When you’re a parent with multiple children, you learn quickly that some tactics that worked on one child are sometimes completely useless on the other. In this episode, Dr. Leman explains the benefits of changing up your parenting from child to child.


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Doug Terpening: So Dr. Leman says that kids are different, and therefore I have to parent differently. I think that’s way unfair. Some kids get something that others don’t. Doesn’t that seem wrong? Doesn’t it seem like kids going to be bitter. That kid A, got this, but kid B doesn’t, or kid C gets this earlier than this kid. It just seems wrong to me. But that’s the question we asked Dr. Leman. He says, if you have different kids, you have to parent differently on them. We’ll find out if he’s right or if I’m right.

Doug Terpening: Hi, I’m Doug Terpening.

Andrea: I’m Andrea.

Doug Terpening: We are so glad that you are with us. If this happens to be your first time with us, welcome and want to make sure that you know that this is for 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. So Dr. Leman, you love to say that we have to parent each kid differently because each kid is different. That seems very unfair and undoable. What do you mean by that?

Dr. Kevin Leman: Yeah, I’ll get to that in a minute, but I got a comment. No wonder people like you. We are so glad you joined us today. I mean, you’re like Mr. Happy Face on this podcast. You’ll get us going in a positive direction. And, I’m Andrea and she’s right there. Oh, this cute little couple from Oregon. Dr Leman says they have pigs and chickens and whatever on that farm. They live on whatever.

Dr. Kevin Leman: But, people love you and I want to say how much I appreciate you guys and you, you always start things off on a positive way and you always say, hey listen, this is for your entertainment education. If you’ve got a big problem here, go seek some help. And let me say this, if you’re going to seek help from somebody, find somebody who has a reputation for getting rid of you.

Dr. Kevin Leman: What does that mean? It means look for someone who believes in short term therapy of any kind. Okay? Don’t get locked in to seeing somebody for two years and we have easy payments and please don’t go. Don’t go there. Find somebody who’s practical. Who believes that behavior is learned, and that with proper changes on your part as a parent, you can see changes in your kid’s life.

Dr. Kevin Leman: So I forgot the question. Oh, I remember now. It was Dr. Leman. You say, you got to treat your kids differently. Yeah, you do have to treat your kids differently. I’ll give you a little vignette out my life. When our daughter number two was born, it was a great day. I was so excited to have another little daughter. I was so excited, I hit two little old ladies in an intersection at a red light, in their car. I should say. Drove them across the intersection. In their little Ford Pinto car, and the Ford Pinto, if you remember, was not much of a car.

Dr. Kevin Leman: I was driving my aunt’s big old 4 door Chevy sedan, which was probably twice as big as this little Pinto. And I damaged her car severely, and the Pinto was not in great shape either. I was so excited to have that little daughter but I remember looking at her the very first time I looked at her and I thought, she doesn’t look like Holly. That was my first thought. Well, Hey Leman, why should she look like Holly? She’s not Holly, she’s Kristin. Her given name is Kristin. The only person that ever called her Kristin was a motorcycle policemen. We call her Chrissy to this day. She’s the mother of two kids, married to Dennis for I think 20 years now. Anyway, your kids are different, and you know from biblical days forward, the firstborn son; talk about sexist, there it is. The first born son got more than his fair share of the father’s estate.

Dr. Kevin Leman: So we’ve always given preferential treatment to firstborns. And you firstborns know that you’ve been groomed for success and responsibility, because you grew up with things like, I don’t care what she did, I don’t care what you said. You’re the oldest. I expect more out of you young woman or young man. So from the right, from the get go, you’ve been blessed or cursed, with a mantra of responsibility. That’s why so many of you end up in leadership positions, because we’ve created scenarios in our home where you’re the natural leader of the cubs in the den. Yet if you look at the Cubs as they come out of the den, they’re all unique and different. That’s the magic of all this. I mean, I’m telling you, Doug and Andrea, people do not get sick of talking about birth order. It’s fascinating how these three little cubs or nine little cubs pick your number, come out of the den and they’re so different, and you hear it all the time.

Dr. Kevin Leman: My sister, my brother; night and day different. We have different interests, different jobs. Once in a while you’ll see a family where there’s four kids, three of them are young men and one young lady, and they’re all engineers. Very unusual, but you see it once in a while and guess what dad was? An engineer. So you have to treat kids differently. For those of you who are believers in the creator, almighty God, let me ask you a question. Does he treat us the same? Does all mighty God treat us the same? Do they all make us look alike? They give us the same gifts? Or tendencies? How about fingerprints? That’s a good one. Gave us all different fingerprints. So yeah, I’m not a preacher, but what the Bible says is, I knew you in your mother’s womb. I know the number of hairs on your head. Now, again, some of you are not people of faith.

