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How To Set Limits and Boundaries That Work With Our Teens

Kimball Lewis is the CEO of EmpoweringParents.com, which is dedicated to empowering parents with the tools to manage the most challenging behavior problems. Kimball is committed to ensuring that the timeless and practical parenting advice of James Lehman and The Total Transformation® endures for future generations of parents struggling to manage the most challenging child behavior problems. 

Today, Kimball and I discuss setting limits and boundaries and how to enforce consequences with our tweens and teens.

Let’s dig in!

Scroll down to read the full episode transcribed.

What You Will Learn: 

  • Why do parents struggle so much with settling limits with our tweens and teens? 
  • What are some of the common mistakes parents make when it comes to setting limits? 
  • What happens when there are no limits? 
  • Where can parents start setting limits? 
  • How do you decide what your basic values are in the household?
  • Why are consequences necessary?
  •  How are consequences different than punishment? 
  •  What are some of the mistakes parents make when it comes to setting consequences?
  •  What are some effective consequences?

Where to find Kimball:

Find more encouragement, wisdom, and resources:

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And here is the episode typed out!

Welcome to the Moms of Tweens and Teens Podcast. If some days you doubt yourself and don’t know what you’re doing. If you’ve ugly cried alone in your bedroom because you felt like you were failing. Well, I just want to let you know you are not alone, and you have come to the right place.

Raising tweens and teens in today’s world is not easy. And I’m on a mission to equip you to love well and to raise emotionally healthy, happy tweens and teens that thrive.

I believe that moms are heroes, and we have the power to transform our families and impact future generations. If you are looking for answers, encouragement, and becoming more of the mom and the woman that you want to be, welcome. I am Sheryl Gould. And I am so glad that you’re here.

SHERYL:  Hi, Kimball Welcome to the Moms of Tweens and Teens Podcast. I am so happy to have you on the show and to have this opportunity to talk to you.

KIMBALL: Hi, Sheryl. Thanks for having me. This is exciting.

SHERYL:  Yes, for me, too, because we are going to be talking about setting limits and setting boundaries and having consequences today, which is a huge challenge for parents with tweens and teens. 

It is one of the biggest areas I hear from moms, like. I don’t know how to set limits with my kid. They have attitudes, disrespect, and all things they’re struggling with. So this is going to be invaluable to our listeners. 

But before we get started on that, I would love for you to share about yourself and your background because your story is really interesting about how you started doing what you do. So I’ll just give you the floor.

KIMBALL: Okay, so I’m Kimble Lewis. And I am the CEO of empoweringparents.com. And I’ve been with them since 2016. And before that, my background, right out of school, for my first six years of work, I worked for a think tank in Washington, DC. And we did Social Policy Research, foster care, child care, and all sorts of stuff.  

I also did the Big Brother program in two different cities. So that was a little bit of my background and what academically got me interested in these topics. 

But then, after about six years of doing that, my life changed. I ended up moving into technology, worked in healthcare technology, did a bunch of startups for about 15 years, and had a technology background. 

That was a big part of my career. In addition to having two boys, my wife and I have two boys. And then, around 2016 or so, the company’s owner, that distributed the Total Transformation Program, a child behavior program put together by James Lehman, came to me and said he was looking for a CEO to run his company. 

His company had to make a turn and start distributing their stuff in a more technological way, not as books and DVDs that you purchase. By answering a radio ad, but by using podcasts like we’re doing here, and the stuff needs to stream online.

But anyway, I had a technology background, plus I had this other experience in child and childcare issues and that type of stuff. So, I started helping him find a CEO. And about six weeks into he turned to me, he said, Why don’t you do it? And, I’m like, I can see myself as a technology technologist. 

And he goes, No, you could do it. Because you’re talking about the programs, and you’ve met James and the program. He goes, I think you could do it. And, I don’t know, I was at a point in my life where I was ready to try something different. 

I would always wonder what would have happened if I had tried this. . And so we did it. We gave it a try. And now it’s six years into it. It’s been incredible. It’s been, it’s been awesome. 

And then the thing I like about most is that for most of my career, my customer and clients have been in another business like an insurance company, the federal government, or whatever. So they never write me emails telling me how thankful they were for all our work, how helpful it was, or whatever we get every day from the parents that we work with. 

We’ve helped many parents with these programs who are struggling with a child with behavior issues, and it’s not the parent’s fault they get they got a tough kid when your kids are gonna be a tough one. So and you might have had two that were relatively easy. 

So it’s not your fault. Like you didn’t do anything wrong. You were blessed with a kid who’s strong-willed and challenging. And if directed in the right way is going to take over the world, right? 

These kids do awesome in the world, except it’s really hard when you’re parenting them. And so anyway, so I get letters. I mean, we get letters all the time about, like, this has been so helpful. I’m so glad I found you. I was at my wit’s end with my kid and stuff. So I never had that professional before. We never got that. So we have worked directly with consumers, but I’ve never worked. 

