Where Does Good Parenting End And Codependency Start?
Kevin Petersen, LMFT joins us for another discussion with a focus on parents, children, and codependency. Kevin is a dedicated, caring, and understanding professional who works with families in crisis. Kevin was born and raised in Palo Alto, CA and earned a bachelors from USC in 1994, and enjoyed a prosperous career in Sales and Marketing before he decided to return to school in 2008. Kevin has earned a Masters degree in Marriage and Family Therapy and has a Certificate in Child and Adolescent Counseling both from Regis University. He started his career working as a therapist for Arapahoe Douglas Mental Health Network in Child and Family Services in 2011. Kevin opened his private practice, Petersen Family Counseling, in 2014 and specializes in working with families and individuals struggling with addictions, codependency, and parenting.
Where Does Good Parenting End and Codependency Start?
Download the Transcript: Where Does Good Parenting End & Codependency Start 8.23.17
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KRISTIN: Hey everyone. This is Kristin Sunanta-Walker, host of Mental Health News Radio. I’m here with Kevin Petersen. Kevin, you’ve been on our show before. Thanks for coming on again.
KEVIN: Thanks for having me; I really appreciate it.
KRISTIN: Before I get into what we’re really going to talk about, just in case someone didn’t listen to your other show, please tell our listeners a little bit about yourself.
KEVIN: Sure. I am a licensed marriage and family therapist from Denver, Colorado. I work primarily with families that are struggling with addiction – kind of my sweet spot. This is a second career for me. I was in sales and marketing before I went back to school and, as my friends say, “Started using my gifts for good rather than evil.”
KRISTIN: That’s a whole other show.
KEVIN: Exactly. I’m also twenty-six years sober and free from drugs and alcohol. I am also very involved in the twelve-step world for my own addictions and for the family disease of co-dependency and alcoholism.
KRISTIN: We’re friends on Facebook, and I’m not going to out you here, but I have this sneaking suspicion from some of the things that you post that you are also a pretty good chef.
KEVIN: Oh yeah. I do love to cook. Ironically, that was part of growing up in a fairly chaotic, odd family where if you wanted to eat you learned how to cook. Then I worked in restaurants from age fourteen forward, so I got exposed to good food. I thought, “I like good food.” So yeah, I do love to cook. I thought you were going to mention the dogs.
KRISTIN: No. I’m all about food, man. Food trumps any addiction of mine I’ve ever had. If there’s a store with great wine in the wine section, but there’s great food in the other section or your own bar of food – I’m going to go straight for the food first.
KEVIN: Well, I will tell you that last weekend my wife and I were in Columbus, Ohio. Unfortunately, we were there for her father’s funeral.
KRISTIN: Oh, I’m sorry.
KEVIN: Yeah, but we ended up spending two days in Columbus and discovered that Columbus is a foodie town! Oh my gosh! I could go back tomorrow that place is so awesome!
KRISTIN: I know. I have a friend who has his own little plane, and we were trying to figure out where to go eat. I thought, “Well, this is good. I’m going to get flown to go eat somewhere. That’s never happened in my life.” He’s in Michigan and he said, “Let’s go to Columbus.” I looked at him and said, “What?” But when we got there I went, “Oh, wow! I had no idea!”
KEVIN: Yeah, I mean, what an amazing place. It was totally softening the blow of the funeral. It was amazing.
K Yeah, good food will do that. Well, this is a perfect segway into our topic today, because when you grow up in an odd family, yes – you have to learn to cook for yourself. My son, because I was a single parent for several years, and my way of cooking was, “It pushes the buttons on the microwave.” You’re nine; you can reach it; there’s the buttons.
KEVIN: Same thing for laundry.
KRISTIN: Exactly! There’s a stool; turn the dial; put soap in. Our topic today is where does good parenting stop and co-dependency start.
KEVIN: Now let’s be clear: this is not an indictment of your parenting or anybody else’s.
KRISTIN: Right! Kristin doesn’t want to go to shame on this show.
KEVIN: No. My goal is not to finger-point or shame people, it’s to understand behavioral patterns and through that come up with some solutions.
KRISTIN: Awesome! Let’s talk about that because this is a hard one. I mean, my son survived, obviously; he’s twenty-eight. But this is not easy. So, what is your experience around this?
