It’s time for another Ask Dr. Leman: “How do I handle my cranky 2-year-old?” In this episode, Dr. Leman gives advice on how to act upon signs of a powerful child even at the age of 2.



Show Sponsored by Revell, a division of Baker Publishing

Produced by Unmutable™


Andrea: This mom has a two-year-old and a brand new baby at home. And the two-year-old demands mom or nothing. Do you ever feel like it’s mom or nothing at your home? Let’s see what Dr. Leman has to say to Ashley.

Doug: Hi, I’m Doug Terpening.

Andrea: And I’m Andrea.

Doug: And welcome to the podcast of Have a New Kid with Dr. Kevin Leman. We are so glad that you are with us and if this happens to be your first time, just want to let you know 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.

Doug: So Dr. Leman, it’s been a long, long, long time since we’ve done this. So I’m going to ask you a couple of questions about what you’re doing in life these days. How many books have you written?

Dr. Leman: I think it’s now 64.

Doug: Okay.

Dr. Leman: And as I always say a few of them are good, but you know the reason we’ll take Making Children Mind Without Losing Yours for example. Do you know that book came out in 1984? Let’s do some math here. Doug, you’re probably best at math. 16 and 19, sounds like that might be 35

Doug: Yeah, that sounds like 35 to me.

Dr. Leman: So that book has been in print for 35 years. Do you know that most books sold in America sell fewer than 5,000 copies? These are million sellers. I’ve been blessed with longevity in my writing career. The books continue to sell using publisher terminology, that’s what they call backlist gold because once they’ve paid the author, the advance whatever comes in as sort of gravy, they paid off the book. They love books like that, but my question to myself is, why does a book hang around that long? Why isn’t that book out of print?

Dr. Leman: In fact, I did a major revision on it a couple of years ago and it just jettisoned the book to new heights once again. Well, again, I know there’s seasons listening so just hang on, put your seat belt on and drink some Kool-Aid for a minute. Okay. These books are based upon the teachings that are found in the Bible, particularly with a guy named Saint Paul and they work because the principles are God-given principles.

Dr. Leman: Now if you don’t believe in God, whatever. I mean, like I say, have a Starbucks, kick back and do whatever you want to do. I’m just telling you that the long lasting nature of these books whether on a marriage, like the Intimate Connection or Making Children Mind or Having a New Kid by Friday, they’ll continue to be around because from whence they came and people who know me know I want to be practical. I probably have too much fun, but my books tend to be fun, make you chuckle and laugh at yourself. I laugh at myself during the books. And so yeah, to answer the question about 64 books and they’re still around and they’re in every possible language.

Dr. Leman: I spoke last weekend in Los Angeles at a wonderful church. Most of the people that are in fellowship are Korean. And of course I have books in Korean and Chinese and Japanese, all the Asian languages. And you see that the printed word really does reach throughout the world. So I’m just thankful to God that he gave me this platform. We get a lot of feedback about the Terpenings and how much they love you guys and how much they love our podcasts. And I would just ask you guys to help spread the word. Go on Facebook and say, “Hey, if you never heard of Leman Podcast, here it is. It’s worth it. And it’s free.” You don’t beat free.

Doug: And do you have any children yourself?

Dr. Leman: I have five big ones. The youngest is 26, so we’re old and they’re all very, very successful in life. Anybody cares to know. And they all like their parents, which I hope… For those of you who have young kids, you know, you sometimes when you hear me talk about reality, discipline you think, “Oh, I wonder if that’s too harsh. Are my kids going to love me?” You know, if you discipline your kids with love, they’re not only going to like you, but when they’re older like ours are, they’re going to want to hang out with you. It’s really a nice feeling.

Doug: And the reason I wanted to go back down that road is just again to validate that this has been proven for decades. This is not just a brand new fly by night concept that you’re bringing up and it’s proven in your kids that they… One of my favorite things is sometimes we have to stop the podcast because one of your kids is calling you at 6:30 in the morning on their way to work just to connect with dad. Right?

Dr. Leman: It’s now 7:10, 7:19 in Tucson, Arizona. And I think it’s the same time where you are. And at 5:17 this morning, I was exchanging texts with one of my daughters. So we talk a lot. Yeah.

Doug: It’s just crazy that the reason… I’m so glad you said that, that part of this that convinced Andrea and I is the proof of the way that your grown children love you and interact with you. And also can I say, your marriage to your wife was beautiful when we got to be with you in your home and see how much you guys love each other. Okay. I just say that this guy is the real deal and it’s not just some made up. It’s been proven in what he’s done. So we get to hear Ashley’s question now. Here we go. Here’s Ashley’s question for you.

