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It’s time for another Ask Dr. Leman: “My 3-year-old throws tantrums when she doesn’t get enough attention.” Listen in to find out Dr. Leman’s response on this episode of Have a New Kid by Friday Podcast.


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Doug: “I want that cookie. I want… Aaaaaah.” Do you ever get tired of hearing that as a parent? Audrey is, and that’s the question she’s asking us. “I’m tired of the tantrums. How do I stop that?” Hi, I’m Doug Terpening.

Andrea: I’m Andrea.

Doug: We are so glad that you are joining us this morning. If this happens to be your first time with us, I’ll let you know 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. Let’s hear what Audrey has to say about tantrums in her house.

Audrey: Hi, Dr. Leman. Love the show. We have two kids. We have a three-year-old girl and an almost one-year-old boy. Our three-year-old girl, she’s a pretty good big sister. She loves her brother, but she has a real problem with not getting all the attention that she thinks she needs. She’ll throw fits when she thinks she’s being ignored. She will walk all around whining when she doesn’t get what she wants. We’re pretty careful to not tolerate it if she is not being nice. Then she’ll go sit on her bed until she’s done, but it doesn’t really seem to help. I don’t really know what to do. Any advice would be great. Thank you.

Dr. Leman: That’s a great question, Audrey. First of all, you sound like a great mommy, and part of what you’re going through, most of us as parents have dealt with when we have kids that are two years apart or less. Those are built-in competitive years, and you’ll be glad to know this will continue. It can continue all the way through their teenage years, believe it or not. When they’re close in age, there’s competition. The good news is you have one of each sex, which is going to make it a lot easier to deal with as you go along.

Dr. Leman: What you have to understand is when your little sweetheart, your little girl, was just two years old, she heard the word ‘pregnancy’. She found out this little guy was going to come home. When he came home from the hospital, she said, “You know, I think that little guy’s here to stay.” All of a sudden, her position as queen of the family has been diminished because a lot of people are giving a lot of attention to that little thing, that one-year-old brother. Is it immaturity? Yeah, she’s only three. Is it selfishness? Yes, she’s only three.

Dr. Leman: This is why God gave kids parents, because we help shape the behavior of the child. I say you’re a good parent because you don’t tolerate the whining. You let that child go sit in their bedroom and cool her heels, which is all good. What I’m saying is, this is as natural a situation that you will see in a good family, such as yours. It’s just a matter of you being consistent. As soon as she starts her dog and pony show, as soon as she gets her little selfish nose in the air, you act immediately. That’s my best advice.

Dr. Leman: What does that mean? It means you pick her up swiftly. You give her the look. You say, “Mommy’s unhappy. You’re going to sit here until you decide to act like a three-year-old.” Close the door. She might howl at the moon. If she does, no problem. Okay? For openers, be quick, don’t tell yourself she’s going to stop. Take action. Be firm, give her the look, keep in mind that kids do not like it when mom’s unhappy. Okay?

Dr. Leman: Now, notice that we’re only focusing on the three-year-old. That one year old, even at a year old, and at eighteen months, he will be much better at this. He’ll know exactly how to push her buttons, to unleash her wrath at brother. Then you’re going to come in and over-correct your daughter, and the saga continues. Like I said, it could go all through the teenage years, but here’s another important tip.

Dr. Leman: If you hold both of them accountable for the maladaptive behavior they’re engaging in, you will lessen the competition and you’ll have a more peaceful family. In other words, never ask who started it, don’t assume who started it, treat both of them with some healthy disdain. That you really show them that, “I’m very unhappy that you two can’t act like you should be.” Simple stuff. I will now ask our resident psychologist to chime in.

Andrea: I’m very curious. How is she going to know when the one-year-old boy is really starting to manipulate the situation? Are there signs she should be looking for, or is there something she should be doing now, even towards him?

Dr. Leman: He’s only almost a year. Okay? So I would get the calendar out. You know when he’s going to be 18 months of age. Circle that month and say, “You know what? This is about the time this guy is really going to get powerful.” It’s just a developmental issue with kids. About 18 months, they get a really good sense of how their behavior affects the behavior of those around them, namely mom and dad, and older sister in this case. So be aware it’s coming. Again, don’t ask questions who started it. Just what’s going on in the house. Fighting, for example. Fighting is not to take place in the home.