KEVIN: Well, you’re right – it’s not easy. Parenting isn’t easy. Parenting is brutal; especially today. Parenting has been brutal across the board. I don’t think any one generation has had it any harder or worse; but today, with the advent of the digital age, the internet, the media, and porn – oh my gosh! Things are coming at kids 24/7. I’m fifty-three, and I think that a lot of my peers really don’t know what to make of things or how to handle things. The premise that I start with, and I know this from my experience and the experiences of the other people that I work with and talk to and my peers, is that our generation – people that are thirty-five or forty plus – so that barely catches you, right?
KEVIN: Like I said, it barely catches you. We and a lot of the folks I talk to were raised in a very different…our parents were very indifferent. They were very much like, “Do whatever you want; knock yourself out; I don’t care.” Again, I’m not criticizing our parents. I think our parents were great. I think we have many things that a lot of other people don’t, etc. But when I look at the position that most of the people I talk to can state is that their parents were wrapped up in their own stuff (whether that be work, relationships, single parenting, their own addictions or issues, or who knows what) and that we as kids were left to our own devices to a great deal. On a positive side, you could look at it and say, “Wow, look at all the freedom we were given;” and on the flip side of that, “Huh. That’s interesting. Where the hell were my parents?” I think what has happened is that in backlash to that, our generation has gotten to a place where they are so deeply over-involved in the lives of their children from day one all the way through college that we rob our kids of the opportunity to learn from their own mistakes.
KRISTIN: Absolutely! Oh my gosh. Also everything is so fast, fast, fast with social media that before you even have a chance to be a parent, news has traveled so fast.
KEVIN: Oh yeah. It is brutal. Today’s world is definitely brutal for the kids, brutal for the parents, and brutal for teachers. When you take a look at the concept of trying to get your kid into college, if that’s what you want to go with, it’s not enough just to have good grades. You have to have good grades; you have to volunteer at the soup kitchen; you have to have created some sort of cure for cancer or something at age fourteen. The pressure is so high, and it’s so hard to achieve. I think parents naturally want their kids to succeed, so they get deeply involved in their stuff. I don’t know if you’ve ever heard the term “blue ribbon babies.”
KEVIN: That term comes from the idea that everything you do you get a blue ribbon for. “Hey, you got up on time and got ready for school. You get a star. You get a blue ribbon. You’re a winner. You get a trophy.” I love when people start telling me how entitled this current generation is – the millennials. I look at them and say, “You’re right! They are. And do you know whose fault that is? It’s ours – because we created them.” We created this concept that you should make $100,000 a year when you walk out of college. You should be the next Steve Jobs. You should be the next Bill Gates. We entitle them and create this entitled generation; and then we criticize them for not having the work ethic of our grandparents. The two do not go together. When a kid has spent his entire life, and I swear I have these people in my client base right now, being driven to school from kindergarten forward through high school. It’s like, “Wait. What?” The parents say, “Yeah, we drive them to school every day.” I ask, “How far away is school?” They say, “Four blocks.” I say, “What are you doing?”
KRISTIN: Hence the “I used to walk through the snow with a broken leg in too small of shoes.” Yeah, you’re right. Let me tell you, even though I’m forty-seven and my son is twenty-eight and was about eleven when the internet became a part of our lives, he was enough steeped in that culture. Even still, he would try to do that stuff with me. I would say, “Oh you missed the bus? Well guess what? The seven miles that it takes to get home – you get to walk.” He did that twice, and it never happened again.
KEVIN: Exactly. He was not scarred for life, and he doesn’t have to go to therapy three times a week to resolve the fact that you abandoned him at school and didn’t pick him up.
KRISTIN: No, he goes to therapy for other things, but not that one.
KEVIN: Right. (Everybody is going to go to therapy. At the very least, the way I look at it, you want to give them something to work with.) But that’s a great example because there’s the problem. We’ve created this entitled generation because we grew up with parents that were very disengaged or involved in their own stuff. So as parents we’ve decided we aren’t going to let that happen, and we’re going to be super involved in our kids’ activities because: we know how hard life is; we know in order to get into college you have to do this; we know that in order to have good opportunities you have to have perfect credit, good grades, and all these things that we’re aware of because we’re the adults. What we’ve done is rob the kids of learning those lessons on their own. Like you just said, “You missed the bus? Wow! That’s going to be a heck of a walk.” Not rescuing them. That’s one of the big things. This generation of kids is so used to being rescued for every single situation, and the parents take it upon themselves. Here’s what I hear from parents all day long: “Well, I’m the mom. That’s my job. My job is to solve their problems and take care of them. That’s what I’m supposed to do.” That’s where the interesting part starts, because those are also the parents looking at me saying, “Twenty-five years old and he sits in the basement and doesn’t get a job.” I say, “Well yeah, because, why should he?! You continue to feed him, do his laundry and pay his bills.”
