It’s time for another Ask Dr. Leman: “My oldest is jealous of the middle child.” Find out Dr. Leman’s answer in today’s episode.


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Doug: Okay, you have more than one kid and now you’re noticing they’re not getting along so well. In fact, I think the oldest is making life miserable for my middle child and I’m afraid it’s going to destroy their relationship. What do I do? That’s the question that Sierra asked Dr. Leman today that we get to hear his answer. Hi, I’m Doug Terpening.

Andrea: And I’m Andrea.

Doug: And we are so glad that you are with us today to add that parenting toolbox, but I want to let you know if this is your first time, welcome. And this is for your education and entertainment purposes only. If the subject matter raises any concerns for you or child, please go seek a local professional for help. Well, I’d like to make a confession. I think my oldest sister destroyed our relationship. She is a horrible human being. She used to hold me down and do that typewriter thing on my chest, and then hit your face, ah, and have your sister do it was like the worst thing, but-

Andrea: And you have no relationship with her now do you?

Doug: None. None. No, I love my sister now, but obviously that’s not what destroyed the relationship. So let’s get to Sierra’s question about her kids destroying the relationships.

Sierra: Hey Dr. Leman, I have three boys, 10, six and two and for the most part they get along wonderfully better than typical brothers and sisters do. But the 10 year old has a really hard time with the middle one who’s four, he’s very jealous of him. The middle one doesn’t get in trouble very often. He’s very kind. He stopped… well, he’s quick to say he’s sorry. The older one doesn’t typically have good intentions and he gets in trouble a lot more.

Sierra: He struggles when he hears us encouraging the four year old when he goes to his first hockey practice, we’re very encouraging. He tries really hard and the older one sees how nice we are to the four year old and he really struggles. And then the four year old looks up to the older one and he’s angry at him because he’s jealous and he doesn’t encourage him.

Sierra: The four year old’s just looking for his encouragement like regarding hockey practice. I’m just wondering how do we instill good sibling relationships when there’s such an age gap and there is jealousy there. Thank you.

Dr. Leman: Well, thank you Sierra and I am going to turn tables on the Terpenings and I’m going to show you how smart Andrea and Doug, sometimes we call them Douglas really is. So we have a family of 10 year old, four year old, two year old. So I’m going to start with you Ms. Andrea-

Andrea: Hello.

Dr. Leman: How many families are represented in those three children?

Andrea: Oh, let’s see, because between the 10 and the four year old, there’s a six year gap that is an only child and then the four and the two are considered siblings or one-

Doug: Or a new family.

Andrea: A new family.

Dr. Leman: There you go. Now friends, I’m calling you friends, everybody listening to the podcast. Do you see how smart she is? She sees the 10, four and two, she says, hey, there’s two families. So let’s think about this for a second. We’ve got a 10 year old who’s the king of the mountain? He is King. He is unchallenged. He is the lion with a big mane. Okay. He gets to the top of the mountain and he just roars and he says, I am King.

Dr. Leman: And then he hears a new word, pregnancy ,and his life is about the change and the thing comes home. What goes on in that now 10 year old’s mind when he first heard that word pregnancy? What do you suppose it was, Doug?

Doug: Competition.

Dr. Leman: Competition. That I wasn’t good enough, they had to get another one. And then they bring the thing home from the hospital and the thing has its own room and grandparents come and bring the thing presents. And before long, firstborn 10 year old feels what? What’s the word that a 10 year old would feel with this little new baby brother moving into his turf?

Andrea: Forgotten?

Doug: Neglected, pushed aside.

Dr. Leman: Yep. Pushed aside, forgotten, threatened by the kids’ existence. And so pretty soon firstborn says, you know what? I’m going to be okay. All that kid does is sleep all day long. That kid can’t do a thing. In fact, that kid is useless. But as the months go by, little Mr. Useless becomes more capable. Oh my goodness, he’s walking. Oh my goodness, he’s touching my stuff. Do you get the picture I’m drawing?

Dr. Leman: And so what happens in families is there’s a search for dominance. There’s a search for being the boss, being the big guy. And not only that, the now four year old, but mom and dad had to do it again and now we got a two year old? So get behind the 10 year old’s eyes for just a minute. And so if I’m a parent, I’m saying things like Sierra, you know what? You’re probably way too hard on your firstborn son.

