Skip to main content

It’s time for another Ask Dr. Leman: “My 4-year-old is Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.” What do you do when your kid frequently switches between good and bad behavior? Listen in as Dr. Leman pinpoints the causes of this erratic behavior on today’s episode of Have a New Kid by Friday Podcast.


**Special Offer– Sep 1 – 30: Have a New Sex Life by Friday ebook for $1.99 at AmazonBarnes & Noble, or wherever you get your ebooks**



Show Sponsored by Revell, a division of Baker Publishing

Produced by Unmutable™


Doug: Do you have that young child that one moment just cuddles up next to you and melts your heart and you think you could sit there forever? And the next thing you think, “Oh my goodness, this isn’t even the same child I had a half an hour ago.” Well, that’s the question that Sharon asked about her Doctor Jekyll and Mr. Hyde four-year-old, that we get to ask Dr. Leman for you. And what is she to do with him? Hi, I’m Doug Turpening.

Andrea: And I’m Andrea.

Doug: And we are really, really glad that you are here today. If this happens to be your first time with us, we’d just like to let you know two things. One, 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. And two, I mean, we’ve been doing this for years and we just learned something for the first time.

Andrea: Today is Dr. Leman’s birthday!

Doug: [inaudible 00:00:59].

Andrea: Happy birthday, Dr. Leman.

Dr. Leman: Oh, well, thank you.

Doug: How does it feel to be 49?

Dr. Leman: It’s actually 47. I’ll tell you a funny little story. My father’s family all came from Ireland and they were all … Well, they tipped a few too many beers In life. Let’s just say that. But when I was born, my dad looked at me and said, “He looks like a little cub,” meaning a little bear cub and I had a little round head. I think I was a fairly cute little baby, but that Cub stayed. To this day.I have people who call me Cub, which is my nickname or Cubby. In fact, I was in Cleveland, Ohio doing a talk show and one of the guests on the show was Uncle Milty. Now, you have to be old to know who Uncle Milty was. They called him Mr. Television. His name was Milton Berle. But when my segment came, we got a call from someone who wanted to ask Dr. Cubby a question.
And I told the host of the show. I said, “Well, I don’t know who’s on the line, but I know it’s an old friend from my childhood.” So it’s interesting that little things that people sometimes say about you as a kid, sort of stays with you, including a name. So lots of times when I’m online talking to friends on, no one ever refers to me as Kevin. They never give me the honor of Dr. Leman ever. And these are people I grew up with. It’s, “Hey you,” and Leman or Cub. So anyway, thanks for the birthday wishes. It’s great to be 47. I’m looking forward to being 78 next year.

Andrea: Well, happy birthday, Dr. Cub.

Doug: That’s a great story. I’m so happy know that now. Now it’s going to be hard not to call him Dr. Cub.

Andrea: Dr. Cub.

Dr. Leman: Dr. Cub. I had a license once on my plate that said Dr. Cub and I was driving down to New York state through and you can’t make up stories like this, and there’s somebody honking their horn crazily next to me. Okay. I’m thinking, “What’d I do? I do something wrong?” And finally, he rolls down a window and I recognize him. He’s a classmate. I hadn’t seen him at that point. Probably 30 years. They recognized the Dr. Cub. So.

Doug: Fun, fun, fun. Well, just for context, some of you are listening to this, this is September 1. So if you’re wondering about that and so it’s really fun to be with you, Dr. Leman. And now let’s hear what Sharon has to say and how we can help her out.

Sharon: Hi, I am the stay at home mom of three children, a six year old boy, a four year old boy and a almost two year old daughter. I am questioning how to handle my four year old son. He is a little Jekyll, Mr. Hyde. He can be the sweetest thing. He loves to snuggle and he loves to say sweet things. He loves to be loved on, but the minute he hears something he doesn’t like, or hears the word, no, or can’t do something he wants to, he screams and he hits and he fusses and says mean things like “poopy mommy,” or just thinks is going to get under my skin.
I’ve been trying to educate myself. I love your books. I don’t even know off the top of my head, how many I’ve read. I’ve definitely read Powerful Child and Making Children Mind. So I try to ignore those things. I try not to give him the power back. I try not to let him know that it affects me, but there are certain situations where I don’t know what to do when he wrecks his brother’s drawing or Lego creation. And it breaks my perfectionist firstborn’s heart. And he lashes out back at him. How do I handle that? When he’s in the parking lot and wants to run away from me, or starting to run away. Won’t get in the car. What do I do then? It’s situations like that where I don’t know what to do. I am at my wit’s end. When he calls me names, what do I do? So I would appreciate any advice you might have for me. I am a big fan of yours. And thank you so much for your time.