KRISTIN: Oh man, I’m telling you, some tough love. Which it’s not so tough. If my son didn’t do his homework or he did something he shouldn’t have done…He threw his cell phone once in the ocean because he was irritated, and I said, “Excuse me? Well guess what. You don’t get a replacement and I’ve removed all of your clothing from your room. You’ll be wearing that pink t-shirt from grandma to school for the next ten days.” And guess what? He never did that again – not that I was perfect in any way. But I don’t understand that whole concept. That’s how they are supposed to learn about what the real world is like – by you being tough.
KEVIN: Exactly. The concept of tough love actually has a negative connotation, as if to say, “I’m going to let him drive his car off a cliff. Screw him.” No, no, no. What we’re talking about is letting them learn from their mistakes – letting them learn that when you oversleep, don’t get to school on time, and get marked tardy or absent that affects your grade negatively. Mom is not going to drop her plans and come rushing over and solve your problems. The other thing I’m a big advocate of is that when they get to school and forget their backpack or their homework, and they text mom (because every ten-year-old on the planet now has a cell phone) saying, “You need to bring me my backpack. You need to bring me my schoolwork.” (And that’s it literally. It’s not, “Mom, would you please…” it is “You need to.”) I love it when that happens because I look at the parents who are in their forties and fifties and say, “Let me ask you a question. Did you have a cell phone when you were in sixth grade?” They of course say no. I ask, “Did you survive?” They say yes. I ask, “Did you manage to go to your career, profession or college?” They say yes. Then I say, “Ok. Your kid is going to be fine. You don’t have to buy them an iPhone 8, and they don’t need the latest version…
KRISTIN: Dude, they get a Jitterbug. That’s about all they get in my house.
KEVIN: Exactly. As they should. The idea that every kid needs to be driven to school all six or eight blocks is ridiculous to me – ride a bike or walk. That promotes accountability with a child. They learn to solve their own problems. Parents tend to come to me when things are going badly. Let’s use the example of bad grades. So, this is what I tell them is the solution. Every week you are going to get a report from the school (because most schools have online portals now.) The parents will say, “But the teachers don’t update that.” I say, “Okay, I don’t care.” They look at me baffled. I say, “You’re still covering for your kid. If I’m fourteen years old, and my freedom is at stake for the weekend, on Friday I’m going to chase down every single teacher I have and make sure they send you an email or give you some sort of confirmation that my work is done. That’s my responsibility.” The parents look at me like, “Right. That makes sense.” Then I say, “The thing is that you’re still covering for them.” I don’t even have to see the kid, because you’re the one coming up with the excuses.
KRISTIN: What do you think it is that bred this? Is it a thing with social media or what bred this enabling culture?
KEVIN: Honestly, I think it’s because our parents were so uninvolved that we’ve decided to get so involved and we’ve started solving our kids’ problems for them. If the kid doesn’t do his homework, we’ll do it for them. If the kid forgets their homework, we’ll bring it to them. If the kid won’t get out of bed on time, we’ll lie to the school and say they had a dental appointment or will cover for them; because in the back of our mind we’re thinking, “I don’t want his grades to be bad in his sophomore year of high school because he won’t get into Stanford. So, I’m the one that has to cover up his mistakes so that he gets the best possible opportunity.” But the truth is, when the kid turns eighteen and he goes to college – let’s say he goes to Stanford – he doesn’t know how to do his own homework because you’ve been solving his problems the whole time.
KEVIN: That’s really where it comes from. I’m sure the social media probably plays into it, but in these scenarios, I’m just talking about the parents and the kid and holding the kid accountable, and why the parents are so reluctant to hold the kid accountable. I think it’s because they’re afraid of two things. First, they’re afraid of how it is going to affect the kid in the future. The second thing I hear all the time in my office, and it makes me want to tear out what little hair I have left, is, “Oh that’s going to make him mad.” I look at them and think, “Who cares?!”
