Picture of James Lehman, MSW


James Lehman, MSW

James Lehman, with his wife Janet, developed the foundational parenting programs offered by EmpoweringParents.com:

In addition, James was the author of two books available on Amazon:


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:

“I think it’s very important for parents to understand that they don’t have to attend every fight that they’re invited to. If your kid starts to argue with you, you don’t have to give that power…If you argue with a kid and you stop arguing, that argument will die from neglect.”

“Parents of troubled kids aren’t the problem—they are the solution.”

Media Mentions

James was featured in the New York Daily News’ article “The ‘bad kid’ fixer” by Lisa Chase.

James appeared in a segment on The Total Transformation on WPVI, channel 6 in Philadelphia.

Articles by James Lehman, MSW

Adult child talking with mom

What Can I Do When My Child Refuses to Go to School?



If you’re a parent, it’s almost inevitable that you’re going to be faced with your child not wanting to go to school at some point. In many cases, a child will outright refuse to go to school. Many parents respond to their child's refusal to attend school by yelling, screaming, and taking everything away. Other... Read more »

Mom talking to teenage daughter who is rolling her eyes after saying whatever

14 Proven Responses to the Most Frustrating Backtalk



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 »

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Arguing With Your Child? Five Things You Shouldn’t Do



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 »

Parenting Teens: Parental Authority vs. Peer Pressure


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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 »

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