For three decades, James Lehman worked with behaviorally troubled youth and the families and professionals who live with, educate, treat and manage them. In public schools, residential treatment centers, private schools and numerous outpatient and inpatient settings, James developed an approach to managing children and adolescents which challenges them to learn to solve social problems without hiding behind a façade of disrespectful, obnoxious or abusive behavior.
James brought a wealth of personal experience to the arena of child and adolescent therapy, having experienced severe behavioral problems himself as a child and adolescent. Abandoned at the age of two by parents who were unable to take care of him, James was found and adopted by the Lehmans. He began to exhibit oppositional and defiant behavior at home and in the classroom. As he grew older, these behaviors became more severe. Eventually, he quit school, left home, lived on the streets of New York City and drifted into a life of substance abuse and crime, which led to numerous prison sentences.
After more than six years in various prisons and institutions, James was given the opportunity to participate in an accountability-focused treatment program. James graduated from that treatment program and participated in a period of training, became a staff coordinator, and his career as a counselor, therapist and teacher began.
James Lehman passed away in 2010 after a long illness. His legacy lives on in The Total Transformation child behavior programs and on Empowering Parents, where you can still read his articles and learn his timeless lessons. His wife, child behavior therapist and co-creator of the program, Janet Lehman, MSW, and the entire staff at Empowering Parents, continue James’s work to teach the principles of The Total Transformation to families around the world.
You can learn more about James’s life experience in:
James attended Fordham University for two years, moved to New England, and obtained a Bachelor’s Degree in Social Work, graduating Summa Cum Laude. As he continued working with children, families and professionals, James was able to attend Boston University and, in 1989, he graduated with a Master’s Degree in Social Work.
A Word from James Lehman, MSW
The focus of James’s work in residential treatment centers and in his private practice was providing parents, teachers and case managers with the tools to challenge children with difficult behaviors to develop the problem-solving and self-management skills necessary to succeed without relying on disrespectful, obnoxious or abusive behavior.
James would say to parents:
“Look, what are you doing here? When you do x, y and z, look what happens. Something has to change. Let’s look at when this started. Let’s look at why it came to be. And then let’s talk about what you need to do now. You can’t change the past, so let’s work on the next right thing you can do.”
When kids act out, they have an arsenal of backtalk they fire at you in order to put you on the defensive—a secret language that’s designed to win them control and absolve them of responsibility. If you take those comments at face value—or take them to heart—you’ll always be on the defensive, constantly reacting to... Read more »
Nearly every morning before school, Josh, 9, will scream, cry and do anything possible to stay home. “He’ll whine on and on, ‘I don’t feel well. I hate my teacher. School is boring,” say his parents, Suzanne and Rob, who report that they have hit the wall with his behavior. “He used to like school,”... Read more »
As every parent knows, fights over bedtime can be one of the biggest power struggles you’ll have with your child, whether they’re five or fifteen. The truth is, many kids just don’t want to go to bed at night. For most of them, I think it’s because they’re afraid they’re going to miss something. With... Read more »
How do you nip escalating fights over power in the bud? In part two of our power struggles series, James shows you three powerful techniques for defusing defiant power struggles.
"Remember, when you engage in an argument with your child, you're just giving him more power."
How do you know if you’re entering into a power struggle... Read more »
Sometimes when we feel powerless as parents, we resort to bringing out the big guns. Have you ever found yourself saying things like, “Wait until your father gets home!” or “Wait until your mother hears about this!”? I'm here to tell you that if you threaten a child with what their other parent might ... Read more »
“My fourteen year old daughter was arrested for shoplifting make-up this week,” said Marie, a working mother of two girls. “Is this just normal teen behavior, or is it something more serious? She’s grounded for a month and I’ve taken away her iPod and computer privileges, but to tell the truth, I’m still in shock.... Read more »
For many parents, every conversation with their kids seems to turn into an argument. The parents I have worked with get completely frustrated and then don’t know how to make it stop. Whether it’s during a difficult time (like adolescence) or over several years, arguing can seem like the only form of communication that parents... Read more »
It’s hard to get most adolescents to comply, but when you’re dealing with a hostile teen, it can be almost impossible. In part two of this series on anger and hostility in kids, James Lehman discusses concrete ways for you to break through your child’s force field of anger and defuse his hostility. Don’t give... Read more »
Have you found yourself asking the question, “Why is my child always so angry at me?” Do you feel like your adolescent surrounds himself with a force field of anger and hostility? In part one of this frank Q&A, James Lehman explains the difference between hostility and anger—and tells you where these emotions often come from.
EP:... Read more »
It’s one of the hardest things parents deal with: even if you’re trying to raise your child the right way, as soon as he walks out the door, you know he’s going to be exposed to all sorts of negative—even dangerous—influences. From dress to attitude to a popular culture that says it’s cool to drink... Read more »