KRISTIN: I know! Exactly!
KEVIN: I mean, I’m sure your kid is a good kid, but screw him! That’s his problem. He needs to learn how to handle failures. He needs to learn how to handle adversity. When you’re so concerned about being your kid’s best friend, and taking care of him, effectively the kid is (whether it is direct manipulation or indirect manipulation) looking at you like, “Mom, take care of this. Mom solve this problem.” And Mom scurries over to take care of it, because she doesn’t want to deal with the kid getting angry and upset. So, Mom and Dad will sort of run around in circles to make sure that the kid is okay. Then again, the irony is that when they are in my office they complain, “Oh my kid is so stinking lazy. My kid is so rude. My kid is so entitled.”
KRISTIN: Or my kid is such a narcissist, and then I’m thinking, “Well? Umm?”
KEVIN: Yeah, that’s another one of my all-time favorites. I ask, “Okay, well how do you think that happened?”
KRISTIN: Right. I always tell people (because there is so much out there now about narcissism,) “Thank God, people are finally talking about it.” But they come up with these theories, and some of them are true, that it’s from traumatic childhood and that person choose to split from the pain of their childhood and create this false self – and yes, some of that is true. But some of them did not have a bad childhood; they were just entitled to death.
KEVIN: Yeah. Exactly. Of course, there is a percentage of the population that did suffer through some pretty awful stuff – don’t get me wrong. I’m not talking about that. I’m talking about your average, ordinary, vanilla situation where the parents are like – “I don’t understand. He’s so entitled. He’s so lazy. He talks back to his mother. He’s so rude.” I’m thinking, “Well, yeah. He does that because you allow it.” Then the next thing I always love is that they say, “We told him it was unacceptable.” And I say, “And?”
KRISTIN: What are the consequences, yeah?
KEVIN: And there weren’t any! They say, “Well, we told him it was inappropriate and he just keeps doing it.” So, then I say, “Let me ask you a couple of basic questions. Does he have a cell phone? (Yes.) Okay, whose phone is that?” They just kind of stare at me. So, I say, “Who pays the bill? (We do.) Right – that’s your phone. You want to get a teenager’s attention, shut their phone off and make it clear to them that we have expectations in this house. Those expectations are that you will have a certain level of academic performance, there will be a certain level of behavioral performance in the home, and then depending on whether there is any drug or alcohol situation – or whatever your family’s expectations are. You just need to be really clear with him and say, “This is what we expect in this home. In order to get the privileges of having access to a car, having freedom on the weekends, having a cell phone, having an iPad, or whatever it is – those things come with behaving according to the family’s expectation level.” Pretty simple.
KRISTIN: Yes, exactly. You know, winding back from that, behavior is so hard. I know there were times when we just didn’t know what to do, didn’t know how to talk to him, he was upset, he was going through anxiety or depression, etc. and it was really hard for us to stop our behavior. It’s like you are in a fog. So how do you get the parents who… they literally can’t because they are so caught up in their family dynamic and family bologna that they can’t just say, “No?”
KEVIN: Well that’s what the funny part is, because every single parent that I talk to starts out with, “Let me tell you about my kid.” I’m say, “Okay, sure. Tell me about your kid.” Then they say, “Well, we’d like you to work with our kid.” And I say, “No. I have absolutely no interest in working with your kid. I literally have no interest in meeting your kid.” They are kind of stunned by that. So, I say, “Why don’t you (or you and your partner, or you and your husband or wife, whatever it is,) come in and let’s just take a step back and talk about what the expectations are and what the system is and the set up in the house right now. How are you guys running things?” Nine times out of ten it is that there really isn’t a system. They’re just kind of winging it; or the other thing is they have put together some sort of expectations and consequences, but there is no follow through. There is no follow through because, as I said earlier, all of a sudden, I’m not my kid’s best friend because they are mad at me. Or it takes a lot of work to have structure and discipline – that takes time. I have two wonderful teenage nieces (and I’m not just saying that because they may hear this one day) – I actually adore them and they are wonderful. My sister established early on when they were in sixth or seventh grade, “Yeah, we’ll give you a cell phone but let’s be clear – that is our phone. We have direct access to it 24/7. We will be going through your phone on a regular basis; if there is anything we think is remotely inappropriate, or if we feel people are treating you inappropriately, we’re going to talk about it.” One of the interesting things that happened was, there was a time when there was some conflict with my eldest niece and some of her friends. Some stuff was happening, and she left her phone in my sister’s bedroom. My sister called me up and asked, “What do you make of that?” I said, “Oh, that was on purpose. She fully knows that you are going to look through it because you’ve established the relationship that we’re going to (addressing the social media aspects) we’re going to look into this. We’re going to pay attention to make sure that there’s nothing inappropriate going on here.” And by the way, I don’t think that’s co-dependence. Because of the social media world, I think that it is good parenting. The last thing that you want as a parent is a kid that is going to wind up as a registered sex offender for distribution of child pornography. That is a huge issue – huge, huge, huge. The other thing is clarifying up front with your kids what your expectations are. I don’t care if your kid is eighteen and going to college; if you’re paying for college, or they are coming to your house and living at your house for the summer, you have the absolute right to say, “Here are the expectations of what we want in behavior, chores, and financial participation. If you’re not up for that, then you cannot live here. We don’t hate you – we love you. Let’s be honest. If I said I need a place to live and I’m going to come live with you, and I left my dishes all over the place, I didn’t clean up my room and I never paid rent – you’d kick me out.”