Having that as our client, it’s just it’s been a wonderful experience. So it’s been great. Unfortunately, if your listeners don’t know, James Lehmann passed away several years ago. He was at the top of parenting in 2010 when he suddenly passed away, and it would have been a shame for his program, his ideas, and how he articulated them. So, we’re doing our best to continue evangelizing the work that James Lehmann and the total transformation program put together. So it’s been a great journey.

SHERYL:  Yeah, I love Empowering Parents. I was telling you before we jumped on here when I first started Moms of Tweens and Teens that was my go-to to look at your blog and all the amazing articles you have. And you have coaches as well. They are where you have the total transformation. So some therapists and coaches will work with parents as well. Correct? 

KIMBALL: So when you sign up for our program, you can sign up for parent coaching, and you’ll be assigned to an individual coach. And you’ll have a phone call each week with them, and you can trade messages with them. 

What they do is help walk you through the program. And we might talk about consequences. Later on, you’d mentioned that so what they’ll do is they’ll sit down and, they’ll help put together a menu of consequences that you can use with your child for the particular situations that you’re in things like really practical stuff, like what are you gonna do the next time your child acts out, because when the parents come to us, it’s not the first time or the second time, it’s the umpteenth time that they’ve done this. And our coaches know that. 

And what we do is we let the parent know, look, they’ve done it so many times now we put a plan together, we know how we’re going to react the next time, and here’s how we’re going to react. And then the next time it happens. And then come back into coaching afterward, we talked through like, Well, how did that work? Do we need to adjust something? Or do we keep doing that each time and assess the progress? 

And you worked through it with someone non-judgmental. A lot of parents know the programs. And it’s just someone for the parents to talk to you. Because when you have a child struggling with behavior issues, it’s hard to talk to family members and friends about it. I mean, you’re lucky if you have that person. But there’s like judgment and embarrassment, and there’s so much tied up in it that just having someone else to talk to is huge.

SHERYL:  It is huge. I find that as well. It’s so much shame. And I think moms feel like they don’t have anybody to talk to, especially when you have tweens and teens. I’m worried, like you said, about being judged. What will they think about me, or if it will get back to my kid? 

There’s such isolation and loneliness that you’re providing that and hearing from the parents, which makes your job so gratifying.

KIMBALL: Yeah, one of the words you mentioned that resonates with me, as you said, is guilt. There’s a lot of guilt involved. And one of the things we first explained to the parents is that you’re not responsible for your child’s behavior. You don’t have to be guilty about it. Your child’s responsibility for their behavior. 

It behooves everyone to react and do more effective and less ineffective things. We talked about what those are. But it’s not your behavior to the child’s behavior. 

And that’s step one because when you put the accountability back on your child, you remove the guilt from yourself and put the accountability where it needs to be on your child. And it also puts faith in your child when you have when you hold your child accountable. You’re saying to your child, and I have faith that you can learn how to behave appropriately. If you take on the guilt yourself, you’re saying, Look, you can’t. I’ve given up on you, and it’s not your fault. It’s my fault. 

At best, the child’s gonna manipulate you, know that, but at worst, they’re gonna believe it. They’re gonna believe that they’re messed up, can’t behave well, and can’t function well because they had a bad parent. And that’s a horrible place to be for that child. 

They need agency and control over their situation and have to believe that. And you do that by holding them accountable and holding them accountable to saying I have faith in you that you can learn to do this. 

SHERYL:  Oh, gosh, that’s so good. It’s because I think that our listeners, as a parent, it’s so easy to feel guilty and blame themselves. I mean, moms are so good at that. Now maybe dads are, too. I don’t know if they do that as much. But we can fall into that guilt pit. And then what happens is then we do get soft because we take it on, we feel guilty, and we blame ourselves. 

And, as you said, we’re not helping our kids take ownership and responsibility for their behavior. This vicious cycle is so easy to get into when we don’t set limits because we feel guilty. And when I read that, you can talk about setting limits and boundaries and consequences. So I was like, yes. 

Because when we need to be reminded not to take that on to hold our kids accountable. And if we’re not, we do not believe that they can change, that they can do it, it ends up sending this message, like I don’t believe in you or that you can handle it. And yeah, and it just really stunts their growth.

KIMBALL: Yeah, you’re exactly right. It says it sends the message that you don’t believe in them. And, some parents are gonna say; honestly, I don’t believe in them. Yes. And what we’re gonna say are you have to, don’t underestimate them, you’re probably underestimating them, and you’re not going to be around forever. 

Yeah, you’re not gonna be just a practical matter. You’re not gonna be around forever. So, it’s up to them to figure out how to get along without you. Or how to get along independently, behave appropriately, and all those things. 

And that’s part of why, like the coaching and support and podcasts like yourself, I mean, this is support for someone, listen to this podcast, because it gives you the encouragement and the strength to do those things. 

You give up anything for the person you love, your child, and the person you care about. And, to hold them accountable means that they’re going to turn around, they’re gonna say terrible things to you. And they’re gonna say they hate you. They’re gonna do all those things. They’re gonna make you feel bad, and it’s gonna look like it’s painful. 

