It’s time for another Ask Dr. Leman: “What do we do when our gifted 7-year-old is also gifted in meltdowns?” Find out Dr. Leman’s analysis of Anita’s question on today’s episode.


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Doug: On today’s podcast Anita tells us her child is incredibly gifted academically and has been since birth. But now at age seven she’s gifted in meltdowns. Dr Leman, help us figure out what do I do with these meltdowns? That’s the question we get to ask Dr Leman and we get to hear his answer.

Doug: Hi, I’m Doug Terpening.

Andrea: And I’m Andrea.

Doug: And we are so glad that you are with us today. It is just a joy to be with you. And we just want to let you know 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 a child, please go seek a local professional for help. If you’re listening for your first time or you’ve bounced around and you haven’t heard this yet, I’ll say it real quick. Go to and leave us questions right there. So let’s hear Anita’s question.

Anita: Hi there, Dr Leman. My name is Anita. My husband Brad and I live in central Alberta, Canada. And I just wanted to take a minute and say thank you so much for the podcast. They’re a huge help to me as well as your books.

Anita: We have two beautiful daughters, ages seven and one. And I am a homeschooling stay at home mom to a very academically gifted seven year old. We have known from day one that this little girl just does everything with just that little bit extra, and to this day that includes her meltdowns. Her wheels turn just that much faster than your average kid, and then mine frankly.

Anita: And my biggest challenge, especially since we are homeschooling so she can work at her own speed, is how to just consistently navigate her turbulent waters. Being a gifted child, her development is incredibly asynchronous. Her academic intelligence, I guess just progress’s that much faster than her emotional intelligence. So what is the best thing that I can be doing and my husband can be doing as her parents to navigate this challenge? Thank you so much.

Dr. Leman: Well, we have a future jeopardy contestant on our hands. Little miss seven year old. Well, let me tell you what I normally tell people who have kids who are gifted, and I’m not trying to be smart or sarcastic, but I usually say my condolences, because really academically gifted children tend to have more than their share of mental problems as they get older. They can be a handful and as you said, life can be turbulent in her world and emotional meltdowns.

Dr. Leman: Okay, class everybody in the podcast. What is the purpose of nature of a meltdown? What’s the purpose? Where did that meltdown come from? Did it come from the cereal seven year old ate in the morning? Was it something that mom dispensed to her one way? Or another or is it true that she created the meltdown, distributed that meltdown for a purpose? Now, sometimes that purpose is just for release with kids who are academically gifted. Why is that? Why would I say that? Because they have expectations for themselves much higher than they need to be. And so as a teacher, you’re homeschooled in this kid, I would watch my level of expectation I had for my seven year old. And to be functional with you and practical with you, when the meltdown occurs, school is over for the day. That’s it. Because these meltdowns, my guess is, are going to become worse and they’re going to be become more frequent. So you want to try to nip them in the bud as best you can.

Dr. Leman: Again, kids that are academically gifted tend to be perfectionists and so the meltdowns come when all of a sudden things don’t line up the way seven year old thinks they ought to be. And she needs a good dose of reality discipline where she sees that life isn’t always perfect. I think conversations between seven year old and mom and dad along the line of things that we have learned in life where we have failed, should be highlighted conversations in your home.

Dr. Leman: I think homeschooling a kid like this can really be a tall task for a mom or dad. Personally, I would not do that. I would have that kid in a school and I would supplement whatever school offers, in the home. I’m assuming your seven year old is a veracious reader, and as I’ve said on podcast many times, if your kid’s a veracious reader, don’t worry about their education, they’re going to teach themselves because they’re going to be so curious. They’re going to be going from one book to another to another.

Dr. Leman: So for openers, those are my initial thoughts, Anita, about kids who are academically gifted.

Andrea: Do you think that mom or dad or mom and dad are perfectionist as well?

Dr. Leman: They could be, very well, yeah. Here’s what you have to hear, Anita, perfectionism is slow suicide. It guarantees unhappiness in life. The joy of life is giving it your best shot, knowing you did good, not that you did perfect.

Dr. Leman: I love to use the examples of woodworkers. If you’ve ever met anybody who is a true craftsman. Now when I say craftsmen, craftswoman, craftsman, I don’t care, either sex, but people who can take raw wood and make things out of it. You talk about a gift and a talent, that’s it. But watch what happens when their display or someone finds out that they made a cabinet or a gun rack or whatever they made, people begin to Ooh and ahh over it. I’ve talked to enough of these people to know what goes inside their mind. They’re thinking, if you only knew that small flaw on the backside, you’d never say that. Because these people who are so skilled have an innate ability to find the little minute flaw. I call it the spit in your soup. It’s that one little thing, but it ruins everything.