Dr. Kevin Leman: You just forget what I said. Won’t bring it up again, just making a point. But the fact is kids are different. So it’s a smart parent, who treats their kids differently. And, It’s very natural for us. Just like I did one little Chrissy, was born to make a comparison. Comparisons get us in all kinds of trouble, and kids resent that. So firstborn, children have a need for order in their life. They’re detailed oriented. You’re going to have to meet some of those details in their life. Here’s the problem, Dr. Lehman, neither my husband or myself are detailed oriented. Uh oh, well then my guess is this little firstborn son or daughter is going to be running your life before too long. They’re going to be reminding you that we need to do this, and we’re late for that and it’ll, it’ll flush out one way or another but, just rest assured these kids are different.

Dr. Kevin Leman: They see life from behind their own individual lens, and they develop attributes and again, just for fun here. Firstborns: reliable, conscientious, lists makers, don’t like surprises. They tend to thrive in anything that’s perfectionistic, oriented. Occupations: doctors, surgeons, accountants, engineers, jewelers, anywhere where precision, architects, is the order of the day, you’re going to find an ordinance amount of first barn or only born children. It’s the political season if you haven’t noticed, but I was just looking at the candidates on the democratic side. Okay. Biden, firstborn, Mayor Pete, only child, Cory Booker, firstborn, Kamala, Harris, firstborn, Elizabeth Warren, firstborn daughter, three older brothers. She’s the first one if I remember to go to college and her family. Bernie, now Bernie says, I don’t want to get too political here, but Bernie says free everything. Of course, Bernie’s the baby of the family. Amy Klobuchar, whatever, how you spell her name or pronounce her name, I’m not sure, firstborn. It goes on and on and on. Beto O’Rourke, firstborn.

Dr. Kevin Leman: I mean, are our leaders okay? In the PTO, at your school, in your church council, your pastor, your rabbi, they’re firstborn children in an order at numbers. Why? Because we groomed them to be leaders in the family. Now let me give you a little hook on this. Put two parents who are very perfectionistic on top of that firstborn child. Not only are they perfectionistic, but they’re very critical. They’re always shoulding. That’s S, H, O, U, L, D, i, N, G on that firstborn. Over a period of time, they will turn that potentially perfectionistic firstborn son or daughter, into a slob, a procrastinator, one that ends up defeating themselves, and becomes very self critical as well as critical of other people. So I laid out all the attributes of the first barn. I said, okay, here’s just one variable and see how that can turn that Apple cart upside down. So this is all about relationships. Our relationships with our kids. But again, we can do a whole series probably on this topic, Doug and Andrea, because it’s got so many little nooks and crannies in it.

Andrea: So Doug asks, how do we parent fairly and differently? And you’ve just said that we parent the firstborn preferentially, so what does that, is that right? Is that wrong? And what does that mean for those lost middle children? Are we supposed to treat the firstborn preferentially? I’m, just curious.

Dr. Kevin Leman: I don’t think we should be concerned with parenting fairly.

Andrea: Alright.

Dr. Kevin Leman: I don’t think that ought to be the emphasis, let’s get that off the table.

Andrea: Okay.

Dr. Kevin Leman: I think what you need to focus on, is parenting differently. Some kids are talkers, some kids are non talkers. I mean, think of families you know. Think of the, first two children in a family that you know. Isn’t it true that they’re night and day different?

Andrea: Yeah.

Dr. Kevin Leman: Well see what happens in birth order when that second born comes in the world and they become cognizant of the world around them. Their world is very, very small, when they’re little. It’s mom and dad and older sibling, or grandma and grandpa. Eventually preschool, and so forth, but their world is very small, but even when they’re very small. They look up and they see this firstborn and whatever path that firstborn has chosen. That second born child is going to go in a different direction. That’s almost a guarantee lock. Does it happen in all families? No, it doesn’t, but in most families, overwhelmingly the second born takes another path. So, if you have little miss goody two shoes, in the firstborn position of the family, you may have very well find little Attila in the second position. Because she is going to go way out of her way to be just the opposite of what little miss goody two shoes is.