Dr. Leman: So what I would suggest when two kids are fighting at three and eighteen months, you take them both by the arm and put them someplace, close the door. Put them outside, depending upon what time of year it is and what kind of a climate you live in, et cetera. Be Swift, be firm, give them the look, let them know you’re unhappy, and repeat as often as necessary. So you’re taking away the audience, and part of the misbehavior is designed to get you needlessly involved in their affairs. So the sooner you do that, and the more consistent you are with that, Audrey, the more chance you have of having a peaceful home.

Doug: I don’t know where I picked up this thought. How did we get this notion that somehow our kids are just going to get out of the tantrum phase as they get older? But you’re telling me it’s not going to get out of [inaudible 00:07:12]?

Dr. Leman: If tantrums are dealt with in the right way, they will come to pass, they’ll be gone. But what happens is, we’re very inconsistent, especially when kids are young. Kids do something and it’s really not great behavior, but it’s really cute and entertaining. We sit there, and giggle and laugh at it. Yet when the pastor is over to your home, and the son and daughter do the same thing, all of a sudden it’s not so funny. Do you see what I’m saying? So we’re rewarding the same behavior and then trying to extinguish the same behavior. So we’re being inconsistent.

Doug: If I’ve got this right, on the tantrum you’re saying, “You tell them, ‘I am very displeased about how you are behaving,’ and you remove them so they don’t get attention.” Is that right?

Dr. Leman: Right. It’s purposive behavior. The kid is saying through his behavior, “I’m an authority here. I’m calling the shots.” all you’re doing is saying, “No. Honey, we love you. But you know, you’re not calling the shots. We as parents have authority over you.” I remind every parent, “Your kid wouldn’t have a shirt on their back, or underwear on their bottom today, if you didn’t buy it for him.” So you have all the gold in your back pocket, you have all four aces in your back pocket. Exercise your authority in a non-authoritarian way, and you’ve got a good game plan for raising those kids.

Doug: When we come back, I want to make sure I get the ebook thing in here. I want to ask you, why would I want to do that? Maybe I’ll just deal with the tantrums. How has it helped my children to learn to stop having tantrums? But Have a New Husband by Friday, that’s only $2.99 between now and the end of January of 2021, and the Amazon review, Andrea?

Andrea: Yeah, I like this Amazon review. It’s from Irene in Germany. I actually had to use the ‘translate’ click button on Amazon because she had written her review in German. “Yay. Wow. I have known for a long time that man and woman tick differently, but the concrete examples told by Dr. Leman from his many years of practice have shown me that these differences are even more profound than I thought so far. Very helpful, easy-to read-guide for couples.”

Doug: If you want to know how to connect more with your husband and have that marriage relationship that you want, it is a fabulous book to look into the mind of a man. Get it now. Now, a no-nonsense parenting moment with Dr. Kevin Leman.

Dr. Leman: Okay, parents. Let me get your attention. Your 14-year-old daughter is all of a sudden interested in another 14-year-old, or let’s make it even worse, he’s 16. I can hear the chills running up your spine. Hey, let me give you an idea. We’re talking about dating. My suggestion is invite that kid over. You say to your daughter, “Honey, you’ve mentioned this Eric a lot of times. Why don’t you invite him over for a pizza some night? We’d love to meet him.” Just like that. Don’t make this bigger than it needs to be. Don’t make the proverbial mole hill into a mountain.

Dr. Leman: That way, you’re showing your daughter, or your son, that this home is also their home and that you’re willing to change to take these curve balls of life in stride. It does a great deal to increase the quality of your relationship with your son or daughter. The good news, a lot of these little early puppy-love type things, they have a lifespan of about three to six weeks. So be willing, make the suggestion. I’m not suggesting you leave them alone for four hours, but don’t hover and make a fool of yourself either. This is just a stage of life. You can handle this, parents. Now, do it.