But you just have to know that this is the right thing for them, even if they hate you for it, even if they say they hate you for it. So that’s a hard place to be. But that’s a challenge. So that’s why this is not easy.

SHERYL:  Yeah, no, it’s not easy. And I often tell mom’s story of my oldest, who is 32. So I started this when she was younger, but she was super strong-willed, my oldest, and like she was a gift. So even though it helped me grow, I would have never started being a mom with tweens and teens without parenting her. 

I wrote this blog post called Confessions of a Boundary-less Mom because I was that mom. I was that mom that felt guilty. First, I would be very punitive and punishing. Then I would cave in. It was this just bad cycle that I was in. 

And thankfully, I learned, and I grew a lot. But when she was in her early 20s and her younger sister was in middle school, she heard her talking and crying. She was crying. Please let me do this. And I was saying no, she said to me on the phone, don’t cave in as you did with me. And I was like, what? Like you were such strong will like riding a bucking bronco. 

And you’re saying, now you’re telling me you wanted boundaries back then. That’s crazy. But they want them, just like you said, and she was screaming out for them. But everything in her behavior was, to me, fighting against her, but she did want them. 

So let’s launch into that. So we touched a little bit about why we must have limits. What do you see as one of the biggest mistakes that we believe keep us from talking about the guilt that keeps us from setting limits with our kids?

KIMBALL: So I think a big part is that the world has limits, right? You can’t do whatever you want, and the world has limits. You’re always gonna have authority. You’re always gonna have a boss. You’re gonna have a spouse. You’re always gonna be accountable to someone in the world. 

So you have to learn to live in a world where you’re accountable to someone. We’re all accountable to someone. And as a child, you’re accountable to your parents in the household. So it’s up to the parent to ensure that accountability is held. 

So, at a basic level, limits are important because you teach your child how to handle limits. So that when they go out to the real world, where there are limits, they have the skills to work within boundaries to work within limits. 

And so, that’s one reason I get to do that a little bit more. But there’s another reason which is it’s your house like you have rules as a parent. You get to make the rules in your house. If a child’s not going to agree with all your rules, your neighbors won’t agree with all the rules. They might think you’re too strict or not strict enough, but it’s your house. You get to make the rules. 

Someone has to get someone to make the rules in the house, and I don’t think your neighbor should be making rules in your house. And we recommend that the parent makes the rule, not the child. A lot of houses work the other way around. 

And if you fundamentally don’t believe that it’s your role to make the rules in the house, what we say to parents who come with us is, is we’re probably not the right place for you. Most parents come to us, and they want to make the rules. They’re just not doing it effectively. They’re not. 

They’re not holding those boundaries effectively. But, I think the main reason why and I think intellectually, most people know that boundaries are important and need to have rules. I think the reason they’re not being set is that the child has figured out that when they fight and push back and argue, that’s worse than having boundaries that are adhered to. So they wear you down, arguing and fighting for you to get rid of the rules. 

And they agree to the boundaries, and as a parent, so think about it, you’re coming home from work, and your child supposed to do, like, let’s say they’re supposed to do some chores or something. And you’re coming home from work, and they don’t, they haven’t done the chores, it’s easier for you to do the chore yourself. 

To absolve them of all the responsibilities than it is to fight with them, again, about getting them to the chores that take a lot of energy takes more mental energy than it takes for you to feel bad, and your child gets angry at you, and you feel guilty. 

That’s easier than enforcing the boundaries, or letting your child not have a curfew is easier than the fight. And you just hope, I hope everything turns out okay? No curfews and I hope they end up with a good crowd. I hope all this you can hope all that. And that’s often easier than setting the boundary and fighting with your child over it because the fights are so painful. 

So as a parent, we just a lot of times, what we’re doing is we’re avoiding, we’re avoiding the conflict by not limiting the boundaries. And it’s the child’s technique. So, James Lehmann, we talked about this earlier. James Freeman, that famous quote where he says, You don’t have to attend to every argument you’re invited to. 

I was driving home from work one day, and he was on the radio; they used to advertise on the radio. And he said if you’re headed home from work right now, and obviously, it was like 530, at night, so they know when they ran the radio ad for this, and you’re expecting to get to fight with your child, just remember, you don’t have to attend to every argument you’re invited to. 

And what he points out in the program is that what’s going on is that arguing has become the child’s problem-solving skill. So the child has problems meeting responsibilities. And they can either learn how to meet those responsibilities through like discipline and putting things off and like, learning how we all learn how to become responsible adults, they can either learn it that way, or they learn another way to solve their problem, which is that if they fight and scream and yell, and be defiant, then their parent or whoever removes the responsibility from them and doesn’t expect them to do it anymore. 

So they remove the responsibility of doing the chores or doing their homework, and many parents have given up on trying to get their kids to do their homework or whatever because the fight is not worth it to them. 

So yeah, the child has made adhering to the rules very expensive regarding fights and other stuff. So that’s a big part of our program. So how do you deal with a child who has figured out they will control you through defiance, arguing, and fighting? 