KRISTIN: Yes, like I did with my son. I dumped all of his dirty dishes out of the sink, from under the blanket on his bed (this was after I warned him three times.) He was seventeen and I took all of them and dumped them in his bed.
KEVIN: Yeah, and I bet you didn’t have that problem again.
KRISTIN: He hated me, and I was a psychotic bipolar something or other that he threw at me – anything with psychology that he knew would get me the most. I said, “There is some kind of new growth that you have developed on those plates – clean it.”
KEVIN: A science experiment.
KRISTIN: Yeah, but he never forgot to do his dishes again.
KEVIN: It’s just simple stuff like that, and once you set the expectation and set the boundaries I think…when I was married before, I had two step-children. Our pediatrician was phenomenal. He wrote a great book called On Becoming Babywise, Dr. Robert Bucknam here in Colorado. One of the things he said was that kids will rise to the level of expectations that are set.
KRISTIN: That’s so true.
KEVIN: That can backfire too, because if you set the expectation that your kid is going to be…
KRISTIN: …a PhD from Harvard.
KEVIN: Exactly. They are going to freak out and try to achieve that. Again, it’s about learning to sit and talk with them and say, “Hey look, we think this is healthy.” One of the things I end up doing, one of the other solutions to this, is empowering the parents to be parents. It’s okay to discipline your children. I don’t mean hit them. I don’t believe in that – it doesn’t work. It’s stupid. When you hit people what it teaches them is to hit people. What I’m talking about is sitting them down and saying, “Hey look, here’s the situation. We’re getting calls from school on a regular basis. You’re not attending your classes and you’re not doing your work. So, from here forward, every Friday we have to have a report from every one of your professors or teachers and they have to let us know what’s going on. When we get that, you will have all the freedom in the world. If not, you’re going to spend your weekends either doing your homework or doing chores. It’s your choice. This is 100% your choice.” Like you said earlier, you’re going to experience, “You’re being mean. None of my friends’ parents are like this. This is nonsense. I can’t believe how awful you are.” I had a friend from California who said on Facebook that she had started doing this with her child, and her child asked, “Is this Communist Russia?”
KRISTIN: I’ve heard all those things too.
KEVIN: I just about spit my drink out I was laughing so hard. I thought, “That’s brilliant! I love these kids.”
KRISTIN: Oh yeah, my son came up with some really good doozies; and man, your kids know how to get you because they live with you. You have to just wear an iron gullet and deal with it.