Doug: Dr. Leman, why in the world would I go through all that effort of having to stop my child’s tantrum? How’s it going to help them, and how’s it going to help my parenting?

Dr. Leman: I think the best way to answer that, Doug, is it takes away the probability of your child growing up to be just self-centered. Again, most families bring kids up in such a way that kids see themselves as the center of the universe. Okay? Parents just try way, way, way too hard to make sure little Buford is happy at every turn. We’ve discussed that many times. That’s not the goal of parenting.

Dr. Leman: So you’re really helping… to answer your question… your child to develop a healthy self-esteem, which reflects in their mind that other people count too and, “This isn’t all about me.” So you’re preparing your young man to be a great husband. You’re preparing your young daughter to become a great wife to somebody. So it’s a no-loss proposition for you to exercise your authority in a healthy way.

Doug: Now, if I’m brutally honest, which I should be, is that even a value now, that you do have self-control? I don’t mean to be like old grouchy man, but does it even matter that I am trying to raise up kids that have self-control, or maybe a better way to say it is, versus I want them to love me, and I’m afraid that they won’t be attached to me if I separate them from me, and I’d rather have them love me then have self-control?

Dr. Leman: Yeah. That’s a very hedonistic viewpoint that many parents have. Take a look around our nation. You tell me, maybe I’m seeing things wrong. I don’t see people respecting each other. How about this one? Here’s a thought. How many of you are old enough to remember watching a newscast and not being able to tell what that newscaster’s political persuasion is? Anybody old enough to remember that? No, I’m just telling you that today we are polarized. We are a divided nation, politically, socially, racially. It’s not good. The center of that is that we are selfish. We think about ourselves. We don’t think about our neighbor, our community.

Doug: How will them not being selfish… when I think about it as a parent, I’m like, “Okay, how important is it to me that they don’t grow up selfish versus I want them to love them.” How will it help? You’re right, I should care about the nation, but how will it help them as an individual to not be so selfish?

Dr. Leman: I think in part I’ve answered that, that they understand that other people count in life. One, selfishness does not lend itself to somebody being a good citizen, a good partner, a good business partner, a good marriage partner. It’s what the world doesn’t need, is more selfishness.

Doug: Yeah. I would say even in our brief parenting experience, and we aren’t done yet, right? Our kids are getting closer to launch, but when my kids fully realized, like my 21-year-old realized, “Well, I can be super-selfish at times,” and dropped it, he came back a way more loving kid, and he seems way more relaxed and happy now. It’s crazy to me that learning not to be selfish is actually a blessing to us, even though it feels like it’s not. We’re so programmed to it be all about us.

Andrea: What you just said, though, is that the relationship is better-

Doug: Yeah.

Andrea: … when we do teach them to be not self-centered.

Doug: You’re right, Dr. Leman. I hate to say this, but even in Andrea and I’s marriage, it at times, you know how Andrea, she’s so selfish about everything, but… I’m kidding. I’m the one that’s usually the selfish one. When I’m not so selfish, our marriage gets better and my life gets better. It is a great value to teach us and we can start at three, helping them learn not to throw tantrums. So, reminder, go get Have a New Husband by Friday for $2.99 between now and the end of January of 2021. We love getting podcast questions. You can go to I think I gave the wrong address last time.

Dr. Leman: Hey Doug, there is one other thing I would add. For those of you who want the book in hand, okay? Here’s my suggestion. Ladies, go and buy that book. That book is for you to read, but just leave it somewhere in the house where your husband discovers the title, Have a New Husband by Friday. That ought to generate some good discussion in your home.

Doug: I know. I just told Andrea, that would freak me out. That would make me stand up and ask questions. That’s a great suggestion. Oh man. I do not like that idea. Okay. We’re doing this so you could add to your parenting toolbox, so you can love those kids more and more, Andrea, just say bye bye.

Andrea: Goodbye.

Doug: [crosstalk 00:16:46].

Andrea: Have a good week.

Doug: Have a great week. We look forward to the next night. Bye bye.

Andrea: Bye. Bye.