And once you realize that’s what’s going on, then you can see it, it’s like, oh, gosh, that’s what’s going on. And they don’t necessarily know they’re doing this. They’re doing it more out of, like, this works. So they do it, as opposed to like they thought. It’s not like they’ve thought it through, but that’s the dynamic of what’s happening. 

And, you tell the parent, when you point this out to them, like, Oh, that’s what’s going on, I see. And it makes it easier to do things like set a limit. And when the child argues and starts fighting about it, you disconnect, turn around, and walk away. And then you hold them accountable for not doing it through practical consequences. So that’s a big learning how to disconnect from a child, and dragging you down into a fight all the time is key to our program.

SHERYL:  Yeah, I agree. And I will tell the moms that they’re going to fight. They’re teenagers, and they want that independence. They don’t want to be told no or want what they want. And, so expect that they will want to fight, which helps defuse a little of that fear around conflict because most of us hate it. 

And especially when your teenagers tell you they hate you and don’t like you, they can hook you that way. To know, like, I’m going to set this limit, and they don’t have to like it. But I’m still going to hold them accountable. 

I know that helped me kind of get over that hurdle and make peace that they’re not always going to like it. Like, don’t expect them to like it. And moms will often try to convince their kids they should like it too much about why they’re doing it. 

And then that gets into this huge power struggle because a teenager is not going to go, oh, yeah, okay, Mom, I get that. So why you’re telling me I can’t go to that party? Or why do I have to do my chores?

KIMBALL: On our website, we have a viral article. It’s called Explain Yourself Once and Move On. And I agree. You explain why you have the rules. But the explanation is singular. You don’t have to give the same explanation repeatedly. You don’t have to give 50 explanations, just explain it once and move on. And maybe they’ll understand, or they may not understand. They may not understand until they’re a parent. 

We just tell parents that it doesn’t matter. Just explain yourself once and move on. Don’t get sucked into arguments about it. It’s not your job to make your child agree with the rules. Unfortunately, a lot of parents do that. They somehow think that they can only argue their point just right. The child will finally understand and then and then we’ll obey the rules. 

And that’s not true. So they either work, they will never agree with you because they don’t want to, or they’re incapable of understanding why you have these rules. And you know, and we’re not advocating the parents be overly strict, where we point out to parents that you want your child to be independent, if you’re if your child is showing responsibility, give them more responsibility, you want to keep pushing that. 

So we’re not telling parents to be strict and have a million rules. We’re telling parents to let their children show that they’re responsible. And as they show responsibility, you want to give them more and more independence. Like that’s the goal – independence. 

SHERYL:  That’s a good segue for talking about. Okay, so moms are listening right now. And they’re like, Well, I don’t even know where to start setting the limits. And my kid, I’m walking on eggshells, and it seems like they’re the ones that rule the house. And I get really angry. And then we get these power struggles in fights. And where do I even begin? So what would you say to that mom that’s listening?

KIMBALL: So what we normally do is when so most parents coming to us have a bunch of issues going on, it’s been bad enough that they’ve got to the point where they’re seeking help, they’re coming to us. So the first thing we say is, let’s start with one behavior and focus on that one. See, if we get that one under control, if you try to change everything all at once, it’s just, it’s gonna be overwhelming for the child who is behaving this way because they don’t have good problem-solving skills to meet their responsibilities effectively the way you’d want them to.

Their go-to problem-solving skill is to act out. So it takes them a while to learn those new skills. So it’s not going to happen overnight. So we say pick one behavior that’s important to you. And we’re going to work on getting that one improved, and like, let’s not worry about the other ones for the time being until you get that one under your belt. 

And then we can move on from there. And then, we talked through the behavior we didn’t like. And then you need to clarify with your child. What the rules are. We recommend when households where the child is having problems with this, you write the basic rules of the household down on the refrigerator so that you can point to them and say the reason that you’re getting these consequences because, in this household, we don’t swear it mom and dad, and that’s, it’s on the refrigerator, that’s the rule this house.

And the basic rules need to be spelled out. So it cuts down on the arguing to have the basic rules of the household spelled out somewhere. Because then the conversation becomes very clear about your child and the rules they’re violating, not between your child and you who are making up rules that you assume they know or like, you know, what are the rules? 

That’s sort of the example that I’ve given a lot of people is that police officers want speed limit signs because if it was up to their discretion as to who’s speeding or not every time they pull someone over, and he says I’m giving you a ticket for speeding.

There’s gonna be an argument over what constitutes speeding; then, is speeding 50? Is it 60? Is it 30? Well, this is a straightaway. There were no cars. The police officer doesn’t want to get into that argument. It’s a painting like it’s just difficult to deal with. The police officer wants to be able to point at that sign and say, the speed limit is 70. You are going 85. 

That doesn’t mean the child’s going to agree with the speed of being 70. But at least you have the limits defined. And you can point to them like a third-party thing. It doesn’t feel like an arbitrary thing between two individuals. There are no speed limit sides. It feels like it’s always between you and the police officers, like what the rules will be. And whether you get a ticket or not. 

