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Book Review: Have a New Kid by Friday by Dr. Leman

Laura Kuehn, LCSW

Parenting is no simple task.  It is not for the faint of heart and often parents need support.  Parenting books are a great resource for moms and dads searching for solutions to their difficulties with child-rearing.  Dr. Kevin Leman’s Have a New Kid by Friday, was published in 2008 and has ranked high on best seller lists and been widely acclaimed by his peers ever since.

Have a New Kid by Friday is full of information for the frazzled and frustrated parent of children of any age.  Here are some of the highlights:

PROS

1) Leman’s style of “say it once and walk away” has great impact on a family system where the previous pattern has been one of debating, arguing, bargaining, and yelling.  It is almost like giving your family the equivalent of an electric shock.  If you are looking for a “reset” button for your family, this book is for you.

2) Dr. Leman stresses the importance of connecting with your children.  Despite what parenting folklore says, children do not want parents to be their friends.  They want parents who are in charge.  Establishing yourself as the authority figure has the added benefit of improving your relationship and communication with your children.

3) Dr. Leman’s book contains a great discussion of the difference between praise and encouragement.  If you have ever struggled to understand the nuances of these two, Have a New Kid by Friday will make it clear.

4) Dr. Leman gives parents permission to say “no” with confidence and without apology.  He encourages parents to take a matter of fact stance to parenting and offers great examples of how this is lived out in day-to-day life.  The book covers 100 different problem behaviors and his remedy for each.

No approach to parenting will be the magic bullet that works for everyone. Have a New Kid by Friday is no exception.  While there is great inherent value in this work, some elements may require a more critical eye.  Here are a few:

CONS

1) While Leman’s approach works wonders for whipping a family into shape, it does not appear to be a great long term parenting solution.  The emphasis is on rapid external change rather than a transformation of the child’s inner character.

2) Leman assumes that all misbehavior is for attention.  Most parents know that children are much more complex than that simplistic explanation will allow.  Misbehavior happens for a whole host of reasons including revenge, power and control, low self-worth, trauma or loss.

3) His approach seems to stop short.  For example, he suggests that if your child misbehaves in the grocery store, you say nothing.  You simply go home and ignore him.  The next time he asks for something (and there will be a next time), you say, “No. You behaved poorly at the store” and you go back to what you were doing.  No amount of begging will change your mind.  This will make an impression on your child and will improve his behavior.  However, it will not address the issue of making amends or “righting a wrong.”  Value oriented parents wanting to make the most of every teachable moment, may find his approach incomplete.

4) Leman’s discipline approach is one that emphasizes, almost exclusively, the use of removal of privileges as the consequence for any type of misbehavior.  From hitting a sibling to taking the car keys without permission, his consequence remains the same:  a loss of privileges.  While this is an effective parenting strategy that all parents should use, there are a host of other options available to parents but Leman leaves those out.  Sensitive children or those with low self-esteem may find this emphasis on removal too stressful for an already tenuous ego system.

If you find yourself in a vicious cycle that starts with nagging, progresses to yelling and ends with disobedience, Have a New Kid by Friday is for you.  Despite the title, you will likely find that you are the one transformed by Friday and your children’s behavior will reflect that change.  It is a great jumping off point.  It can be the springboard you need to get to the next level in your parenting – one that addresses inner character as well as external behavior.

About the author

Laura Kuehn, LCSW

Laura Kuehn, LCSW

Laura Kuehn, LCSW is a licensed clinical social worker specializing in children and families. CfP is the place she combines some of her very favorite things: writing, parenting and God’s word. She loves encouraging parents to build their families upon Jesus, the one true Cornerstone. She is happily married to a wonderfully supportive husband and is the mother of two delightfully inspiring children.

7 Comments

  • Great evaluation, Laura. A good “reboot” advice book, but leaves challenges to the heart issues a bit flat.

  • Thanks for this review! I had herd things about his book and was interested in checking it out.. This gives me much more factual information to go on.

    How about a review of a Dobson parenting book?

  • Had such a bad experience with this book that it affected my parenting and soured my relationship with Focus on the Family. I now doubt the effectiveness (esp. long term, as you mention) of their advice and perspectives. The worst thing about this book was the “surprise” aspect of the discipline. It makes parents look capricious. The only family members parents should surprise is themselves, by getting a backbone (when needed) with their kids. But if the children are relatively well behaved (no drugs or dangerous driving, for instance), parenting should be more gentle than this book suggests.

    • Hi Steve,

      Thank you for your heartfelt comment. I am so sorry that you had the experience that you described. I agree with the fact that this book is definitely not for everyone and not for building any kind of long-term, character in children.

      The longer I dabble in this field of Christian parenting, the more I realize that there is no “right” way to do this whole parenting thing. Many of us want the magic bullet or a “play book”, but it simply is not out there – and if some author is claiming to have it, that should be our first sign to put that book back on the shelf. Children are infinitely different – as are parents. You combine those two factors (never mind other elements in the environment) and you’ve got yourself a moving target. The best we can do is to submit to the Lord, pray with fervency and realize that we are partners with God to mold and shape a person that is ultimately HIS, not ours.

      Thanks for taking the time to comment.

      God bless you,
      Laura

      • Yes, kids are different! Our first child got a pre-school “demerit” for not switching tasks on time. My wife decided to homeschool after that. The college honors program loves her concentration, the flip side of which is trouble switching tasks! We sent both our daughters to public school part time (legal in WV) and they thrived there. After reading “Have a New kid by Friday” I lost faith in that whole approach and became a permissive parent. Recently, I have had to toughen up, but not too much. Mostly, it’s about limiting video game time, plus endless “research” about said video games!

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