It’s time for another Ask Dr. Leman: “How do you foster sibling relationships?” Find out Dr. Leman’s answer in today’s episode.

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NEW: The Intimate Connection –Dr. Kevin Leman


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Doug: Do you feel like all your kids ever do is fight? Is it that your kids actually take toys from one another, and then it turns into an all out brawl? Are you worried that your kids are never going to like each other? Well, that’s the question that Megan asked today about her three year old daughter, and how she treats the one year olds. We get to ask Dr. Leman, how do we get kids to like each other and get along? Hi, I’m Doug [Tripponine 00:00:34].

Andrea: I’m Andrea.

Doug: We are so glad that you are here with us today. If this happens to be your first time, 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: Well, I say we jump right into this, Ask Dr. Leman, but before we do, I just want to remind everybody you can go to,, and there are tons of resources there from on Dr. Leman’s website. You can also go to birthorderguy/podcastquestion, and leave us an audio question right there for us as well, and your question might get answered here on the podcast, so let me jump into Megan’s question.

Megan: Hi, Dr. Leman. I’m so glad to have your podcast back. It’s been great to listen to. My question is about siblings, and how to foster that relationship? I have a three year old daughter, and twin one year olds. My question is specifically for my three year old.

Megan: She has started to become more and more territorial with her toys. She tends to put them in a pile where her sisters can’t reach them. She will take toys from her sisters. The biggest thing that we’re seeing is she watches what her sisters are doing, and tries to get to the toy before they do. We want to be able to respond and not react to that.

Megan: We are currently sending her to her room for these episodes, but it does not seem to be getting any better. We try to talk to her about it afterwards, and talk about what she did, and what she could’ve done in that situation, and we’re continuing to see these behaviors. She has a basket of toys in her room that are specifically her toys, but the game room is toys for everybody. I would love to hear what you do for siblings? Thanks, bye.

Dr. Leman: That is a great question. I’m sure there is a lot of parents who struggle with this one. We use the term, get behind the child’s eyes, and get behind your husband’s eyes, and get behind your wife’s eyes. Well, let’s get behind three year old’s eyes. Let’s go back just a year to the big event in her life when the things were born. The things come home from the hospital, and there is all kinds of fanfare about these adorable little twins, and pretty soon that kid starts thinking, “Wait a minute. I don’t think this is going to be as good as I’ve been told. I think this is a problem. I think these little suckers are invaders, and I believe that they’re invading my turf.”

Dr. Leman: Everything you said about your three year old daughter tells me that she is perceptive. She has a good head on her shoulders. She’s got street smarts. I mean, as you were talking I had written down, put toys up, and right after I wrote that you said, “She puts toys out of reach of the twins.” Smart little kid you got there. You also mentioned that after things happen you’ve tried to sit and talk with her, and essentially reason with her. I would suggest you don’t do that. Let’s start there.

Dr. Leman: I think you ought to join forces with her and say, “Honey, listen, I know you have those there, but you know I think we should put them higher.” I’d make it a point, “Put them higher, or could I put these in my closet in the bedroom. I don’t think I’d want the twins playing with this. This is your stuff here. This is just for you.” In other words, you have to sell your three year old on the notion that she’s okay, that these invaders are not going to take her over. These invaders can hardly talk. They don’t say full sentences. They don’t go to preschool. They have to take this many naps a day. You’re a big girl, you only take one nap a day. In other words, you have to find a way of conveying to your daughter, “Honey, you’re going to be okay.”

Dr. Leman: Now, there she is taking things away from the little ones. That’s vindictive behavior. It’s a reaction on her part. You want to talk with her about something? Talk with her about that. Say, “Honey, I notice you want to run in, and take the toys from your little sisters, and you know, quite frankly, that’s not a nice thing to do. But, I’m wondering if you’re doing it because you feel like somehow you’re not going to get enough loves, or kisses, or hugs from mommy or daddy? You know, that isn’t so. We love you. You’re the oldest, and you get to do things that they don’t get to do. And we have expectations for you that we don’t have for those, they’re too little. They don’t know much yet, but you know a lot. Do you remember last Spring when we took you to the circus? Did we take the little ones with us? No, grandma babysat them. Why? Well, number one they’re too young to enjoy a circus, but number two, we wanted to just spend time with you. You’re a big girl. We like our time just with you.”

