Dr. Leman unpacks the hateful behavior of a 4 year old middle child in today’s “Ask Dr. Leman.”

Learn more about Dr. Leman at BirthOrderGuy.com.


NEW: The Intimate Connection –Dr. Kevin Leman


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Doug: Do you have sibling rivalry in your house? Does it seem like your kids hate each other and sometimes say they hate other? Well, that’s the question that gets asked today by Kelsey that we’re going to ask Dr. Leman to answer for you.

Doug: Hi, I’m Doug Terpening.

Andrea: And I’m Andrea.

Doug: We are so glad that you are with us. If this happens to be your first time, I 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: Well Dr. Leman, I am super excited because today, this podcast will be released on April 30th, which happens to be the same day as The Intimate Connection, your new book. Convince me. I have no need to read this book, Dr. Leman. Convince me.

Dr. Leman: Well, you don’t because you have the perfect marriage and you married this wonderful woman who’s carrying the weight of the marriage. That’s why you don’t need to read it. I’m laughing at myself, which is not even good. Everybody can profit from reading The Intimate Connection. I’ve got chapters in there on why sex is important and how different men and women are and how outside forces shape your relationship, without your permission, I would add. How to be your own counselor, why you fight, who wins when you’re fighting? Judgments push you apart, feelings draw you together. Lots of good grist for the mill for anybody who’s married. It’s just a practical, step by step, if you’re struggling with this or that, here’s some of the things you can do.

Doug: You know, it sounds like a standard Leman book that’s like not fluffy, stuffy, pie in the sky that I can’t apply, but absolutely. Both Andy and I looked at each other, like, why we fight? Oh, that would be interesting to read that one.

Dr. Leman: I think it’s impossible for people to read a Leman book and not laugh, chuckle, laugh out loud. I’m never afraid to point at my own self, my own flaws. Marriage is such a delicate plant, I call it. If you have a delicate plant, you have to nurture it. You have to water it. You have to feed it. Most of us, once we get married, we don’t feed anything except ourselves. Pass the potatoes.

Dr. Leman: Again, when you make a bad choice in marriage, man do you pay for it. I mean I think people that aren’t married should read The Intimate Connection. That will give you a good barometer whether or not you’re stepping in shark-infested waters or not.

Dr. Leman: Here’s a good one for you. Most people marry exactly the wrong person. Why do you suppose that is? Because the families that that bride came out of was so toxic, or the family that that young groom came out of was so bad, so dysfunctional, they don’t have the necessary wherewithal to get beyond thinking about themselves.

Doug: Wow.

Dr. Leman: You ever claim that vomit? How about diarrhea, Doug, you ever done that one? It’s not pleasant, but those are things you do in marriage. I’m just telling you. I mean the reality of marriage, I’ll give you a perfect example. My wife’s mom dies unexpectedly on our front lawn in Tucson, Arizona. We are 2500 miles away in New York. My wife is nine months pregnant, about to give birth, literally. What do you do? I’ll tell you what you do as a husband. You get on an airplane, cost a fortune because you had no time to buy the super sale, you know, then you fly 2500 miles and you do all the details you have to do when somebody passes away. at the same time, you try to comfort your wife who’s 2500 miles away from you.

Dr. Leman: Now that’s a little different than looking at the moon reflecting on a lake as you’re sitting on a bench in each other’s arms. Marriage takes a lot of work and it takes maturity. Take a look around today. The young people that we’re putting through our high school today, are they graduating mature, concerned about other people? No. They’re concerned about their latest tat or Beyoncé’s newest recording or, you name it. We are drenched in tinseltown. We are drenched in the things that are meaningless in life. Faith has been minimized, people of faith have been marginalized, our society is in trouble. Society gets in trouble, it’s going to be reflected through our marriages. It’s hard to keep your eye on that port of call on the lake of life, but this book, The Intimate Connection, will help center your thoughts and help those of you who came out of dysfunction to realize that there’s hope, that you can make decisions that are going to move you away from the extreme and into the center of what marriage and relationships are all about.

Doug: Thanks for sharing that.

Andrea: I love the advice for people who aren’t married yet, to consider all of this and then to think about themselves and how they can prepare themselves and who they’re choosing, what family they’re coming from. I think that’s super great.

Doug: Well, I think The Intimate Connection, the book, is very inexpensive and there’s no way reading that book is not going to help your marriage. It’s impossible not to. Today, it releases, you can get it wherever major books are sold, Amazon, Barnes and Noble, your local bookstore, wherever you want, you can get it. I would highly, highly, highly recommend. You won’t regret having a great marriage. Andrea and I have invested in our marriage in multiple ways, and every time, every time, we come away saying, “We need to do more of that.”