Ashley: Hi Dr. Leman. My name is Ashley. I’m a new mom. I have a two-year-old and a seven-week-old. I’m a huge fan. I started reading your books in college, The Birth Order Book, and I’m 35 now, a recovering firstborn perfectionist, thanks to you.

Ashley: I have two questions. I want to know how I handle my two-year-old who wakes up cranky and irritable sometimes. Maybe she didn’t get enough sleep the night before or we got her to bed too late and the day just starts off on the wrong foot. Sometimes I’ll use humor like you’ve suggested and imitate her tantrums and you know you’re right, that really diffuses her power struggle and we just end up laughing together. Other times, I’ll just cuddle her and I’ll be really loving toward her. But you know, the entire day kind of is off on the wrong foot. So I was just wondering if I’m doing the right things, if I’m handling that correctly, if there’s a better way.

Ashley: Secondly, with the new baby in the house, my first born’s gotten a lot more needy, and she’s always preferred me to my husband but lately it’s mom or nothing. And especially when it comes to bath time and bed time, I could really use my husband’s help. He’s more than willing to help, but my daughter will not let him touch her, especially for bath time or bedtime. She will get very angry. She’ll scream, she’ll hit him, really rude, you know. We try to deal with that, but most of the time we’ll just avoid it all together and I will give her her baths and put her to bed. Bedtime is a special time for us, but sometimes, especially with a newborn, I could use the help and we’d like to do it without her screaming at us. So any thoughts would be great.

Dr. Leman: Oh Ashley, you’re cuter than cute, and it’s so good to know you’re a recovering firstborn perfectionist because that’s probably the root of some of what’s going on here, I’m sure. You’re probably more than a good mom at this stage. And everybody stop and think, “Okay, she’s got a two-year-old and a newborn.” Okay, so you’ve got to figure out what’s going on in two-year-old’s mind, the invader has come home. The thing is getting more attention than he or she deserves. And so her position in life is being threatened. So she’s going to be predictably more clingy.

Dr. Leman: And the thing about she just wants you mom, trust me on this one, that is going to reverse before too long and she’s going to become more of a daddy’s girl as she grows older. You mentioned bathing at night. Most parents bathe at night, I get it, but it only revives them. I wouldn’t bathe a child at night. I’d bathe them in the morning.

Dr. Leman: You do need your husband’s help. And just because little Princess Attila doesn’t appreciate dad and she’s going to fuss and scream, I would have dad give her a quick bath, notice the word quick, and get her dried off and if she’s still in pull ups or something, get that sucker on, jammies on if she wears those, put her down her bed and she can wail at the moon, she can scream, she can throw a hissy fit, but I would continue to add dad to the picture.

Dr. Leman: Getting dad out of the picture, and I realize what you’re saying Ashley, he really wants to help, make him help. Say, “Listen, we’re not going to have a single parent home here. She’s got a dad and a mom and a wonderful dad and you need to be a part of this.”

Dr. Leman: So I wouldn’t back off on that. But she has an insatiable need for you. So she is a powerful two-year-old. So we have to address this, Ashley, which one of you are powerful? Husband or wife? Who insists that things are done exactly the right way? My guess is it’s sweet Ashley, because you are a recovering perfectionist and that’s pretty hard to shake.

Dr. Leman: I know bedtime’s important. You want to make it a pleasurable experience. And what I’m suggesting right now is going to make it a not so pleasurable for awhile, but you can also make it that dad is a story reader at night. I don’t know what your traditions are for tucking in, but I’ve often said when my wife is tucking in our grandchildren, when we’re babysitting them, when they were younger, I mean it’d take her two hours to tuck them in. I can tuck a child in in 47 seconds. No problem.

Dr. Leman: And the kids, when they see it’s grandpa, they know what it’s going to be. “I love you, honey. Say prayers.” Tuck them in. I’m done. I’m out. Mama. Oh, it’s amazing what they come up when grandma’s in there. “Grandma, I want a drink. Oh, grandma, I want a cookie. Can I get a cookie?” I mean, grandma’s the biggest sucker in the world. Like I say, it takes two hours till one of the kids will need sleep.

Dr. Leman: So anyway, I don’t use the term force a lot. I don’t think I’ve said force on any of our podcasts to date, but I think this is one of those things where you sort of say, “Honey, I need you to step up the plate and just do this. I know it’s not going to be good for a while, but we’ve got to get her used to, ‘Hey, you got a mom and a dad, not just a mom,'” because you’re going to wear down. You can’t do it all.

Dr. Leman: Now right now with an infant, as stressful as that is, wait till that little infant is now a year old and walking and now you’ve got a three-year-old and a one-year-old. Talk about stress, there it is in spades.