Having the speed limit sign says there’s a limit, that’s the limit. There it is. And, even better, is to have the consequences defined ahead of time. For the most part, you don’t always have to do that. But knowing, at least in your head, what the consequences are. But it’s helpful to know what the consequences would be as well. 

So, writing the limit down is often very helpful for the parents in this situation seems a little seems. It seems a little hokey, like the child, should know that swearing up with mom is against the rules, but it helps them delineate it. And it sends the message we have rules in his household. And here they are, like, these are the basic rules. 

And it starts establishing that sense of authority that you are the legitimate authority as the household parent. You make the rules. You set the limits. And actually, here they are because you’re having a problem with them. So I’ve spelled it out for you.

SHERYL:  I like that because it helps the parent get a clear slide of times. We’re kind of all over the map. So we need to get clear first about what those rules will be and what those values will be. And then for your kid to be clear about it as well like you said, a lot of times, we just assume, and they’re not clear. So I liked that.  

I also like thinking about, okay, this is connected to a skill they are lacking, something they need to learn. So when you think about effectiveness, set the limits and rules, and have those up, then what’s step number two?

KIMBALL: So, there are two things around this. First, one of the general concepts in the Total Transformation Program, which is what we’re preaching here, is that kids act out because it’s how they solve their problems. 

It’s the way they solve and handles anger and frustration. Instead of doing it effectively, they act out, and hopefully, whatever is causing their anger and frustration will go away or avoid meeting responsibility. So they’re using it as a problem-solving skill. 

So with consequences, when you apply consequences to those behaviors, that effect truly affects them. Those behaviors no longer work for them because they come with consequences they don’t like. So you want to ensure those poor problem-solving skills, finishing chores, by acting out so that no one will assign you chores anymore. That’s a problem-solving skill, a terrible one. We don’t want our kids to grow up with this with that skill. 

So, you eliminate that as a problem-solving by applying consequences so that it doesn’t work for them anymore. It doesn’t get them out of it. And then you need to follow up. You need to follow up on the consequences with coaching as an alternative behavior and what they can do instead. 

So, for example, anger and frustration, you can eliminate that’s normal human feelings. We all get angry. I still get angry, and I still get frustrated. But, as you grow and mature, you learn how to deal with your anger and frustration. 

So we say anger and frustration are problems. So how do you solve that problem? Some kids act out some kids, when met with anger and frustration, saying f** y** mom, looking her right in the face, and screaming at her in the kitchen. That’s not appropriate. 

So you want to ensure that that behavior is met with a consequence. So they’re less likely to do it next time. Like it didn’t solve the problem for him. Now they have another problem, the consequence, but we want to all offer them alternative problem-solving skills. 

So, when things are calm, and things are quiet, we talk to them about what they can do when they’re feeling frustrated the next time they have the urge to to to swear at me. Here’s what you should do. Instead, say, “Mom, I can’t talk about this anymore,” and then go to your room. And I’ll understand. I’ll just say hey, I’m about to explode. I’m going to go take a walk. Or, well, let’s not talk about this. 

Now, basically, learn how to give yourself a timeout and show your child that you can do some effective things to lower the tension. And that works for you too. So this happens a lot with siblings fighting. We talked to them about the next time you’re fighting with your sibling or have the urge to because they’re frustrated, you are there, tormenting you. Here’s what you can do instead.

Now I want you to do that rather than hit your sibling because we don’t hate things. But, again, look at the refrigerator. We don’t hit in this household. There’s no hitting. Okay? So, when you get to the point where you want to hit your sister, here’s what you do instead, get me. You know, let’s talk about it, go to the other room, and we’ll figure something out afterward. But don’t hit your sister. Here’s what you can do instead. So we’re always looking for those alternative behaviors.

SHERYL:  I like that because they’re seeking out that behavior to solve a problem. Like, they’re trying to solve that problem. But the way that they’re solving it is not effective. And it’s not going to work for them. When they leave your home, and they’re in a marriage, or they’re in their job, it’s teaching them those coping skills, those problem-solving skills. 

So I really, I liked that. And then, but normalizing like, okay, of course, you’re going to feel angry, and you’re going to feel frustrated. But I find with teens, even asking them, but what next time can you do instead? What can you do when you’re feeling angry that rather than swearing at me, you can instead to be able to coach them, maybe they’re just angry, and they need to say what they’re angry about and talk to you.

But instead, they’re swearing. They don’t feel heard. They don’t feel like understanding them. So that’s good because that’s an important piece. It’s just not laying down that consequence, and it’s a new behavior.

KIMBALL: Exactly. And I would clarify that I wouldn’t punish your child for getting angry. And I wouldn’t punish your child for getting frustrated. That’s counterproductive. We don’t avoid punishes. We want consequences that have meaning. 

If you do this, this happens. It’s a natural thing. And if you don’t want this to happen, then don’t do this. Like we have those in place. So that they learn what to do, we don’t want consequences for normal feelings and behavior. And you know, that anger frustration is just not quite right. It’s what they do as a result of being angry. That’s the problem.