Dr. Leman: Obviously, when you put the little ones down, you make a comment as you’re reading a story, “Honey, I love just this time with you and me, you know, with nobody else around. The little twins are sleeping. It’s just you and me. Don’t you love our time together?” In other words, what I’m asking you to be, Megan, is a salesperson to your own children. You’re just making her feel a little bit more comfortable about her place, so that competitive nature where she’s running in and taking things from them, and all that, that’s just a measure of her insecurity. She feels the enemy forces moving in on her territory, so anyway, I hope that’s helped. What do you guys think, you’ve raised four kids?

Andrea: Well, I was just thinking about what you’re saying. It sounds like you are gathering that maybe in this home that she hasn’t gotten the, I’m going to use attention, but maybe the vitamin E that she’s needed as an individual because all the attention has been poured on to the twins. It reminds me of something you’ve said to do with older kids where you might say to the child who’s feeling left out, or whatever, “Wow, don’t you think your brother is a little over the top?” Is this the same idea where you might say to this three year old, “I agree those one year olds are kind of like…”

Dr. Leman: Yeah. Let’s face it, a mom’s got three kids under three, so mom is not the picture of vitality. By the end of the day, I mean, she’s wound down. I mean thank goodness they’re all in bed. Mom needs to take care of herself. But, the tendency with three year old is to try, and reason with her. I would suggest you don’t go down that rabbit trail.

Andrea: I would think my tendency would be to defend the one year olds, and to point out what the three year old is doing wrong, but what you’re saying is no. Like you said, “Join forces with that three year old, and get behind their eyes what they’re seeing happened,” and just to affirm who they are as an individual as well.

Doug: Dr. Leman, what’s going to happen if the mom comes in and says, “Three year old, stop that. That’s mean, and that’s-”

Andrea: “You’re being selfish.”

Doug: “That’s not how the Smiths do it around here.” What are we doing to that three year old?

Dr. Leman: Well, if you had a video camera set up where the twins sleep, you would catch on video the three year old coming in some day, and just pinching little sister until she cries, stuff like that. You’re just going to build resentment in that child, and that child, I’m telling you, that three year old she’s a smart little cookie already, Megan. She’s going to find ways of nailing those two little suckers. You don’t want that, so again, you need to appear to be on her side to understand that her turf has been invaded, and you’re the one that pushed those two little suckers out, so you got to owe up to that. I’m laughing at myself, which is never good.

Doug: On the flip side, Dr. Leman, can we foster our kids liking each other?

Dr. Leman: Well, when three year old shares, and three year old will share, the three year old will take on the role eventually of little mother. She’ll be telling the twins what to do when they’re 18 months old, I guarantee it. She’ll be saying, “Oh, you don’t want that, you want this,” as she takes the new toy away, and gives her the old dirty one. “Oh, you want this one, see. Its got more color in it.” “I thought that was dirt?” “No, that’s color. That’s just color.” I mean, I can see it now.

Dr. Leman: But, when you see your oldest being kind, or thoughtful not only to the twins, but to mom, or to dad, or to the cat, or the dog, just a simple encouraging comment about, “You know, it’s nice to see that you know how to treat animals, or you know how to treat your sister. That was a kind thing you did,” whatever. They’re just little editorial comments that are full of vitamin E, which again, keep in mind that when you’re using vitamin E, encouragement, you’re talking about the act not the actor, so it’s not, “Oh, you’re the best big sister in the world.” It’s, “Oh honey, I appreciate that kindness you just did to your sister. That was more than kind and thoughtful. Thank you.” That’s encouragement because it’s zeroed in on the act not the actor, if that’ll help you parents distinguish between praise and encouragement.

Doug: We’re going to continue the podcast in just a moment, but now we get Straight Talk with Dr. Kevin Leman.

Dr. Leman: People have said to me in emails, “Leman, you’re not very smart.” Well, I agree. I listen to my wife. She confirms that from time to time. I’m not the smartest guy on the block. But, when I’m introduced at events, or maybe it’s just that I’m getting old as dirt, I get introduced as a man of wisdom. I laugh at that because when I was young they said I was a wise guy. Now all of a sudden, I got wisdom.

Dr. Leman: But, a couple of things. B doesn’t start until A is complete. In the mega best selling New York Times best selling book, Have a New Kid By Friday, if you’ve never read that, read it. By the way, it works with husbands too, ladies, if you’re interested. I make this statement, B doesn’t start until A is completed. Think about the daily battles you have with your son, or your daughter. What would happen, what would be different in your life if you employed this simple paradigm that B doesn’t start until A is completed? How does that look in your family?