Doug: Well, Dr. Leman, today we got a question from Kelsey about her siblings. Here we go.
Kelsey: Hey, Dr. Leman. My name is Kelsey. I have a question for you about my four-year-old. I have a six-year-old boy, four-year-old girl, and a one-year-old little girl. The four-year-old can be a very, very sweet, spirited, strong-willed, sensitive, powerful kid. She can also be very mean to her six-year-old brother and sometimes her one-year-old sister as well. She likes to now say to her six-year-old brother who is actually very nice to her, she will say, “I hate you, I don’t love you.” He has told me this on several occasions that she said this and recently I’ve actually caught her saying it to him. What do you think I should do about this to correct this behavior and her saying this? I’m not really sure, I’ve used your tactic of you must not really like yourselves, you know, people that don’t like theirselves are mean to other people, everybody knows that, kind of thing. But I’m not sure [inaudible 00:06:45] her age. So if you could just let me know your thoughts, that would be awesome. Thank you.

Dr. Leman: Well Kelsey, what you need is a big can of Raid.

Doug: For cockroaches?

Dr. Leman: You know how off the wall I can get?

Doug: So you’re saying this kid is a cockroach!

Dr. Leman: The temptation, I mean, little four-year-old, little lamb chops, little sweetheart. I mean she’s mean and you know, Kelsey named it. She is a powerful little sucker. Let me point out to you that this is unusual that the four-year-old is hammering the older brother, okay? It’d be a lot more believable if she were hammering older sister. Same sex, rivalry, and all that. Most little girls actually look up to bigger brother, so it’s very unusual. It makes me a little suspect about what’s going on this four-year-old’s head. She’s even mean to her one-year-old sister. So that’s why I conjured up a big can of Raid because she’s a pest and Raid is used at pests.

Dr. Leman: But anyway, Kelsey wants my thoughts on it, and I’ll give her the thoughts on it. This is a kid who for whatever reason, demands more than you’ll give her. When you demand anything, the tendency isn’t to give it to her at all. The tendency is you want to do everything from isolate her to put her down, to punish her, to discipline here or whatever. But even at four, I would try that. Sit her down by herself and just say, “Honey, I’m curious. I’d love your opinion about your brother and how you see your brother.”

Dr. Leman: You know, you don’t hear me say that very often, sit and talk with a four-year-old about what his or her feelings are about an older sibling, but it seems to that this kid is the squeezed middle child incarnate. I mean this kids feels like the firstborn son is the enemy and the thing, the newborn, who’s just a year old, is the enemy, and they’re the center of the universe.

Dr. Leman: Again, I think we can’t color a world for her where she’s the queen and everybody else is subservient to her wishes. She needs to be told that in four-year-old terms. On the other hand, she needs to be listened to because there’s something going on that’s making this kid so venomous toward her older brother in particular. If it was the six-year-old ragging on the four-year-old, I get it. That happens all the time. But I’m just pointing out, this is rare.

Dr. Leman: I would try to sit and talk and elicit opinion from her about both six-year-old and one-year-old, maybe life in general. With a four-year-old, you could say things like, “Honey, if you had a magic wand and it really worked, how would you change yourself? How would you change Mommy? How would you change Daddy? How would you change your brother or your sister,” whatever. Sometimes that little magic wand gives you some insight into what’s really going on in that kid’s head. But I’m telling you, this is not a good sign for a four-year-old to be full of that kind of venom that early in life.

Doug: Why are you worried about that kid being so full of venom at four?

Dr. Leman: It’s just so unusual. I’ve often said, if you can keep a kid in age … maybe I’ve said this on the podcast before. If you had to name an age, I’d say four. Four is when the kids are I think the most precious, easygoing, they’re inquisitive, they’re just old enough. You know, you’re past the toilet training years, and my goodness. It’s just a time to just be able to love your kids and have a great time with them, and here this four-year-old is stirring it up and both hands.

Doug: Does this mean that there’s something in the house, possibly, that’s creating this?

Dr. Leman: No, I think it’s the reality, the reality is what that child sees. Remember, reality isn’t the truth. Reality is what that kid sees from behind their eyes. With a four-year-old, I would make it a point to say, “Honey, Mommy’s going to make dinner tomorrow night, what would you like special for dinner?” I would say that in front of a six-year-old, and so that child has some real life experiences where somebody’s asking her, “What do you think?” I mean does she feel squeezed to the point where she feels like she is not listened to and the only way she gets attention is through negative means?

