Having trouble handling your child’s tantrums, outbursts, and whining? Dr. Leman discusses the psychology behind these actions on today’s Ask Dr. Leman. Learn more about Dr. Leman at BirthOrderGuy.com.

Book Links:

Parenting Your Powerful Child

Making Children Mind without Losing Yours

Have a New Kid by Friday

NEW: When Your Kid is Hurting –Dr. Kevin Leman 

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Show Sponsored by Revell, a division of Baker Publishing

Produced by Unmutable™


Doug:                       Hi, I’m Doug Terpening.

Andrea:                  And I’m Andrea.

Doug:                       We are so glad that you’re with us today. If this happens to be your first time with us, just want to let you know that this is for your education and entertainment purposes only. If the subject matter, raises any concerns for you or your child, please go seek a local professional for help. Well, Dr. Leman, this is gonna be Let Go, November 6th, election day. I wonder how our … I don’t want to talk about elections. I wonder how our football teams are gonna be doing. How is Arizona gonna be looking?

Dr. Leman:           Oh boy. I’m gonna go to Los Angeles later this month for the, I think it’s … Oh, no. Is it later this month? Let’s see. As we speak, we’re what? We’re in very late September, aren’t we?

Doug:                       Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Dr. Leman:           I’m gonna go. I’ll be at the UCLA, Arizona game.

Doug:                       Oh.

Dr. Leman:           Two of the biggest losers in the pack 12, and I’m spending money to fly on an airplane and get tickets to go to that game.

Doug:                       Yeah, it’s painful.

Dr. Leman:           Maybe you should fly down from Portland, Oregon and join us, and root for your Bruins, because they need help. They’re bad.

Doug:                       They look atrocious. I thought this coach was gonna be working wonders, but it doesn’t. And by now, Andrea, your garden is all wrapped up.

Andrea:                  Yep. It’s withering away.

Doug:                       That’s too bad. Well, people don’t want to hear about football and gardens. We should jump into today’s podcast.

Dr. Leman:           No, they don’t.

Doug:                       Here we go.

Amber:                   Hey, Dr. Leman. Thanks so much for taking my call. My name’s Amber Landry, and I’m calling from Marietta, Georgia. I have a five year old daughter and a one year old son. They get along great, but the problem I’m having is with our daughter. She just gets very frustrated whenever she can’t do something correctly. She’s very vocal about it and she’s just become really, really whiny. I’ve read your Have a New Kid by Friday. Whenever she does have those episodes, I usually just walk out of the room and go about doing something else. It’s just driving me crazy. I want to find a way to help her to express herself without getting overly upset and just freaking out. She’s very vocal whenever she gets frustrated. She just screams and yells. I don’t have any idea what to do to help her. So, hoping you can help me out. Thank you so much.

Dr. Leman:           Well number one, I can tell you’re a great mom from your question and how you framed it, the words you chose to use. So, congrats of being a good mom. You have to understand, and I’m glad you read Have a New Kid by Friday. If there’s two go-to books in parenting today for parents, and I’m saying this just because the numbers confirm this, the great sales, the volume of sales tells you that people love these books. Have a New Kid by Friday and Making Children Mind without Losing Yours. If you want to add a trifecta to that, add the third one, Parenting Your Powerful Child, because many of you have powerful kids because you or your husband, you or your wife is a powerful person. Keep that in mind. If you’ve got a powerful child, there’s a powerful parent nearby.

Now, to your question, the reason that the dramatics come, the yelling, the screaming, the whining, whatever, is because it’s paid off before. When I hear you say, when she has the meltdown and all the drama comes forth, you just get out of the room. That’s great. I’d love to just get out of the house. You don’t even hear it because it drives you crazy. I’m using your term. So, she still is able to get you going, and when she gets you going you’re most likely to say something or do something that’s not gonna help the situation. So, when kids are frustrated because things didn’t work out, don’t deny their feelings. This comes right out of the book When Your Kid is Hurting. Sometimes you have to listen without judgment, and listen in silent by the way. Use the same letters, listen and silent use the same letters.

Being silent, especially in the midst of a storm, is difficult for many a parent. Once the storm subsides and she’s now able to hear what you have to say, say, “Honey, wow. I can see why that was such a big thing to you, but I have to tell you the truth, it’s not a big thing to me.” So, you’re telling her the truth, the honesty that that isn’t a big thing to me. You’re saying, “I can see why you got upset about it.” And you have, if you need my permission to be upset about it, do so. Now once you’ve said that, you’ve lessened the probability of her going into hysteria. That’s the teachable moment in that situation. That deflates the balloon a little bit.

I’ve been in classrooms at our school, at Leman Academy of Excellence. Five of the are located in Arizona, one in Colorado, but I try to get around to the fifth, sixth, seventh and eighth grades because this is when the kids really get snarky and nasty to each other in most situations. We pride ourselves in teaching kids to be kind to one another. But what do you say to a kid who is really dogging you, really nasty, and says it in front of other people, and it’s obviously said to make you feel bad? When that happens, say, “Wow. I didn’t realize you felt so badly about yourself.” That deflates the venomous balloon. The balloon about to burst is now very soft and pliable because you’ve taken your sails and removed them from that kid’s wind. So, when you say things to kids like, “Honey, you can be unhappy. You can do whatever, but quite frankly I don’t want to listen to it,” and walk away, you’re really doing the right thing. So, that’s why I say you’re a great parent. You’re doing those things well.

Are they easy to do? No, because kids become drama queens so quick and easy in life these days.

Doug:                       So Dr. Leman, this five year old is screaming at her mom. What does that mean?