KEVIN: Yeah, you do. The thing too is that you learn the response for everything is, “I hate you. I don’t love you.” You answer, “Oh, that’s okay. I have enough love in my heart for both of us. I hear you – I hear what you’re saying, and I respect your opinion. I just don’t agree with you. I’m the parent; I pay the bills; and it’s my rule. That’s just how it’s going to be.” One of the fascinating things is working with the parents in my office and telling them that stuff, I can see relief in their eyes that someone is telling them it’s okay for them to be the parent and they don’t have to explain it. The other thing is that all of a sudden, we’ve gotten to this place where we think we have to rationalize with our kids and we have to get them to agree with us. The truth is – they’re fourteen. You don’t have to get them to agree with you on anything. It’s not about getting a unanimous vote in the house. It’s about saying, “I’m forty and I know what’s best; so, this is what we’re going to do. That’s really how it is. I hear what you’re saying, and I love you – but uh uh, the answer is no.” I get parents that look at me, take this deep breath, let out a sigh, and say, “You know, I kind of knew that’s what you were going to say. I guess I just needed someone to tell me it was okay to tell my kid that when you don’t follow my rules, here are the consequences.” Of course, the next thing the parents say is, “He’s not going to follow the consequences. He’s just going to do whatever he wants.” So, I say, “That’s okay. That’s his choice. What we can do is just make it clear that if you don’t follow through with the school work, etc., etc., when you come home for the weekend, Friday night or whatever, there’s no freedom.” They say, “Well, he’s just going to run away.” Well, you know, if you kid runs away – call the cops.
KRISTIN: I think sometimes parents just need to feel empowered. They keep hearing what you shouldn’t do; and then to have someone like you who is in their corner – they come home with a different attitude. I know when I would get help from someone that I trusted and was giving me the straight story on what I needed to do with our son, I came home with this whole different attitude, demeanor, everything. I got much less pushback from my son just because he could tell from the way I was standing that something was different.
KEVIN: Yeah. It’s amazing! It’s absolutely amazing because what ends up happening is the drama and the crisis gets turned down dramatically.
KEVIN: Then the family actually starts enjoying each other’s company again. I find that when parents are willing to step into this stuff, draw some battle lines, and say, “This is it! We’re going to be clear. This is the deal.” This is one of my favorite stories. (My niece is going to kill me.) A couple of years ago my niece got my brother-in-law to drop her off at a party. It was her freshman year of high school, and my sister was out of town. Of course, my sister is relaying me the story afterwards. She said she had just talked to her husband and he said he just dropped our oldest daughter off at a party. She asked him if he went into the house to meet the parents. He said, “No.” She asked, “Well, were there boys there?” He said, “I don’t know.” So, she said, “You get back in that car, drive to that house, find those parents, and see who’s at the house.” So, my brother-in-law drove back to the house, walked into the party, and oh my gosh there were boys and alcohol. Of course, the answer he got was, “They just got here. I had no idea this was going to happen.” And the parents had just left – can you believe that? My brother-in-law told my niece, “Get in the car, we’re going home. This is not acceptable.” They didn’t belittle her. They didn’t humiliate her. They didn’t ground her for the rest of her life. They just sat her down and said, “That’s not okay with us. If you’re going to go to a party or hang out with your friends, we’ve got to know who you’re going with, who’s going to be there, and which parents are going to be there. We need to know if it’s a boy/girl party or if there is going to be alcohol and drugs – because frankly we care about you and we want to make sure that you’re okay and that you’re safe.” Again, I don’t think that’s co-dependency – that’s good parenting because they are setting good boundaries. I always tell which parents want to literally buy a drone that hovers over their kid 24/7. Then I tell them, “I think what you’re asking for is if there’s a drone that can hover over your child.” They are like, “Is there one? Do you know where we can get one? We want one.” I always tell them, “No, it’s easier to stick a microchip in them when they’re asleep. Don’t worry – they’ll never know.”
KRISTIN: Oh listen, my brother, and he doesn’t care if I say this, wanted to do that to his daughter. I was like, “David, David, David, that is not okay.” But I didn’t want to know everything that he does, and the disgusting things that he talked about with his friends. Why would I want to know those things?
KEVIN: Right. Exactly. The thing is that if they know they are being monitored 24/7 – now we’re back to the social media/digital age – how long is it going to take some kid to rewire that and defeat it? I would rather my child went to a party, didn’t tell me the truth, I find out and sit her down and say, “I love you, and I’m not going to kill you; but this is not acceptable and you are going to learn from your mistakes.” As I remember, the punishment – because this is where I always get called and asked, “So how do we punish her?” I said, “Why are you asking me? I’m the uncle. I’m supposed to be the cool guy. But she lied to you, so what does she have going on this weekend?” She is a pom pom girl, a dancer, and there was this event. So, I said, “If it was up to me, I would tell her, ‘You blew it. You’re not going.’ (Just to that one event.) Call the coach, and tell the coach. I guarantee you that coach is going to say, ‘Halleluiah! Someone is finally holding these kids accountable.’”