Dr. Leman: And people who are very skilled and very perfectionistic in their trade, whether they’re engineers or accountants, anywhere where perfectionist paid off, if you throw him a curve ball, most of those people do not handle those curve balls well, because they live on the all or none theory. And that might be part of what the frustration you’re little seven year old is having in your home. And if the lovely Mrs. Terpenings analysis is correct, that may be a mom or dad is also a perfectionist, that would be, I think in a longterm disastrous as you continue to try to teach her if you’re a perfectionist yourself.

Andrea: So if you could paint a picture, kind of role playing almost, this little girl now has had her meltdown and it’s 10:00 AM and you said that Anita should stop school for the day. What would you suggest they do for the rest of the day now that she’s had a meltdown?

Dr. Leman: I think that seven year old ought to do whatever she’d like to do.

Andrea: Oh, okay.

Dr. Leman: But she asked to know that for the school day, she got an incomplete. I don’t know what the grade system is in her home or if they even used one, but there should be a negative connotation that’s given to her for the meltdown because I didn’t create it as the teacher. The kid created the meltdown.

Andrea: But what if this girl, what she wants to do now is to go and dive back into her math because she’s got to prove to herself and to the world that she can still do it? I could see this happening where as a perfectionist, what I want to do now is get back into school and mom’s saying, I can’t. Would there be something else like mom says we’re going to go-

Dr. Leman: Yeah, school is over today.

Andrea: We’re going to go to the park and you’re just going to play like a kid, get away from the books.

Dr. Leman: And that’s great. I think going to the park and whatever and chill on whatever you’re doing or go to the zoo, I have no problem with that at all. But I have no problem with a kid going to her bedroom and reading or whatever. But school’s over for the day. You need a way of conveying that. I’m not going to go through this meltdown thing, because with the meltdown goes all the drama. Again, and the reason the drama continues is because somebody paying attention to the drama or that to a dissipate into thin air. And if you want to have a meltdown, I’d really appreciate it if you’d just have it in your room or depending upon where you live, of course, she lives in the middle of Alberta so you wouldn’t say, honey, go outside. It’s only 30 degrees bellow.

Doug: So I’m surprised that, or maybe you did slightly say this, is that, by Anita saying my child is very or extremely gifted, you set this girl up almost for failure by already putting her at this elevated spot. And you’ve said multiple times on this podcast that most people are not truly gifted individuals. That what we labeled gifted is really not. How do we help Anita find out if this child really is truly gifted or if she’s just setting, like you said, expectations that are wrong for this child?

Dr. Leman: Well, listen, Doug, that’s a good point. Sometimes parents, I’ve had parents look me in the eye and tell me their child is gifted because they can count from one to 10 backwards and the kid’s three years old. I’ve had parents say, I’m making this up. There are ways of having kids evaluated obviously through your school systems and all that.

Dr. Leman: I’m just saying it can be oil and water if a parent is a perfectionistic person themselves. I think these kids need encouragement and they need a lot of time sharing life with kids their own age. Now my guess is the little seven year old doesn’t have a lot of friends her age, I’d bet anything on that. My guess is if she’s got a friend, the friend might be 12 years old for example, and she’s seven, because these kids, and I know there’s a little baby age one in the family, but she’s functionally an only child. There’s a six year gap between her and the little one. So she’s grown up an only child, which means there’s a right way to do things and perfection is paid off. And again, what she needs more than academic training is social capabilities. And the only way to develop those social capabilities is to be around other kids.

Dr. Leman: So I would be looking for some things if I’m homeschooling the child or part of the curriculum, so to speak, is being in a group with other kids, doing activities of various kinds.

Doug: Well before we finish with our questions, I want to make sure that I let you know about the ebook promotion that’s available right now, and actually I don’t know if I’ve ever seen this title before, so I’m very curious to find out what this book is about. So the ebook is Stopping Stress Before It Stops Yo, for a $1.99 from December 1st to the 16th of 2019. So Dr Leman, what is the book Stopping Stressed Before It stops You about?

Dr. Leman: I’ll tell you, but we’re going to give Andrea a quiz first. Andrea, here’s a quiz. I know you can handle this. What’s the number one stressor in a woman’s life?

Andrea: Her husband.

Dr. Leman: Just one word [inaudible 00:12:05].

Andrea: What’s the second stressor in a woman’s life?

Dr. Leman: Kids. Okay. What’s the third stressor in a woman’s life?You’re doing very well by the way.

Andrea: Her friends or keeping up her home.

Dr. Leman: Okay, that’s all good. All right. I did a survey and I surveyed woman with simple, it was a simple survey named the three stressors in life. Number one was children. Number two was husband. Number three was… Do you want to take a shot at it Doug?