Dr. Kevin Leman: Again, if you want to read a fascinating book, and I mean fascinating, read The Birth Order Book. I mean many trees died in its honor. It’s sold like crazy over the years. I revised it for those of you who read the old birth order book years ago. The revised edition, which I think was revised maybe three years ago if I’m guessing right, maybe four years ago has 70% more material in it, more material, than the original version. Why? Because families have changed so much. We have so many divorce parents, so many blended families and just the nature of families has changed so, it’s an interesting read. But to answer your question and your observation, Andrea, pay attention to parenting your kids differently and don’t worry about the fairness factor.

Andrea: Okay.

Dr. Kevin Leman: Because I’m telling you life’s unfair. Your 16 year old would be driving the car. Your 14 year old is going to think it’s very unfair. It’s not unfair. The state of Oregon treats 16 year olds differently than the 14 year olds.

Doug Terpening: Well before I ask my question about how that feels wrong, that I actually should do fairly. I want to, since you brought it up, what’s really cool is right now the ebook promo is actually tThe Birth Order Book. So if you want the new revised version of The Birth Order Book was 70% more material. You can get it between now and December 31st of 2019 for less than a Starbucks, for $2.99. How will owning The Birth Order help me parent differently, Dr. Leman?

Dr. Kevin Leman: Oh wow. I’m so glad you mentioned Starbucks. My wife misses up. Hinton goes through Starbucks is $4.24. For a Starbucks. Give me a break. You can get The Birth Order Book. That’s a $16, $15.99 book, $16 book if I remember right. And by the way, I know we’re asking you, Hey, you can download it for a $1.99. Let me remind you, this is Christmas time. If you want to give a book that’s really going to help you figure out who you are, why you are the way you are, why your spouses the way they are, why your kids are the way they are. I don’t think there’s a better book to read than The Birth Order Book. The is part of the title The Birth Order Book. Some of you know this, I’ve said it many times. The original title was Abel had it coming and the publisher said, you can’t have a title like Abel had it coming.

Dr. Kevin Leman: I still liked that title. But nevertheless, to answer your question, it’s a five star rated book. It knocks it out of the park. The light will go on as you read the book. Oh, that’s why she is the way she is. That’s why I am the way I am. Wow. I never noticed that that variable of an age gap of five years starts another family. That’s why my younger brother, who’s the sixth born is a fanatic. He’s a perfectionist to beat the band. He’s an English professor and a prestigious university. Now it makes sense. And so many of the relationships that you deal with daily will begin to make sense when you read The Birth Order Book. If you’re a business person. Wow. Do people buy things differently? Do firstborn children buy things differently than youngest children? Yes. What are the implications for you in marketing your product or service?

Dr. Kevin Leman: I mean, there’s so many. Like I say little nooks, crannies, angles, so many useful things in The Birth Order Book. People always say, what’s the best book I’ve ever written? And I waiver. I have to tell you I waiver sometimes, but many times The Birth Order Book is what comes out of my mouth. Other times there’s a book I did called Sheet Music, which is a pretty blunt book about marital sex and marriage. It’s a, it’s a great one. Have a New Kid by Friday, Making Children Mind Without Losing Yours, The Way Of The Shepherd, which is a leadership book. There’s a lot of pretty good books out there, but this one I’m telling you, we’re offering it for $2.99. I’m telling you this is a great Christmas present for somebody.

Doug Terpening: So get it now. You only got a little while until December 31st to get this book for $2.99 between now and the end of 2019. Wherever eBooks are sold, this was Andrea’s, one of Andrea’s favorite books that she read and she learned a ton about herself through that book. So, highly recommend it. And now a no nonsense parenting moment with Dr. Kevin Leman.

Dr. Kevin Leman: Let’s talk about a word purposive. That’s a word you haven’t used today. You haven’t used this week, this month or probably this year. It’s not a word that easily sneaks its way into our vocabulary. It’s actually a psychological word derived from the school of individual psychology, which Alfred Adler who was a psychiatrist in Vienna many years ago, brought to our attention. This is the say that every social behavior your child engages in serves a purpose in a child’s life. All kids start off in life as attention getters, and they’re either going to get positive attention, or negative attention. So when a kid throws a temper tantrum ,or has a meltdown, what’s the purpose of nature of the behavior? That’s what I want you to ask yourself. The nature of the behavior is to show you that they are in authority over you. That they’re the ones that run the family.