KRISTIN: Right, because you know what happens when the parents don’t hold them accountable, they expect the school to do it.
KEVIN: Yes, that’s the other thing. Parents expect the sports teams and the schools to do all the parenting and the accountability work, and that’s just not their job.
KRISTIN: No, and it’s taxing on every other parent that has their kids in that school. Well, we could talk about this forever. So, give our listeners a ray of hope and where they can go to find you and any other place that you can think of that would help with this.
KEVIN: I’ll give you the website, but a lot of what I’m preaching is out of a book called Parenting with Love and Logic. A couple of guys here in Golden wrote the book in the 80s or 90s. It’s Loveandlogic.com. A lot of this stuff that I’m presenting back to you, these ideas, is exactly what these guys came up with. I believe in this stuff a million percent. Allow your kids to make mistakes and then sit and talk with them and say, “Ok. How can we learn from this?” I do not believe in belittling kids; I don’t believe in getting punitive or using guilt and shame. I believe in taking these situations and saying, “Oh man! What a bummer! You got an F in math. Okay, so what that means is you’re going to have to retake the class in the summer, and that means you’re not going to be able to do all these other things.” Honestly spending a ton of time trying to explain to them, “What that means is when you’re forty years old, you’re not going to be able to balance your checkbook.”
KRISTIN: Oh, they can’t even process that, yeah!
KEVIN: Oh my gosh! But do you know how many parents do that? They literally sit there and say, “I explained it to him for over an hour!” I say, “You’ve been talking to me for five minutes and I’m already bored! So why would your kid listen to you!?” You don’t have to explain it to them, you just have to tell him, “These are the rules. This is how it works. If you struggle with school work, we’ll get you a tutor; we’ll get you help. If you struggle with mental health issues, we’ll get you help. We’re not going to punish you for those things. That’s stupid. But what we are going to do is help you, and we’re going to find a solution.” You can also go to my website, petersenfamilycounseling.com, and I’m always happy to help anybody. You can text me, call me, email – I’m happy to talk to anybody about this sort of stuff, to walk through this sort of stuff. I find that consulting or parent coaching, whatever you want to call it – I spent three and a half years working in a community mental health facility in child and family services. What I learned from that three and a half years was that I can make a bigger impact working with the parents than I can with the kids. When a consultant comes into a company and says, “We need to change the culture of the company,” they don’t say, “So we’re going to fire the receptionist.” They do say, “What we’re going to do is retrain the sea level people and the managers in how to handle things differently,” because people are going to live up to what’s being expected of them.
KRISTIN: Absolutely. I was a consultant for, well I still am a consultant, so it’s been twenty some years now. I always say, “Yes, you can have me go talk to your employees. That’s fine. But I guarantee you that you are the problem, Mr. or Mrs. CEO.”
KEVIN: Yeah, but just like parents, you can’t say it like that.
KRISTIN: Right. I could in a business setting, but I get it that you can’t necessarily say that.
KEVIN: Well, I mean, I do say that effectively to a degree of, “Hey look, we need to change the way you guys are handling things.” A friend of mine, on Saturday morning I was hanging out with her and a bunch of other people. We were all just chit chatting and she said, “You know when I came to you a couple of years ago, and I told you about all the problems I was having with her and her behavior? You told me to start reading these books, and you told me to back off, let her make her own decisions, let her make her own mistakes, and just be there to support her? I swear, Kevin, my daughter has just changed! She’s an entirely different person!” And of course, she’s laughing and said, “I know, I know. You don’t think my daughter has changed at all. You think I’ve changed.”
KRISTIN: You’re thinking, “That is when you know the implant has taken.”
KEVIN: Exactly, it just cracked me up. That is what it comes down to. How you address you kids and how you work with your kids to solve their own problems and deal with their own stuff, clearly impacts your relationship with them, because they will start to respect you, not fear you.
KRISTIN: Or just not respect you at all. Period. Well, Kevin, thank you so much for coming on and talking. This is such good timing, too, so thank you for coming on to talk about it.
KEVIN: Oh, it’s my pleasure. Thank you so much for the opportunity, and thank you for your time. I really appreciate it.
KRISTIN: Absolutely. And of course, thank you to our listeners for another edition of Mental Health News Radio.
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