Dr. Leman: So I think you nipped this in the bud the best you can. I would make that routine right now as short as possible for getting her into bed. And like I say, if she’s going to overreact to it and have a hissy fit, you have a monitor, I’m sure you can watch what’s going on in that room. But I’d let her melt down and cry herself to sleep if that’s what has to happen. But she’ll get used to it and she’ll fall in line. I wish you best.

Doug: How long will she have these hissy fits and meltdowns, do you think?

Dr. Leman: She’ll probably have them for a few nights, be a good guest, depending upon how powerful she is. Some kids, believe it or not, one night and they’re done, they figure it out. But I would guess two or three nights.

Andrea: So Dr. Leman, are you recommending that there’s no more of that special bedtime tucking in like story? I know a lot of us, including myself, that especially with the younger children, that that bedtime is so sweet of like, “We’re going to read I love You to the Moon and Back, and we’re going to sing our song, and we’re going to pray together,” and we have a routine and you’re just saying cut that out.

Dr. Leman: Yeah, I’m… Well, that’s why I said I don’t use the word force very often, but I mean this is a two-parent family and this little daughter and infant are so blessed to have a two-parent family. Think about that for a minute. And they become one and they need to be a unit and they have to work together. Now some people would suggest, well why don’t both of you do that? Well, you got an infant too. I don’t know if she’s nursing the infant or whatever, but you know, mom needs a break. And when mom sees dad come through the door, she’s saying to herself, “Oh, good. Help is on the way.” You know what your family room looks like, ladies, when you got a two-year-old. How many times a day do you pick that sucker up? And I’m just saying at two, they’re very trainable and she will fall in line.

Dr. Leman: So you’re loving and you’re firm. And when she responds in a negative of… And number one, don’t let her hit you. I remember that was part of the conversation. Dad can hold her arms in such a way that she can’t hit anybody, and he can simply lay her down and tell her it’s night-night time. If she’s got a musical thing she goes to bed with or whatever, you turn that on, nightlights on or whatever you do, close the door and leave. And again, she may have a major meltdown but she won’t have… They won’t continue because it’s not paid off.

Andrea: If dad wants to do the story book routine at night, is that okay?

Dr. Leman: Sure. But you start with that. But if she’s going to have the major hissy fit like dad walks in, and he’s got their favorite story book and she starts fussing and what Ashley is saying is she ain’t buying that, she wants only mommy to read me the story. And so you start reading the story. She starts fussing. You close the book. Story time’s over. You pick her up and you put her in the bed and you leave. She’ll wail like a coyote at the moon, but so be it. It’s good for lung development.

Doug: I remember the first time that after hearing you that we did something like this with our children, I don’t remember the specific incident now, but it was one time and our kids were like in shock and they were like, “This is not paying off. We’re not going here.” And I also remember with young children, it was about every six months or so they would decide or three months, somewhere there, they would decide to test the waters to be like, “Huh, I wonder if this will pay off now.” Right? And, you know-

Dr. Leman: Yeah. It’s how they think.

Doug: So, and now I’m telling you, parenting is so easy with teenagers because of the changes we’ve made because of the advice and the help that you’ve given us. Well, I have good news, bad news for you. The good news is we have been running some amazing specials on this podcast for all of our listeners and today we have no ebook for you. So if you were thinking this is going to go on forever, this doesn’t go on forever, and you should have taken advantage of those when you had the chance. I’m sure they’re going to be coming back, but as of right now, we have no ebook special, but we do have a no nonsense parenting advice from Dr. Kevin Leman.

Dr. Leman: A lot of things I say are hard to compute in your mind when you first hear them. Children are the enemy. Fighting is not to cooperation. How about this one? Reminders are disrespectful. Warnings are disrespectful. Let’s take that on. Let me tell you why. When you remind, you’re really in essence you’re trying to help your son or daughter. “Honey, remember you had to do this? Remember you had to do that.”

Dr. Leman: Well, there’s a track record there where your kids haven’t been mindful and that’s why you’re reminding them. I go back to the chart idea. And although I’m not huge on charts, I think if you have a school calendar, if you have a weekly calendar and that weekly calendar might be for every child in the family, it might be a wipe board where they put the days of the week up there or the month and they get to write in special things that they have to remember. I’d much rather have them be responsible for that than you.

Dr. Leman: Now, what happens if the child does forget to take their flute to school? What happens if the child does forget lunch money? Well, what happens is life follows. There’s a consequence to that. So the sooner he or she learns that their lack of memory, their lack of remembering has a direct effect upon their embarrassment that they suffer at school or they’re not being able to participate in something they wanted to or their belly being empty when everybody else seems full, the sooner that happens in life, the better. So resist the temptation to warn, to remind, to coax and to bribe. All of those are very unhelpful.