Doug: I would’ve thought it was keeping up with my other girlfriends, like having to appear.

Dr. Leman: All right, well we’re close. It’s time. Time. Women today have a hard time finding time just to do what’s on their plate, but certainly finding time for me, as they say. Me time. So that book is about challenging women to understand that stress is a killer. It can really take its toll and stress tends to come out where? Our stomach, our back, our neck, headaches, all those kinds of things. And it’s a very practical way of getting people to see what’s really important in life. So it’s sort of a value driven book in many ways. And how to prioritize, for example, with children. I know it’s number one is stressor, but how much of the stress do you create by not keeping them responsible and accountable for what they do? It’s that kind of thing.

Dr. Leman: But it’s a good little book and it’s been around for a long time. I revised it several years ago. I can’t tell you exactly when, but Stopping Stress Before It Stops You. There’s a warning in that title. Stress is not good for us.

Doug: I don’t, I don’t know if I like you asking Andrea the questions because her first stress was me. I’m thinking, huh, this is a new one for me-

Andrea: No, that’s not how he asked the question. He said, “What it is the women’s number one?

Doug: Yeah, right. Whatever, whatever. Now that I know that I’m her biggest pain in the rear, I can move on. Thanks Andrea. Great day. Thanks Dr Leman. Glad job on our marriage. Appreciate it bud.

Doug: So Stopping Stress Before It Stops You, $1.99.

Dr. Leman: listen, if it’ll give feel better Doug, I’m going to give you the father of the year award. How’s that? And husband of the year. There you go. You’ve got two awards here.

Doug: Oh wow. Do I get a coupon to a restaurant with it or not? So, okay, moving on. Stop Being Stressed Before It Stops You, $1.99, December 1 through 16 of 2019. And now and no nonsense moment with Dr Kevin Leman.

Dr. Leman: Late breaking news folks, your marriage makes a difference. In whose life well obviously in your life or your mate’s life. But how about your children? Do you realize those little suckers are taking emotional, spiritual, psychological notes every day of their life? They’re looking up at you. And so if your words are encouraging to one another, wow, that goes right into the heart and mind of that youngster. Do they hear you fight, dis put each other down? Guess what? That goes right to the heart of your child as well.

Dr. Leman: Kids need to feel safe. And when they hear parents going after each other, fighting, putting each other down, that forms dissonance in the child’s life. That’s a little bit like what psychologists do to laboratory rats. They run them down a T-maze and they give them a electric shock to their feet when they turn left. So the little rat soon learns to turn right and get the pallet of food, while these sick demented psychologists then turn tables on the poor little rat tone and they give him electric shock to his feet when he goes the other way. So he figures out, wait a minute, I got to go back the other way if I want a pallet, a food. And then again, these horrid psychologists, what do they do? They give that poor little rat electric current to his feet, no matter if he turns left or turns right. So guess what? The little rat does? In utter frustration, there he is at the end of the T-maze, and he jumps up and down to try to keep away from the electric current in pure frustration. He’s like the proverbial deer with the headlights on him. He doesn’t know what to do.

Dr. Leman: That’s what you do to your kids when you fight, when you put each other down, call each other names, at worse yet called them names as well. So your words matter and your marriage matters. Every day, make that conscious effort to be respectful to each other. The dividends are better than gold in your bank account.

Doug: So Dr Leman, meltdowns for a child, as you said, it comes from the parents. It comes from all sorts of things around them. I would also like to say what book would help parents who are dealing with meltdowns get the broader picture so they know how to deal with them that you have written? Which one would you recommend?

Dr. Leman: That’s an easy one. I think the Have A New Kid By Friday is… Parents, if you want a quick fix and you want quick ideas and you’re about to commit Harry Carey and you don’t want to do, read, Have A New Kid By Friday. It will give you hope. When you close the book, I think you’ll say, I’m ready for him. That book and Making Children Mine have sold almost 2 million copies, to give you an idea. That’s a lot of books for a reason.

Doug: That’s why I was about to say. I think it’s such a great suggestion, Have A New Kid By Friday is so easy to read and so practical.

Doug: Okay, so back to Anita and meltdowns. Remind us again, when a kid throws him out down, now we’re not talking about Anita, but we’re talking about just general kids, so five or seven old who throws a melt down in front of me. What do you recommend in a general term for us? A first step on how to deal with the meltdowns for that mom or dad?