Dr. Leman: I think you ought to pull them aside and have a conversation like this. Hey honey, can I ask your opinion about something? Sure mom, what? Well it’s about the two little ones? Are they a pain in the butt or is it me? Now, your 10 year old will do a double take when you say that. I can’t believe mom just said pain in the butt, but thank God somebody understands what I’m up against.

Dr. Leman: I get in trouble for what they did. They’re the ones that are messing with my stuff. All I did was tell them to get their hands off it. I’m just protecting my turf. So you have to come alongside of the 10 year old and let, he’s got to feel and see that you understand what he’s up against. Now trust me again, Sierra, I think your question was how do I have positive sibling relationship?

Dr. Leman: You’re not going to have him for a while in all probability, but if you take this approach, it’s going to lessen. These kids will be in each other’s wedding someday. When these kids are older and somebody does something to the four year old or two year old who’s now 12 or 13, big brother’s going to come to their rescue. He’s going to challenge harm to someone who does harm to one of those kids. He’ll be the protective one. So again, don’t get too uptight right now about what you’re seeing.

Dr. Leman: So what I’m saying is get behind the 10 year old’s eyes, do some psychological disclosure, that’s the technical term for it, about what you see going on. So that he see us like somebody sees life from behind his eyes. Then the talking to with a four year old who sounds like a very nice little kid at four, there’s times when four year old is crossing the line, be quick to admonish the four year old.

Dr. Leman: And just using that same example, four year old don’t touch 10 year old stuff, that’s his stuff. You only touch that if he gives you permission to play with that or use that, that kind of thing. So what I’m saying is, mom, you end up being a mediator here, two year old is going to… they’re still at the give me stage, but you’ve got two families. You’ve got the compliant firstborn and the four year old, you’ve got the only child who was invaded by these martians from another planet who have come in and crippled his lifestyle.

Dr. Leman: So you have to do some juggling here, but you get through this, it’s going to get better. It’s not going to cease immediately, but you can make a real dent in it from using psychological disclosure with your 10 year old. If you have a new kid by Friday, that’d be a good read. A lot of good practical stuff there.

Doug: Psychological disclosure, I remember the first time you said sit down with your kids and comment about your other kids, isn’t this kid a little over the top? Isn’t this kid a little too wound? And this kid a little, I thought that sounds terrible. Like I really didn’t. Finally, we were having some issues in our family and I thought, well, I’ll try this crazy guy and see if he could maybe… Oh my gosh, that was one of the best things I ever did.

Doug: To sit down and comment about what everybody knows about the siblings to a sibling was amazing. I mean it was… so, I know this… well, if you’re like me, you would think this sounds like you’re talking bad and can make the relationship worse, it does not. It relieves so many pressure points, it was crazy. So, sorry. Here’s my question though, for you, Dr. Leman, would you say to that 10 year old, hey, I need your help with the four year old in X, Y, and Z. Would you ever do that?

Dr. Leman: Yes. Yeah. Again, proof the Terpenings are smart people because you can reason with a 10 year old. Okay. You can have an adult type conversation with a 10 year old. And you preface it with, I know that kid’s a pain in the tail, but listen, I really need your help on something here because this is really bothering me. And it’s hurting all of our relationships. And quite frankly, it’s impeding our relationship that we have.

Dr. Leman: And I always thought we had a good relationship, but there’s days I’m not real happy with you. So you’re shooting it to him straight. Then you come right back and say, but honey, I need your help. And only you, only you and not the two year old, not the four year, only you can help with this. I want to count on you. Can I count on your cooperation? Get the commitment and then move forward. So I don’t… to me it… I get accused of using common sense and I’m so pleased that I get accused of that because it is common sense, but you have to do it in the right way. And that’s why those Leman books sort of help you learn to respond rather than just react because that’s what most of us do. We just react. That’s never good.

Doug: I want to make sure that we get the break in here, but I want to come back and ask you another question about how you would treat that 10 year old, but before our time runs out, I want to make sure everybody knows that you can go get the ebook, What A Difference A Mom Makes between now and February 29th of 2020 for $2.99. Andrea.