Dr. Leman:           Well, what it means is it’s paid off before, or she wouldn’t continue doing it. So, it’s the recognition reflects on mom’s face that tells the kid, I got her. I got her. I got her involved. So, you can pick up a kid at that age and put them outside. Close the patio door. Let them howl at the moon. I mean, you can use action and not words. You’ve heard me say that 100 times. It’s always a good thing. Use action and not words.

Andrea:                  How long will it take to retrain that child, so that they realize, okay mom’s not gonna pay me off anymore?

Dr. Leman:           Well, I’m glad you asked that question because normally when you take that quick action, the child gets worse. That’s a signal to mom or to dad that you’re on the right track. It subsides. How long does it take? It takes a while because this kid has learned. It’s an initial reaction. It’s an A is to B, a one is to two. It triggers and happens. But if you don’t pay it off, so to speak, it will continue to get less and less. Then you add the Vitamin E, like, “Samantha, I have to tell you. It was just great to be with you today. We had a great day, didn’t we?” So, you slip them that commercial announcement. You don’t even have to tie it together and say, “You didn’t have a temper tantrum or a letdown,” or whatever. They’ll figure that out.

Doug:                       It seems to me that one of the questions that we’d be asking, if I say to my kids, “This isn’t a big deal to me,” that sounds demeaning to them.

Dr. Leman:           You say, “Honey, I know it’s a big thing to you, and you can rant and rave and whatever, but I have to tell you the truth, it’s not a big deal to me.”

Doug:                       Really. And that won’t, the kid won’t walk away like, “Wow dad is a jerk,” and blah blah blah?

Dr. Leman:           Oh, he might, but he’s not getting paid off for saying the things he’s said. That’s the point, the bigger point.

Doug:                       Ah. Ah, ah, ah. I’m trying to create a situation where I’m not paying the kids off for their screaming antics, whiny behavior.

Dr. Leman:           Right, because it’s inappropriate. You can’t go through life doing that.

Doug:                       And the more that I walk away, I ignore it, and all that.

Dr. Leman:           Well it’s just like the kid. We’ve said it 1000 times. The kid that throws a temper tantrum, you step over the child. When you walk away, many kids, because you didn’t pay it off, will get up and do a belly flop in front of you a second time. They’re thinking, “This is supposed to be working. How come they’re not falling for this?” “Honey, if you want to make a fool of yourself in front of these people at the mall, you go right ahead, but your mom and I are headed toward the parking lot. No, actually we’re gonna stop at Macy’s and then go to the parking lot.” And that kid’s gonna come along with you. He knows he made a fool of himself.

The powerful child is saying, “I only count in life when I want, when I dominate, when I win, when I control.” Ladies, is that what you want your son to be as a husband some day? A guy who’s always got to win? A guy who controls? I don’t think so.

Doug:                       How do I know when to just step over the child and walk away, and then like you said, listen silently without judgment to them? How do I discern when to do which one?

Dr. Leman:           Well, in our example of the mall, you step over the child and you end up going home. When you go home and you’re tucking in that kid, that’s a good time to talk about him, what happened. Just say, “Honey, I want to revisit something. You asked for a treat. You wanted to run into Walgreens and get one of those Tootsie pop lollipops. And I had told you no, we weren’t gonna do that, and you decided that you were gonna show us who the boss was.” So, now I’m psychologically disclosing to the child the purpose and nature of her behavior. That’s a mouthful, but that’s what we just did. “But you tried to show us that you were the boss, that you were an authority over us, that you’re the one that makes decisions in this family. And honey, quite frankly, we welcome your input, but you don’t make the decisions in this family. Mom and dad have authority. So, I just want you to know, I was not happy with what went on in that mall today. I think you’re capable of acting a lot better than what you did.”

You might say, “Your opinion on that?” Okay, yeah, I could. Well, okay. “I just want you to know I expect better next time.” End of it. But you’ve had your say. You’ve told the truth. You held the kid accountable. That’s what teaching’s all about.

Doug:                       So, even that last phrase was interesting how it struck me. I expect better of you. We don’t think we can say that to kids anymore. Why do we think we can’t say that to kids?

Dr. Leman:           I don’t know. We ought to say it all the time. I’m doing a talk this week to our teachers up at our Mesa school outside of Phoenix. One of the things they’ve asked me to talk about is relational discipline. Now listen to the word, relational discipline. The teacher establishes authority in the classroom. The teacher, just like the parent, needs to understand, these kids actually want to please you. Let them please you. Let them figure it out. Let them problem solve. Then be the first to say, “Hey, great job. You did a great job on that. Congratulations. First bump.” That’s E. That’s Vitamin E, encouragement.

So, I’m just telling you. Whether I’m talking to a YPO group where everybody in the audience is at least a multi millionaire, or the Precision Tool Workers of America, or Women of Faith in Las Vegas, teachers, parents, the message is the same. Keep the tennis ball of life on the proper side of the net. Don’t own what isn’t yours.

Doug:                       Well, that’s really helpful, Dr. Leman. I know this is a hard one for all of us today. It’s really good. Really, really good. Anything else, Andrea?

Andrea:                  No. I do like the part about being … When you’re listening, don’t deny their feelings. Don’t try and tell them, “You don’t feel that way.” I think that’s good for us, for me to remember. To just listen. Hear it out.

Doug:                       Super. Well again, we want to thank the fine folks over at Revel and Baker Books that are sponsoring this podcast to make it possible and come to you, and are the publishers of a bazillion of Dr. Leman books. They are good friends to us, and we appreciate them doing this a ton. We look forward to being with you guys again. We can’t wait to see you. Well, not see you, I guess listen and hang out with you again to add to that parenting tool box.

Andrea:                  Have a great week.

Doug:                       All right, bye.