Dr. Leman: If that’s a part of it, then there’s some issues there that I think mom and dad have to take a look at say, wait a minute, if somehow we’ve buried this four-year-old and we give so much attention … I mean mommy and son relationship can be very special, and four-year-old daughter looks at that and feels very envious and shut out. Again, kids will seek attention in a negative way.

Dr. Leman: One of the things I would ask Kelsey to do is just to tell me what your feelings are, Kelsey, when she misbehaves. Is it just irritated and annoyed? Then she’s an attention getter. Or is it “You can’t say that to me, I am your mother.” Then if you feel provoked by that child, not just annoyed but provoked, then we’re dealing with a power-driven kid. I would say, hey, I’d map out a plan that’s filled with Vitamin E but also has a good amount of Vitamin N in it because this powerful kid is going to get nothing but more powerful as the years go by. Before long, she’s going to be Attila the Hun who is going to run that family, and that’s never good for the family. You have to set her straight in a loving way, try to be attentive and give her the attention and love and acceptance she needs, but you also have to be good at drawing some lines so she doesn’t go too far.

Doug: You said it before but I really heard it this time for me, I’m going to use this one, is when I’m agitated at my kid, to look inside myself, and which of those do I feel to know what my kid is actually doing to me. That was great advice, to stop and think that.

Doug: Well, before we finish the podcast, we got a special session that I love in podcast called Straight Talk with Dr. Kevin Leman.

Dr. Leman: I got an email this morning, at 3:20 in the morning. Thank you for remembering that I’m on Pacific Coast Time, that a woman is all concerned because her child is stubborn, is powerful, doesn’t respect her wishes. “Dr. Leman, we just don’t know what to do, we just do not know what to do. We have brought that girl up in the church, I mean she’s been a stellar student for years, and then all of a sudden, here favorite word is ‘No’ and ‘You can’t make me,” and ‘I’m not going to do this, I’m not going to do that.'”

Dr. Leman: Well guess what, you have a powerful child on your hands. Now, that parent, I wrote back. I said you know what, you need to work on some things. You have a powerful child. Then I said, “Duh!” I realized you’re asking for help and I’m going to try to give it to you as best I can. You need to really work on being in authority rather than being an authoritarian. My guess is that you’ve told this kid what to do, how to do it, and I’ll bet you anything, if you interviewed your 15-year-old daughter and asked her this question, “Do you feel like your life is mapped out for you?” My guess, that kid’s going to say yes, in spades.

Dr. Leman: You know, kids who feel like they have their life mapped out for them, they’re the cutters of the world. They’re the ones that cut, physically cut their skin, make themselves bleed, and so many of those young people told me over the years that they did cut because they felt it was one of the only things they had control over. Yes, it’s self-destructing behavior, I know that, but the point is that control doesn’t have much healthy space in the art of parenting. But authority ought to fill your heart and mind.

Dr. Leman: Problem is this, that almost of us who are listening to this podcast today grew up in authoritarian homes. So the kind of things that we’ve heard as kids, we repeat as adults to our own children. In fact, the things you’ve told yourself, “I’ll never say to my child,” you say them all right, with the same tone and inflection that your parents said to you.

Dr. Leman: If you have a powerful child, take a look in the mirror and figure something out quickly. You’re a powerful parent. The power didn’t come from drinking the water or spending too much time in the sun, you created that power. You displayed power, and that child is simply copying your behavior and being powerful back. By the way, check this out. If you get into a power struggle, and of course these kids are great at setting you up for power struggles, guess who wins? I’m calling Vegas right now. I’m betting four of my five kids and my wife on the fact that the kid, your child, is going to win the power struggle. There’s no way parents win power struggles. Why? Because they’re not the ones that are embarrassed when make a fool of themselves and say things in public about you. The other parents are looking at that kid and saying, “Wow, what a kid.” I’ve got news for you, they’re looking a step beyond and saying, “What is wrong with those parents?”

Dr. Leman: So parents, if you need some help, there’s all kinds of Leman books out there. Making Children Mind Without Losing Yours, Parenting Your Powerful Child, and how about this one, Have A New Kid By Friday. Start reading, start changing, and good luck.

Doug: Thank you, Dr. Leman, for that. Again, for Kelsey and other moms out there, you said that to actually sit down and make sure that the middle kids is giving her opinion. Are there other ways that parents can do that to make sure that that middle child is able to give an opinion and be heard?

Dr. Leman: Well just simply asking, paying attention to her, asking how she feels about things. Brother says something, and you turn and say, “Well honey, how do you feel about that?” But let me just point out that when you see that the kid is powerful, almost always, one of the parents is too authoritarian. So Kelsey and husband should look at each other and look each other in the mirror and say, “Okay, are either of us too authoritarian? Are two of us too prescriptive?” Because that’s that kerosene that fuels the fire for a powerful kid.