Andrea: Yeah. Here’s another review from Amazon. Wow! For me personally, this is one of the best books I could have read at this time in my life. I’m a mom to two young boys. Because I don’t have daughters and may not even have daughters, I felt my role as a mom wasn’t as important as that of my husband’s. How wrong I was. Dr. Leman explains clearly why moms matter in their son’s lives. I learned so much by reading this, such as how I should change my parenting style and what is acceptable and unacceptable attitudes. The book is not too heavy but just enough depth to convict me on some things I need to work on. I also appreciate how Dr. Leman used his own experiences to expand on his points.

Doug: So I recommend if you’re a mom and you want to have even more confidence raising your boys, go get or any of your kids, but go get What A Difference A Mom Makes for $2.99 between now and the end of February of 2020. So Dr. Leman, besides the psychological disclosure of isn’t that kid crazy, well, you would never say crazy, but that kind of concept. Would you ever say to your kid, your 10 year old, tell me what bothers you about the four and two year old? Would you ever ask them that question?

Dr. Leman: Sure. But I give him a litany of things that I observe first. So he knows that he can swing for the fences because sometimes as a parent you don’t know. I mean she described four year old is almost saintly, but who knows what saintly four year olds does when mom’s eyes are not on the room. So that’s always good. Always good to get the kid’s insight into that. You want to listen, you want to be a listener without being judgemental and that’s hard to do.

Doug: So say 10 year old says, I don’t want you to touch my Legos, we’ll choose one. Then do you go as a mom to the four… or dad to the four year old and say, hey four year old, Legos of 10 year olds, off limits.

Dr. Leman: No. I would wait until… because that situation is going to come. Sure as God made little apples, where that kid’s going to test that out to see if anybody really meant business. So when mom catches them with Lego’s in hand, then I’d pull four year old and says, hey, I’m very disappointed. I think your brother made it really clear that those were his Legos and he didn’t want anybody playing with them.

Dr. Leman: And here you are doing it. I’m very disappointed in the fact you’re not respecting your brother’s wishes. That makes mommy very unhappy. That’s exactly how I’d handle it. So now you’ve hit him at both levels. You hit him from a 10 year old’s position, but you’ve also shared with him as a mom how that made you feel.

Doug: How do you also say to your 10 year old, yeah, I know that four and two year old, they act like angels but you and I both know they’re not. Would you ever say that as well to the 10 year old?

Dr. Leman: Yeah, yeah. But you could do it in guessing way. You could say, honey, you know what? I think most people see your little four year old brother as a pretty cool little four year old who minds and does things sort of perfectly. I think you and I both know there’s times that that little angel has a few little horns on his head to. Something like that. Something the 10 year old would understand.

Dr. Leman: And again, at least the 10 year old saying, hey, somebody understands where I’m coming from. This isn’t easy. When something has to be done, the garbage has to be taken out, they don’t call on that four year old. You know who the garbage man in this house is. And I get in trouble for what they did. Is it my fault that four year old decided to traipse through the puddle and ruin their good shoes? Mom said I was supposed to be watching them. Yeah, I watched him. I watched him walk right through the puddle. What was I supposed to do? So again, keep in mind, you just have to make the sale to the customer, parent. And you have three little customers and they’re all very different.

Doug: Well, a little terminating story to back this up. So we have two boys and they’re four years apart. And I thought the younger one was an angel. I really did. I thought that he was perfect. And the great thing about our second son is that at times he’ll tell us the truth and he shouldn’t. And so we were like talking to James and Jay, our oldest, and he was saying, hey, brothers may not be as pure as you think he is. So we were, I sat down with the younger one. I said, “Do you ever provoke your brother?”

Doug: And he smiled and he says, “Oh yeah, all the time.”

Dr. Leman: I love it.

Doug: It crushed my opinion that he was the saintly child then I realized, yeah, these younger ones are poking the older ones all the time and then it really helped the older one to know that I did see that the younger ones were not walked on water and not perfect. You do need to do it. It helps. I don’t know how to say it other than that, so.