Dr. Kevin Leman: And again, I’m here to tell you that there’s kids shortened a yardstick that are in full control of their families today. So the next time your kid acts up, or gives you that defiant look, and by the way, that kid that gives you the defiant look and then slams the door, and says, you’ll never let me do anything. There is your powerful child. Again, you have a powerful child. There’s a powerful parent nearby.

Dr. Kevin Leman: Power does not work in bringing up children today. Being in healthy authority over them, and being a person with limits, does a lot for kids self-esteem. Kids want boundaries, so purpose of behavior, serves a purpose in a child’s life for the powerful child. He simply says, I only count when I dominate, when in control. And of course the attention getter says, I only count a life when I put other people in my service or I get attention. In fact, you don’t even want me talking about the revengeful child, and there are around many of them have hit juvenile court in teenage years. They’re the ones whose mantra in life is, I feel hurt by life, therefore, I have a right to strike out at others. Hope you don’t have one of those at home. Take care. Have a great day and watch out for purposive behavior.

Doug Terpening: Okay. Dr. Leman, I’d like to come back to the issue of fairness, don’t be fair, but be different. Yet within the Terpening household, as our kids have gotten older, one of the common things that we’ve heard is the baby gets away with A, murder and B, she gets everything sooner. She, gets to stay up late earlier and she gets to do this earlier and they’re like, are we wrong? It seems wrong that people get different privileges at different times that we’re not creating competition or jealousy with our kids.

Dr. Kevin Leman: Well, a guy named Alfred Adler called it striving for superiority, and it’s a little bit like kids on top of a hill trying to be the King or Queen of the hill, where you push other kids down the sand pile or the dirt pile. So you’re always going to hear that from younger children ,about older children. Or, you’ll hear an oldest say something about the baby, the family. She gets away with murder, she gets anything she wants, he can do as he pleases. Well, there’s reasons for that. We were down as parents. I mean after the fourth child, give me a break. You’re just trying to get dinner. In fact I always like to say by the time the fourth born rolls around, we worried about everything the firstborn ever ate. Fourth born comes into your life, you grab some food and throw it on the floor and say dinner’s ready.

Dr. Kevin Leman: I mean there’s a wearing down, there’s a education as parents add to their quiver ,and bring another little cub into their den. So those kinds of things. I remember my all time great one-liner I use with my own kids ,because one would say, how come she got that? And I didn’t get that? Or whatever. I would say, honey, it’s because you know your mother and I love her so much more than we love you. It was obviously tongue in cheek and she’d roll her eyes and say, dad, cause she knew that wasn’t true. But, you just got to play with that stuff a little bit and realize that when a kid’s complaining about getting something, for example. Well honey, do you want me to treat you like a treat your little sister? Yes, the kid says, fine, your bedtime is now 8:30 instead of 9:00.

Dr. Kevin Leman: Oh no, I don’t mean that. What do you mean? You mean literally you’re just a hedonistic little sucker, who can’t stand the fact that your sister got something that you didn’t. I got news for you in life that’s going to happen. Other people are going to get things that you’re not going to get. It’s called reality discipline. And so what I’m posing to parents is the home is a microcosm of what your kids are going to experience in life. They’re going to experience disappointment, they’re going to experience things that aren’t fair or whatever. But our job is to try to help kids to deal with those curve balls in life. I think what we do here on our podcast, helps parents become much more resilient and much more authoritative, and much more well balanced. The kids are kids. They’re going to say and do stupid things. You’ve got to remember that the way it is. You’re the adult.

Doug Terpening: That’s really interesting to me in the fact that you say that we have to help our kids develop psychological muscles. And you’re saying, yeah, life is not fair. Home is not fair. Tell the kids that’s the reality of the way the world works. Mom’s not perfect, Dad’s not perfect. Build a bridge and get over it. Well you wouldn’t say that but, so you’re saying….

Dr. Kevin Leman: The flip side is we love each other, we care about each other, we encourage you, you can do this. Honey, I know it’s not easy. You know, I’ve told the story many times. I still remember being cut from the basketball team, and I got my clothes out of my locker and tucked them under my arm, and ran home with snow on the ground, crying my eyes out that I got cut. So you know, those things are still with us. My baseball coach said Leman. If he can’t play third, at least look like he can play third base and tuck your shirt in.