Andrea: So Dr. Leman, to give some hope to this parent, you said that eventually she’ll become daddy’s girl. How does that happen?

Dr. Leman: Well, it happens very naturally in most homes where mommy is the center piece of course, especially when mom has breastfed baby and all that, there’s that close, intimate bonding that goes on. But as a daughter grows older, there is a very special connection. If I could explain it sufficiently, I would. But it’s just something I’ve observed over the years. The daddies and daughters and mothers and sons have a unique experience and they’re drawn to each other. When parents are going the same place but are in different cars for different reasons, it’s not unusual for the daughter if there’s two kids to go with dad and the son to go with mom. And so it’s a progression. It’ll happen. It’s healthy. And my guess is before too long, daddy will be the center of daughter’s eye. She will seek and love his attention that he gives her.

Doug: I remember the first time you said that, it was mind blowing. And then your book about it came out about be the dad you’re daughter needs you to be, is that right?

Dr. Leman: Yeah. Be the Dad She Needs You to Be. Yeah.

Doug: How will that help dads if they get that book?

Dr. Leman: That’s a wonderful look to see… As men, we don’t do a good job of understanding women to begin with. We’re men. We see life differently, but there’s something about that feminine little daughter. I remember my son-in-law, Dennis, when his little Adeline was born, he was so cute. He wanted to go and buy her her first dress. I mean, she’s an infant. He went and bought her the cutest little dress. She’s 18 inches long, you know?

Dr. Leman: It’s just something magical that happens between a dad and a daughter. And daddies represent all of manhood to this young woman. And that’s why it’s important that a dad takes that job seriously. So that book, Be the Dad She Needs You to Be, it rocks. People love that book. Women love their husbands to read that book. It makes them say things like, “Oh, that is so sweet.”

Dr. Leman: And men are very, very capable of doing sweet things with their daughters. And I know myself as a dad, when that first little daughter came into our life, I mean, I think secretly I was hoping I’d have a boy. For what reason? I have no idea because I love having four daughters and one son. And those daughters have just been such a blessing in my life. And I see now as an adult and as a practicing psychologist the indelible imprint that I’ve left on all my daughters. And I know as adults many times they’ll stop and ask themself the question, “What would dad do in this situation?” And believe me, they got a great mom. They got a wonderful mom. I don’t know anybody who doesn’t love my wife Sandra. She’s got the loveliness of our own Andrea here.

Dr. Leman: But daddies and daughters are special. It happens. My guess is by age four, you’re going to see, Ashley, this little sweetheart of yours gravitating toward her daddy. “I want my daddy.” And you’re going to tell her something and she’s going to give you a look and say, “I want my daddy.” Sort of fun to watch it happen.

Doug: Well, I also think for you, Ashley-

Andrea: Making children Mind Without Losing Yours.

Doug: Yup. And Parenting Your Powerful Child would be a huge blessing to you as well as the book about Be the Dad She Needs You to Be. Again, these are just going to give you the confidence that you’re doing it right. So Ashley, you already read Birth Order book, so you know the impact of that. Highly, highly, highly recommend that you get those books. So again, you just have this internal confidence that you know what to do, what’s next, which is what helped Andrea and I so much, that when we were in confusion, every now and then, we would just like, “Okay, this is the Leman book thing right here.” We do this and it worked. And then you’re like, “Wow.”

Doug: Instead of making it up on your own and guessing what you should do, it really just gives you a way to do it.

Dr. Leman: Yeah. I’m so glad you brought that up, Doug, because part of her question was, “Hey, am I doing things right?” And yeah, you’re a good mom. I can tell by the call, the tone of your voice. You show your heart to us by your call. Yeah, you’re doing great. Okay? Can things be better? Obviously they can by getting dad involved. Is that going to create some turmoil in your heart and mind? It will, but it’ll be worth it. Okay? So you go ahead and do it. Enlist your hubby’s support and God bless you both. Let us hear from you.

Doug: Ashley, we’d love to hear how it turns out for you as well. And as always, you can go to and get more resources there, or you can leave your own question like Ashley did at And we love being with you. As

Dr. Leman I think said at the beginning of this, feel free, you have all our permission to pass it on to others. If you know somebody who has this same situation that they’re dealing with and you want to bless them and help them out, it’s an incredible gift to others. So we look forward to the next time to add to your parenting toolbox so that you can love those kids more and more.

Andrea: Have a great week.

Doug: Take care.

Andrea: Bye-bye.