Andrea: I’m wondering if from the other side of the coin, if there’s anything that Sierra and all of us moms out there can do to actually build the family relationships. Like what suggestions do you have? I think what you’ve talked about already is like super powerful, but are there like traditions or activities or things that you could do on the other side to draw them together?

Dr. Leman: Well, I think when a mom says, “Honey, I need your help. Could you help me solve this?” We know this about us, men. Men love to solve problems. Give young men an opportunity to help moms solve problems. You can even invent the problems if you want, mom, I don’t care. Honey, I need your help. You’re so strong, could you do this for me? And so you have kids who are now taller than you. Hey honey, I can’t reach that. Would you get that for me? And then just a slip of a commercial announcement. You know what I love about you? If I asked you to do something, you do it with a smile on your face. Wow, makes me proud just to be your mom. I love you. Thanks honey. That’s all. There are little taglines that you give kids every day.

Andrea: So when the kids are helping you, it changes their perspective on their other siblings?

Dr. Leman: No, it changes their perception of themselves. The kid that’s acting out feels what? Hurt by life, life’s unfair. I’m always picked on. I’m always the one. So when a mom says, honey, I was just thinking about you today when I asked you to clean the garage yesterday to help me because I know dad wanted it cleaned up and you volunteered to help. I was thinking how easy it would be for you to make an excuse or say you had to have homework done or something, but you know what, you did it with a smile on your face. I just wanted to let you know that’s a great sign of maturity in your life. You’re growing up and I just appreciate your willingness to help. I am so lucky to have a son like you. If you want to add, now those two little slugs… no, you don’t want to say that.

Doug: Well, you know the other thing that you said that again I’m starting to see in living color is if you get your kids to serve others. That that just helps get the eyes off myself and to others. And now that can change dynamics and our family loves now to go do that as a group and as a family. And you said we need to have a protocol and it can’t just be about our own selfishness but about investing in others. Yeah.

Dr. Leman: Yeah. Just before Christmas time, NBC had a special called Ellen’s Eggnog, which stood for Ellen’s greatest gifts, grandest gifts or something, blah, blah, blah. But it was a marvelous show where they gave really deserving grateful people in life, great gifts. They gave one kid $150,000 for example, and a brand new car.

Dr. Leman: They gave one man who had lost his wife to cancer with two little girls, they gave him a new house. It was unbelievable. But my wife and I were watching the three night special and everybody that watched the program was in tears apparently, we were, but our son created that show and he was the head writer for and the executive producer of it and we were laughing because that’s who Kevin was as a little kid.

Dr. Leman: He was always a giver. He was always generous. He was always a helper. And here he is, I don’t know, I think he’s 40 years old now or so, but he loves to help people. And it’s something he learned in the confines of his home. And we saw a recent video of our kids that was found that we didn’t know existed, our daughter Hannah sent it to us and it was Christmas time in a Leman home.

Dr. Leman: And we remarked about if you look at that video right now, you could almost forecast what those kids were going to be like as adults by just watching that Christmas video when they were little kid. So here’s something for you all to think about. The little boy or little girl you once were, guess what you still are. So it’s really important to train kids. It’s really important to have these conversations that Doug and Andrea have suggested you have with your kids.

Dr. Leman: It’s called relationship building and it really pays off and you only have a short window to do this parents. Life goes by awful quick. Trust me, those of us who have kids who are older will ask the question every day, where’d those years go? They seem like minutes. So make the best of every day. Put a smile on the heart of your kid. Do it smart.

Doug: Amen. And my encouragement to you is, and I’ve said it a ton, Dr. Leman changed the way I parent and now as teenagers, we’re having way too much fun with our kids. It seems like we’re cheating somehow, but if you invest the effort early and now it a way pay off, we’re living proof. So please, please, please do it. If you want a roadmap, go get one of Dr. Leman’s books, it’s what helped us.

Doug: So right now you get What A Difference A Mom Makes between now and the end of February of 2020 where eBooks are sold for $2.99. Okay, we love adding to your parenting toolbox so you love those kids more and more. And we look forward to the next time we get to be with you and Sierra, thank you for this questions. Anybody that wants to go to We love answering them.

Andrea: Yeah, thank you Sierra. This was a great question for a great discussion. So have a good week.

Doug: Take care. Bye-bye.