Dr. Leman: Your son wants the keys to the car to go some place. He’s 16 years old. He promised to clean his room, and you’ve threatened to bring in the exterminator. All you want is the room shoveled out. You want it in some kind of organized fashion. But no, he wants to go and take the keys to the car. Well, let’s employ that B doesn’t start until A is completed. “Honey, I’d love to give you the keys to the car. I know you’d like to go and shot hoops with your buddy, or go hang out at the mall, or do whatever, but in our home B doesn’t start until A gets completed, so your A list includes cleaning up your room, and if you wouldn’t mind, do the dog flop patrol in the backyard. It’s getting a little smelly out there. I’ll talk to you again after you completed A.”

Dr. Leman: It’s as simple as that. It keeps you out of the face-to-face battle. It turns tables on a son, or a daughter. “Honey, this is on you. You’re the one that said you were going to do this. You’re the one that signed up for this. When that’s done, then we’ll talk about the next project.” Turn your back and walk away. That’s the tip of the day straight from my shoulder to hopefully your ears and your heart. B doesn’t start until A is completed. Try it. It works.

Doug: Before we go back to the show, we have the eBook special from Baker Books, which is Powerful Secrets, the Worthington Series #2 Book for $3.99.

Dr. Leman: Okay fiction people, this is your opportunity. If you’d enjoy a series of books, this is book #2 we’re offering, and for only $3.99, I think you’ll enjoy this series. This is a book that will test your metal. See if you can figure out the person of interest here, the guy that’s doing some things that maybe you didn’t suspect were being done, but it’s fiction, okay. Fiction is fiction. It’s different than writing non-fiction for sure. By the way, there is all kind of rules in writing fiction that I found out as I went through these three books. But, it’s a series that focuses on the first born child’s view of life, the second born’s view of life, and the youngest child’s view of life. It’s a story of The Worthingtons, the first born, the middle child, and the youngest child. It’s got a lot of curve balls in it. It’s a book, I think, you’re going to enjoy for $3.99, my goodness. Read it. Let us know what you think. I’d love to know.

Doug: Well thank you, Dr. Leman. To the parents that are out there that are like, “Ah, it’s too much work to try, and sit down with my three year old. I’d rather just tell them stop it, and don’t do this, and all these types of things.” What are we going to create in that three year old if we do that?

Dr. Leman: Well, you’re just going to create more animosity toward the kids. You’re going to really develop a rebellious spirit in that child on top of that, so just take this podcast to heart. Do some things different. Really work at getting behind those kid’s eyes, especially this little three year old right now. The one year olds they’re at the gimme stage. They don’t care about anything. They have no self interest in anybody else other than themselves, and so concentrate on that three year old.

Doug: For those that may not have heard it, how important is parenting at the three year old age to be doing it right?

Dr. Leman: Well at three, check this out, your child’s personality is probably about 60% formed, so at four, 80%. I mean somewhere between 5 and 7 if you get all of the shrinks in the world together in the same auditorium, that’d be a big auditorium, the one thing they’d probably agree on is that personality is formed within the first 5, 6, 7 years of life, so these early years are important. They’re formative. Try not to react. It’s easy to react. That’s never the good way. Try to respond. If the three year old is getting out of hand, you can always pick them up, remove them from the scene, talk with them for a while, give them a little quiet time in their own room, and life goes on.

Doug: The only reason I bring that up is just for parents that are out there that, especially for these tired moms that are wondering, is it really worth it for me to spend 10 minutes having this conversation with my kid just to say it pays off big time long term because you’ve told us the stat, that right by 5 you’re done, so put out the hard work in now, and it’ll pay off long term.

Doug: Megan, thank you for submitting that question. It’s great. We love to hear what you guys are thinking about, and the questions you have to ask Dr. Leman, so please keep doing that. Again, you can go to, and find all sorts of resources, and subscribe there. If you’re enjoying this podcast you are allowed to hit five stars and leave a rating, or review. As always, if something perks your ears, and you think, man, this might be a real blessing to one of my friends, or my sister-in-law then feel free to share it to them as well on Facebook, or email, or however you want to, so that is not illegal. Thanks for being with us, and [inaudible 00:16:24] that parenting toolbox. We look forward to the next time we get to be with you.

Andrea: Have a great week.

Doug: Bye-bye.