SHERYL:  Yes. So, yeah. And so teaching them healthier ways to deal with their emotions, not just a specific feeling.

KIMBALL: Yeah, that’s why they call it anger management, not anger elimination. You can’t eliminate it. And it’s okay to say that some of us have things that we’re good at and not as good at. Some people don’t handle frustration as well as others. 

Some people run faster than others, but that doesn’t mean you can’t get better at it. And we did teach our kids just because you’re susceptible to getting frustrated easily. You can learn behavior. These behaviors are learnable. You can get much, much better at something that. 

Maybe you were just one of those kids that had frustration issues. You’re born that way. But you can get very good at it to the point where no one would even think that you had one of those. 

Like for me, I’m shy. You might not know I’m shy. Shyness is like a feeling that in social situations or whatever, I feel shy, and it’s hard for me to go to a party where I don’t know anyone or whatever. And I’m supposed to just start talking and meeting them or whatever. So for me, internally, that’s always been a problem. 

But it’s a problem solved that no one who’s ever met me in the last – I don’t know; I’m 53. So maybe when you met me in my teens or early 20s, you might have said oh, he seems like a shy guy, or whatever. But I learned to solve the problem to the point that no one would ever describe me that way, even though I feel that way.

SHERYL:  Yeah, you can still walk into a party and be shy, but you’ve learned coping.

KIMBALL: I know how to cope with it. You’ve gotten better at it. I’ve built up the skill around it. But, yes, the same thing can happen with anger, frustration, and other stuff. There are some things I found easy in life and some that I found really challenging. 

And the things that were challenging. I’ve learned that, that through self-help and other styles – always a self-help junkie, that’s part of the reason I like this because this is kind of one of the categories of like self-help, is that you can get better – you can if you focus on this stuff, you can get way better at it, you can become so much more effective as a parent by doing more of the effective stuff and less of the ineffective stuff. 

And likewise, your child, their behavior, and their good behavior are learnable. Those skills are so learnable, and we’ve had tremendous success with them. 

You just have to get out of the mindset like this is the way they are and they’ll be this way forever. Exactly. They might have the tendency forever. I’m gonna have this tendency to be a guy who’s shy forever, but it’s so solvable. I probably had a fairly easy case. 

For some people, it’s more challenging, but you hear about many terrific public speakers who are terrified of public speaking. And they went through Toastmasters, or they do whatever they learned, they learned how to do it. And got good at it to the point where you would never think it was something they struggled with. They seem awesome at it. Same with our kids. And the same with us as parents.

SHERYL:  Yeah, I’d love that. Because it’s like, we’re human, right? For parents, it’s not just: I’m gonna fix my kid. It’s like: I’m on this journey to that. And I’m working on myself, and we can learn. We can learn and practice and grow.

And before we got on here, I asked you, so what’s the difference today from how you were parenting? Your own? You’ve been CEO for six and a half years. Have you seen a change in your relationship with your boys since empowering parents came into your life?

KIMBALL: I want to say yes, but it’s a complicated question. 

SHERYL:  I love to be honest. 

KIMBALL: Oh, yeah, it was. Everything was horrible. And then magic. This is like a magic pill. So, yeah, sign up today. And, it’s gonna happen, and everything’s gonna be perfectly fine.

SHERYL:  It’s ongoing work. I know.

KIMBALL: A work in progress. But you know, there are effective and ineffective things you can do. And we don’t say that there are good parents or bad parents. We just say their parents are applying more effective and less effective skills.

So here’s the other thing: don’t blame yourself for your child’s behavior when your child gets frustrated and stands in the middle of your kitchen and has the opportunity to either take a deep breath and turn around or start screaming expletives at you. That was their decision to make. So, yeah, that’s their behavior. It’s not your fault. That’s their behavior.

Likewise, I always say this, if someone tells me all your kids are great or whatever, I want to hear that. But if they say, Oh, you’re such a great father, I always don’t want to take responsibility for their bad behaviors. I also want to be careful not to take credit for their good behavior. I want them to get credit for it. 

Well, I don’t know about me, I did my best, but my kids did it. Not me. I don’t want to take credit for their good behavior. And I want to blame them for their bad behavior. Everyone wants to do that. That’s not fair. That’s not the case. That’s not fair. 

So, if they learn how to behave better and they learn the skills around all that, I want to give them credit for it. I want to say I want to be their cheerleader and say you’ve done awesome. I want to be like that coach now. Maybe it was because of the coach. Maybe they would have done it anyway. 

But no matter what, I want them to believe. And I want to believe in my head that they did it because it’s them who did it, not just because I was there, that I know they can handle future problems down the road because they learned how to handle them. And they learned how to figure it out. 

So, I want accountability beyond them for whether it’s good or bad or whatever, I want them. So that’s my outlook. Like you say, Well, if you have that outlook, you’re gonna have better outcomes. So you can. I mean, it’s a little bit like what came first, the chicken or the egg, but in my mind, I keep saying, If my kids are not behaving well, I want them to be accountable and have them try to figure it out. 

