his antics. She’s the one who frustrates you to the point that you take it out on other family members because you don’t want to face a blowout with her. Dr. Leman admits he was the powerful child in his family growing up. He says he is thankful his mom did not give up on him despite his behavior. She lived long enough to see him make something of himself, because she, one of his high school teachers, and his wife-to-be all believed he could take his innate power skills to use them to entertain and help people form rock-solid families.

Dr. Leman says it is important to identify powerful children early.  “Powerful young kids become powerful junior highers, who become powerful high schoolers, who become powerful adults,” he says.  It is important to learn how to curb powerful attention-getting behavior so your child can one day become a productive adult.

The life themes you’ve developed have everything to do with how you parent your own children. Authoritative parents are as headstrong as their children. They return power for power. Dr. Leman says the authoritative parent feels they know what is best for their child because they are the adult. Permissive parents create tyrants. You do everything in your power to keep your powerful child happy. For example, you give the car keys to your child even though she has already received two speeding tickets. As the parent, your role is to have  in proper authority over your children. Don’t utter edicts over them. Instead, give your child age appropriate choices. Your child wants: to feel valued, to be loved unconditionally, to be taken seriously, and to contribute to your family.

All kids are attention-getters. Some children get attention by getting good grades in school, pleasing their parents, or being helpful around the house. Others get it by driving their parents crazy with their antics so that you have to pay attention. Dr. Leman says he got terrible grades in school. He began to equate his skills with his grades. It wasn’t until his teacher told him he could use his skills for a positive purpose that he even thought he had skills. Dr. Leman says you too can transform the power surges of your child into positive urges by breaking some bad habits:

  • Don’t set up your child – Parents need to think before they speak and act. Otherwise they set up situations that allow their kid’s power to flourish even more.
  • Anticipate the start of the battle – The best predictor of future behavior is what has happened before. Be aware of those areas that trigger a power surge with your child.
  • Respond rather than react – Disarming your power-driven child will only happen if you change your thinking, your approach, and the words you choose to say and you respond rather than react. Be aware of your body language and expressions. Take these responses out of your vocabulary: “What is wrong with you?”; “We never had this problem with your brother.” “Your kid will power up if you power up. Your kid will power down if you power down,” shares Dr. Leman. Your kid will change if you are willing to put time and effort into changing yourself. Change is all about making the choice to behave differently.

Dr. Leman says you can encourage your child’s positive goals and healthy beliefs about himself. He suggests you keep a little notebook to benefit your child and record the following:

  • Emerging talents
  • Milestone events
  • Times you catch him or her doing good
  • Unique ways she contributes to your family

Then give the notebook to your child as a surprise on her birthday or any other special occasion. Your powerful child needs to know that he or she is special and they are a valuable member of your family.

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