Dr. Leman: In my teenage book, I think it is, or maybe it’s the Planet Middle School book, I talk about removing your sails from the child’s wind. In other words, you get in a power struggle with a four-year-old, you’re going to lose. So I would make it a point to remember that fighting is an act of cooperation. If she starts arguing with you, don’t continue the arguing. You said it once, turn your back, walk away, don’t pay it off. That’s the appropriate way to deal with powerful kids. If you get sucked in the power struggle, again, you lose.

Andrea: One of the other things that you’ve mentioned is that sometimes you could sit down with that, say in this case, the girl, and say, “Don’t you think your brother’s a little over the top?” Is that something you would do in this situation?

Dr. Leman: Yeah, I’m not sure the four-year-old would grasp that, but that is a good … it’s a wonderful method to get into what’s really happening. Because that four-year-old feels squeezed for some reason. This four-year-old’s feisty. Again, it’s very unusual to see that so it makes me think that maybe six-year-old is a pleaser, and you don’t see a lot of male pleasers in the world, a kid who really goes out of his way to just be sweet and kind. You have to get behind the four-year-old’s eyes, the girl, and say okay, she’s says, well, I see the nice guy or, and this family is completely filled by a Mister He Does Nothing Wrong, so I think the best path for me is to be Little Miss Trouble. I mean kids, if you think of the family as a tree, you got the trunk of the tree which represents mom and dad, then look at the branches. Notice they don’t grow in the same direction. Each kid’s going to cut a path for themselves that’s very different.

Andrea: So Kelsey, again, there’s a couple of books that we’d recommend. From what I heard Dr. Leman say is Parenting Your Powerful Child. Would you get that one, Dr. Leman?

Dr. Leman: Yes, [inaudible 00:18:55].

Andrea: It’s just a great book the give you perspective of what could be happening in your daughter’s life. Not just ideas, but techniques and actual words that you can use to help them. So highly, highly recommend it.

Andrea: In closing, Dr. Leman, I just have to say it one more time for my sake. I’ve seen that healthy marriages make parenting so much easier and divorce makes parenting almost impossible. You have a brand new book that I want everybody who listens to this podcast to go buy. If you don’t like it, then you can leave nasty comments about Doug Terpening on the iTunes store. But tell us again, why should, if I’m a parent, and I have a marriage, why should I get The Intimate Connection.

Dr. Leman: You know, you spend how much money at Starbucks per month? Okay, let me see a show of hands. Okay, I see you out there. I know how much my wife spends. Wow, what an investment in your marriage, pays off for generations. Don’t sell yourself short. I hope you’re not so defeated that you think that “No book is going to help us,” because I’m here to tell you, so many times, I get emails from people that said, “Dr. Leman, you have no idea how your books have changed our life.” I had a lady call me up out of the blue and she said, “I’ve got a check in my hand for $25,000. You have made such a difference in my life and my kids’ life. I want to bless you.” I mean I was shocked. I said, “Well I do have a school, Leman Academy of Excellence, if you’d ever like to make a donation to that school, that’d be tremendous,” and she did so.

Dr. Leman: I’m telling you that books impact people’s lives. Anybody who knows me knows I’m a straight shooter, the books are fun to read. By the way, there’s audio versions for those who have husband or wives who refuse read a book, put that little sucker in the car and listen to it. Use this book in any form to change your life, change your marriage, and add blessings to everyone for generations to come in your family.

Doug: Thank you and again, I’m saying it because I know it’s impacted Andrea and I. The Leman books that we read have changed us, and I want you to experience it too. Again, if you don’t like it, you can say all sorts of nasty things about Doug Terpening, and you email address is andrea@yahoo …

Andrea: Nice. I was just going to ask real quick. Dr. Leman, what book would you recommend to somebody who wants to understand that parenting of … the authoritarian, authoritative, permissive? What’s the best book to get?

Dr. Leman: I think the book that does the best job of that, Andrea, is the book Making Children Mind Without Losing Yours. The other book, Have A New Kid By Friday, would be second choice, but the best choice I think for understanding the difference between authority and authoritarianism and permissiveness is Making Children Mind Without Losing Yours. It’s available everywhere, it’s available online. You can download it if you want. But it’s a good read, you’ll like it.

Doug: Well thank you for being with us and we sure appreciate being with you. It’s a joy. We hope that you’re adding to your parenting toolbox so that you can love those kids more and more.

Andrea: Have a great day.

Doug: Take care, see you next time.

Andrea: Bye-bye.