And if things are going well, I want them to reap the benefit. I want them to think they’ve done something well and not have someone else take credit for it. So I don’t know if that makes sense. 

SHERYL:  Yeah, it does. I think that’s such a good reminder to all of us because I do think when we hear something good about our kids, we tend to want to take credit for that, and when they’re not doing great, we take credit for that as well, and then we think we’re failing and that gets in the way of holding them accountable.

KIMBALL: And it’s, and you see, you can feel I don’t know if people say this necessarily, I think it’s more of a feeling, but when you see your supposedly perfect family on social media next door posting about how awesome their kids are, you know who are star athletes and go to Harvard or something I don’t know. 

There’s a lot of pressure. You feel like I don’t meet the standards of my neighbors in terms of how they aren’t as parents, but I don’t always look at it like just like those kids are doing excellent. Excellent for those kids. Great, great job, kids. 

Get moved and remove yourself and your parent from being the person in charge of how your child turns out. They have a say in it. And it’s ultimately them. And we want it. And the effectiveness is just keeping the accountability on them. And it’s always hard to start comparing yourself to other families and parents based on how your child behaves and their child behaves. 

But you don’t necessarily have control over that. Every child is different. And I pointed this out to parents with three kids, and one of them’s hard. The other two are easy. It’s like, what did you decide? Did you parent the third one differently? Like, what do you do differently? So it’s just you don’t know what you’re gonna get. You don’t know. And you don’t know why. And we’re gonna have challenges. Sometimes kids are challenging.

SHERYL:  Yeah. Oh, and I think that when we put too much pressure on ourselves to take credit, we put a lot of pressure on our kids to perform a certain way. And that’s not the case. Each kid is unique. And that’s not what they need for us to perform – for us to feel good as parents.

KIMBALL: There’s a power struggle, and there’s a power situation going on here: when your child understands that your mental well-being depends on what they do, they control your mental well-being, and not all kids will use that power for good

You’ve put them in control of your mental well-being now. It may be true that your mental well-being has a lot to do with what your kids are doing. But you don’t want to be in a situation where it’s very explicit that how I feel and end up depends on what you do. 

That’s not fair to your child. Because it puts too much pressure on them, but it also gives them too much power. If they’re gonna, they could manipulate that against you as well. 

SHERYL:  Yeah, and many times, they’re going to rebel against that. Let’s talk about the consequences. And first, we’ll go into that. But also, can you briefly touch on the difference between punishment is, and consequences – I hear that word a lot. And I kind of cringe now a punishment – because I think of that as being more punitive. Can you talk about the difference?

KIMBALL: Yeah. So, first of all, a child may be unable to tell the difference. But to a parent, you want to ask yourself, is what I’m doing punishment/consequence for their behavior? Are they going to learn something from that? That’s going to help them. 

So an example I would give is, is if your child is hitting a sister, your son is hitting her, and the consequences you lose electronics until you can go three hours without having conflict with your sister. The child learns self-discipline. They have to complete this task: to take three hours off of not acting out with their sibling. 

And that’s a way to help teach self-discipline, or, if you’re not meeting curfew, then maybe you can’t go out next weekend. But after that, you get to go out, but your curfew is set lower, and we’ll see if you can come if you can meet the curfew. And if you do that consistently, then we’ll raise the curfew. 

So the punishment is that you bring the consequence, not the punishment, the consequences that the curfew was set back. And then you see how they deal with that, and a punishment. So you’re hoping they learned to practice appropriate behavior to meet the consequence. 

That’s, that’s the goal. I mean, sometimes it’s not as clear, how are you going to do that, but punishment is more like, the way I’m gonna get you not to do this is that this is gonna be so painful. So long term. And I’ll give you an example. 

Long-term grounding is just a punishment. They don’t know all they learn how to do through that. And James Lehmann says, famously, that a long-term punishment is only gonna teach a child how to do time, and you don’t want your child to be good at doing time. James Lehmann did the time he did time in prison. And that’s not because you don’t want to be good at that. That’s not a skill you want. 

Learning how to deal with your sister’s frustrations for three hours is helpful. Learning how to get your phone and all of your electric electronic privileges back by completing your chores is a learning process. You’ve completed your chores now. You can get those things back until you’ve completed them. Nothing, you don’t get it. So that’s a good consequence that you lose all your electronics until your chores are complete. 

And then you get it back. Then the second thing is that chores are complete. You just get them back. And you don’t have to moralize or anything. You don’t even think about it as a punishment, or they just say, hey, that’s just a consequence. Kind of up to you if you don’t like it, but you don’t have to go beyond that. 

You should be happy to give it back to them. Because they’ve done the tasks, they’ve done the thing that will allow them to get their electronics back. They’ve learned how to do their chores as they’ve gone through that process. 

And I don’t mean to learn like they don’t know how to do their chores. They’ve learned how to do something they don’t want to do. That’s the bigger problem, like how do you learn to do something you don’t want to do because you have responsibilities in life? 