Dr. Kevin Leman: That same coach on a Saturday morning, we’re packing our gear to take a van down to Bloomington, Illinois, where we had a double header schedule with Illinois Wesleyan University. The coach walks by my locker and there’s two guys next to me. They’re packing up their stuff and he says, Leman and I don’t think we’re going to need you this weekend. You know? I mean, ouch. Yeah. I mean I’m old, I’m near death and still remember those things. But as moon had said, my best buddy, he said Leman, you know what? The fact that you graduated right near the bottom of the class and everybody said you’d never become anything, believe me, that’s one of the reasons why you were successful in life. And he’s probably right.

Doug Terpening: So you’re saying we don’t have to worry about being fair to our kids because A, we love them and we’re trying to do, right. B, you’re saying know, your kids. So know the differences. Like, you’re right, James loves order and he has said repeatedly to us when I have a family, we will be on time cause the Terpening’s are never on time. So he, it’s very funny, but know them, know those things about them. And, be aware of them, read The Birth Order Book, which will truly help you. But don’t worry about always being fair. Right? Know what your kids need and do that. And if you aren’t, it’s okay to say that’s just the way life is, for their sake actually. Did I get that right? Or what do I need to change?

Dr. Kevin Leman: I’m just so thankful you just decided to do this. A podcast today and you know, birth order is so old hat to me. I mean I live it, breathe it and, we just scratched the surface today. I hope that you’ll schedule some more where we can go into a birth order. So far we’ve said, Hey, treat your kids differently. We talked about the firstborn and the leadership, but the poor middle children, they’ve said, Hey, I haven’t even mentioned as well. I just did. I just said middle children, so don’t say I didn’t say it.

Andrea: I was going to ask about them.

Doug Terpening: Andrea as a recovering middle child.

Dr. Kevin Leman: Yeah. I’m suggesting that we, we do a podcast on middle children. A podcast all for themselves, all middle children, and then we’ll do what I’m maybe the youngest child, or maybe the only child. I think we should do several podcasts is what I’m saying at birth order. I think that would be good. I think people tend to enjoy them. That’s my take. I get a lot of feedback that “give us more on birth order”. So I’ll let you be the judge of that. You guys are the boss of me.

Doug Terpening: Well thank you for that suggestion, and also thank you for freeing us from having to be perfect and always fair to our kids. And that we can tell them this is the way the real world works, and not feel like terrible parents as long as we’re not just abusing it, right? But that’s kind of freeing to say to our kids.

Andrea: Well, like you pointed out, Doug, we have to know each kid and we have to know what they need and what their struggles are.

Doug Terpening: And you’re great at that, Andrea. Like this morning, my lovely wife pulled me aside and said, you know what honey, I think you need to do this with the child because you’re not doing it. And I said, why? She said, I think because they need it. Right. So yeah. Thanks

Andrea. Anything else? Dr. Leman as we wrap up?

Dr. Kevin Leman: Well, you know what? In most, marriages, isn’t it true that one of us is more perceptive of social relationships?

Doug Terpening: Yep. And that’s why it’s important to listen to each other, and know what the other person can do.

Dr. Kevin Leman: Yeah.

Doug Terpening: Absolutely.

Dr. Kevin Leman: Yeah. Well, I hope we’ll. How much time do we have left? Are we winding it down?

Doug Terpening: We are actually at the end here. We are regretfully. So we’ll have to add another one in about the middle children. How do you help parent the middle children? Andrea look at her.

Andrea: We’re both middle children Doug.

Doug Terpening: I’m the first boy and I was the privileged one.

Andrea: Oh I see you got preferential treatment because you were the boy.

Dr. Kevin Leman: Yeah, he does have some privilege. Yeah. I think it’d be good too, to talk about why it’s important to get behind the eyes of that second child, that middle child, that youngest child.

Andrea: We’ll do that next time.

Dr. Kevin Leman: To see how, how they see life. So if you can help remember that on a future podcast, let’s tackle that as well.

Doug Terpening: We’ll do that next week. Get behind the eyes of the middle child. Well we’ll wrap this one up. Thank you guys for being here and thank you Dr. Leman again for helping us realize that we’re trying to raise adults, and not perfect children,, and that part of life is life’s not fair and don’t, lie to your kids and make it that way. And thank you. Also, Baker Books for offering The Birth Order Book for $2.99 between now and the end of the year, which is, please read it for your sake again to understand yourself and then your kids will help you out.

Andrea: It’s fascinating and fun to read.

Doug Terpening: It is fun to read. It is a really fun, and thank you for everyone that joined us today. We love being with you and we look forward to the next time to add to that parenting toolbox so you can love those kids more and more.

Andrea: Have a good one.

Doug Terpening: Take care. Bye bye.