Dr. Leman: Well, people always say to you ignore it, well, no, you don’t ignore it. It’s hard to ignore a kid who’s having a huge meltdown in front of you, but you can say something rather glibly like, “Honey, could you have your melt down in your room?” Depending upon the age of the kid, you could take him by the hand and put them outside, depending upon where you live or what month it is and the weather and all that. You could put them in their room and give them the look. You can step over them, walk away, go to another room, go to the patty, close the door and lock it, because some kids will come after you. Not only will they throw a temper tantrum on the floor, have the big meltdown. When you walk away, they come to try to find you. Because you’ve taken the audience away from them. And that’s why it’s important you understand the concept of purpose of behavior.

Dr. Leman: Are some kids wired more for that? Yeah, they are. Some kids are just more wired for it, but it doesn’t mean you’re going to let it continue in your home because it’s not good for the home. Not good for the kid.

Doug: So if you’re listening to this and you are thinking, I’m going to ask my kid to go to a meltdown in a room, that sounds crazy. I’m just telling you these little things that Dr Leman suggest that we do, we’ve done with our kids like that. And the next day or like a week later they’d be like, “We do not like those. Those are Lemanisms that you’re putting on us and they are not comfortable.” So, just honestly, do stuff different and read the book so you understand why the kids are doing it so that you have the confidence to respond and not react to what the kids are doing. It’s fabulous.

Andrea: I don’t know if this fits in a moment where they’re actually having a meltdown, but maybe it’s before the meltdown step comes. I like what you’ve said before about telling a kid, “This may be a big deal to you, but it really is not a big deal to me.” And I feel like with a child who’s expecting a lot of themselves in school, is there a moment where she could insert that phrase, this seems like a big deal to you, but it really isn’t to me?

Dr. Leman: Yeah, there is. I think after the meltdown and whatever you do, you’ve gone to the park or she’s chilled for a while and things are back to normal, I think you say to a child, and maybe we’re missing not saying this enough, “Honey, can we talk about what happened this morning? It seems to me, and I could be wrong,” you’re not being real prescriptive here. You’re saying, “It seems to me, I could be wrong, but it seems like little things build up inside of you and then all of a sudden there’s this explosion. Can you tell me the little things that happen to you before you have this meltdown,” and trying to get the kid to articulate that those kinds of things would be helpful to say, are there some things you can develop in yourself where you can catch yourself and walk away before I have to walk away and say, school’s done, mom, I need a 10 minute break. Mom, can we take a five minute break? Something like that. Whatever.

Dr. Leman: I just think to open the doors of communication. And then to answer your question, “You know honey, I understand this is a huge thing to you. I’m your teacher, I’m your mother. Nobody loves you more than me. But I got to tell you in all honesty, is not a big deal to me. Okay? This is one of the life’s little puddles in life. And we’re going to jump over it. We are going to get through it. We’ll get through it together. I just would like to see you get through it in a more positive way because this isn’t fun for you. It’s not fun for me. And this morning when you had your meltdown, you woke up your little one year old sibling and that creates a problem for me.”

Dr. Leman: So, I think you’re practical, you’re straightforward, you’re trying to be understanding, but you’re trying to say, “I know from your perspective this is the biggest thing in the world. I just got to show you honestly from mine it’s not.” So we’re allowing her to have her feeling, we’re not denying her feeling, but we’re saying, but I’m not buying any of that. That’s not a big deal.

Andrea: Is there anything else that Anita can do to help, if they continue with the homeschooling, to just take away some of this expectation that either Anita has put on the daughter or that the daughter’s now putting on herself, to just kind of like de-escalate the whole school expectation or academic performance? It seems like if she’s truly gifted, she’s going to get it eventually anyways, so maybe they’re pushing too hard?

Dr. Leman: Yeah, she will, yeah, absolutely. In Leman Academy of excellence, we have a sign that says where learning is fun. And I think I would ask Anita to do a gut check and say, how much of our school day is fun? She’s seven years old. It ought to be loaded with fun. The whole school thing ought to be fun.

Dr. Leman: And sometimes there’s other homeschooling moms around. Do you sit with them and glean ideas for them about how to make it more fun and more interesting and more playful, more interactive? And how about getting other kids involved? Coming over to the house and doing some team teaching and changing things up a little bit? It all, I think makes for a more enriching homeschooling situation.

Doug: Well, Anita, thank you for your question. I appreciate it. Andrea, great questions today to help Anita out and think things through. Please pass this on to others, right? We’re doing this so that other families can love those kids and enjoy parenting, and not live in this stressed out, crazy, whacked out way. So please, on Facebook, on Twitter, on Instagram, when you’re walking with your friends, tell them, “Hey, it’s kind of weird, but we really found this great podcast,” So it’s free. Send it out there where they want to.

Doug: So thank you again for today, and we love being with you. It really is a joy be with you, and we look forward to the next time that we get to hang out with you.

Andrea: Have a great week.

Doug: Take care. Bye, bye.