So, by getting their chores done, they’ve done that, and you should be happy to give them their phone back. It’s almost like a reward at that point. And you want it back in their hands because when they don’t do their chores, you won’t be able to get back next time. If you bank up your child, you have nothing left to take away, and you don’t want to deal with a child who’s bankrupt because they have nothing to lose. And when you deal with people who have nothing to lose, you have problems. 

So you never want to get into an altercation with somebody who has nothing to lose. Bad place to be so, so we think about consequences as a learning experience. 

SHERYL:  Yeah, always link them to something they’re going to learn from. And then what I like is it becomes their choice. The choice is okay. You get your chores done. Then you get your phone back. And if they choose not to do the chores, that’s their choice. 

So they really can’t blame you for that. Because I mean, they might try. But it’s like, no, this is your choice. If you want it back, you gotta finish your chores.

KIMBALL: And the biggest question we get from parents is, does my child not care about consequences? And that’s a great point. And we always say, Well, they probably tell you they don’t care about the consequences. But if you work with us, and we develop consequences for your child, they will say they don’t care. They’ll pretend they don’t care. They’ll drag it out for a while to try to get you to eliminate the consequences because you now believe they don’t care about those consequences. 

But if there are actual real consequences, then a lot of times, like let’s stay the course, let’s stay the course, they’ll come around, they’ll find that it’s easier just to do their thing. So, very often, when they say, I don’t care about consequences, they do. 

They don’t want you to think they care about consequences. Or it’s a learning process for them. And it’s not like you apply a consequence, and boom, they’ve learned and now their behaviors, like better forever, it takes a while for some people, one speeding ticket, they’re never gonna speed again. 

Some people need to get five speeding tickets and a suspended license. And finally, they’re like, Okay, now, they stopped speeding because it just wasn’t worth it. But it takes a process for some people more than others.

SHERYL:  Yeah, yeah, it does. It takes some time. And faith is in the process, but it is a process.

KIMBALL: Yep. And that’s why it’s helpful to work with someone because you can be a bit thoughtful, like saying, Does this sound right? Are these consequences too easy? Is this a good consequence? Do I just need to stay the course? 

You should be reassessed of what these are like, and you have that back and forth and try to be thoughtful about it. And somewhat disciplined about how you’re going to go about it. 

SHERYL:  I think it’s so helpful to have support. It’s to somebody to bat things around with, come back, say this isn’t working, and be helpful. And to talk about the frustration, the struggle, and the challenge.

KIMBALL: When we work with parents, remaining calm, like yelling and screaming, is not effective parenting. And Jamie Dimon talks about how if screaming worked, then my job would be easy. You’d pay me. I’d see your child for 50 minutes a week, screaming at him, and then problem solved, go back home.

If the screaming had worked, we wouldn’t have come to him because screaming would have worked. I mean, we’re all gonna scream at some point. We’re human, and we’re not perfect. But as long as you know, screaming doesn’t work. 

So what you want to do is have an approach that doesn’t involve screaming, and you’re calmer about the whole thing, and you’re doing calm business, like consequences and disengaging when they try to yell and fight and drag you into a power struggle. 

But part of the way you get to be more calm and under control and deal with these situations is you go into the situations with a plan, and that’s what you do. Or when you work with our coaches and with other folks. Because again, as I said earlier, that’s not the first time and the second time that’s happened, this has happened, you know, 10, 20, 30 times, you get a plan together. 

And then, when it happens again, you’re executing your plan, and it’s much easier to execute a plan without flying off the handle. So, in the same way, first responders practice everything they’re going to do so that when some disaster happens, they’re not panicking. Do you know what I mean? 

They know what they’re supposed to do. Everyone knows where we’re supposed to go. They know whatever. It’s the same thing with dealing with a difficult child: have you plan what you’re going to do ahead of time. And then, when that thing inevitably happens, you put the plan into place.

SHERYL:  Yeah, it’s a better place to be proactive rather than reactive. Good. Well, Kimball, I have loved this time with you and telling people where to find your empowering parents and program. So, why don’t you share, and then I’ll share all the links as well.

KIMBALL: Okay, so we are at the best place to find us is to go to empoweringparents.com. And we have hundreds of free articles there. And my suggestion is that you sign up for our newsletter, and you’ll get two or three weekly emails highlighting one of our articles. 

And then also, either in those emails or from the site you can, you can learn how to sign up for the Total Transformation Program and its streams online. So you can sign up and begin the program immediately. 

And you can also sign up today and have a coaching call tomorrow with one of our coaches. So it’s that easy to find support through that. So empoweringparents.com. 

We’re also on Facebook and Instagram. You can go to empowering parents. If you search for empowering parents, you’ll find us there, but empoweringparents.com is the best place to get in touch with us.

SHERYL:  Yeah, fantastic. Website program. Super happy that you are CEO, that you kept empowering parents alive, and that you’re helping 1000s of parents. I appreciate you and what you do. Thanks for coming to the show. Thanks.

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