Dr. Leman: He is a powerful child, for sure. Okay. That we know. So four year old boys can be a handful. Now, some people who have rather sensitive ears to things like when dr. Leman says four year boys, their ire goes up. Well, I’m telling you, those of you who ears go back and you get a little angry. When you hear me say that, let me spell this out as clearly as I can. Boys and girls are different. They’re inherently different. They play different. They display basic different tendencies in their play and behavior. So if you have a problem with that, I can’t help you. I can just tell you to do some research. And you’ll find out that the male brain and the female brain are very, very different. They respond to the exact same stimuli differently. And I’m just telling you a four year old boy, it’s the best age there is to have a kid. Four.

They are precious. They are communicative. They are little snuggle bunnies, but they can be H-E double hockey sticks on wheels as well. Many of them have much more energy than they deserve, and they will play you like a violin. Now, let me tell you my very first thought, when I heard this play through. Not only was the child, a powerful child, but I’m suspect that Sharon and her husband are not on the same page when it comes to discipline. That’s my first guess. And it is a guess. But what I’m thinking is that this kid is conflicted between two different messages he’s getting in the home. And I’m just wondering out loud, if that isn’t part of the problem. So when you say help me, I don’t know what to do. My first suggestion is make sure that that’s not the case. Make sure that you are on the same page, because that gives a kid what?
Confidence. It gives them a comfort, psychological comfort. I’m always reminding parents. You’re the psychological blankie for your son or your daughter. So that’s my first suspicion that mom and dad, I mean, she sounds like a great mom. I would just say I’m not sure mom and dad are on the same page with that. I would treat this as a powerful child. I would memorize the book Parenting Your Powerful Child. These kids can flip flop. Keep in mind that the powerful child has all the same behavioral repertoire of the attention-getting child who is very good at getting positive attention by cuddling up and being sweet and saying kind things. But he can also create negative attention. And as he gets discouraged in your family from maybe mom and dad not being on the same page, he develops more maladaptive behavior by moving from simply an attention getting child to a powerful child.

We have a brand new book out there just came out here in late spring, I guess it’s early summer, actually. It was released May 5th called Why Your Kids Misbehave, And What To Do About It. So if there’s two books, you may want to really focus in on, it’s Parenting Your Powerful Child, and Why Your Kids Misbehave In What To Do About It.

Doug: What does she do when her four year old goes and destroys firstborn perfectionist’s Legos? It sounded there like she could overreact a little bit too when he violates the six year olds stuff.

Dr. Leman: Again, for all perfectionists, let me just remind you it’s not a great attribute. It’s not one that you’re just going to get rid of. It’s one that you’re going to try to control as best you can. Again, I go back to the energy factor. A six year old has built this wonderful little edifice with her Legos. And four year old sees that as a challenge. What a wonderful thing to knock down, what a wonderful thing to pull apart. And in doing so he gets attention. So he feels the pressure, even at four, that he has to measure up to little firstborn daughter who’s probably pretty perfectionistic themself. And mom is at admitted perfectionist. So you can get behind this kid’s eyes and say, “How do I get to the top of the mountain in this family?”

And remember when I talk about getting to the top of the mountain, I’m talking about a striving for superiority and that’s sibling rivalry. That’s competition among peers. Competition in the workplace, competition at home. So I don’t think this kid is a kid that you send off to some shrink who specializes in pediatrics or anything. I’d be the last thing I do with this kid. I would try to be more mindful of what’s going on in his eyes. And at four, you can talk with them. You can make up a story, for example. Tell this little guy a bedtime story that’s very similar to the life that this kid lives, where the punchline of the story is his kid misbehaved as a way of making sure that people around him love him. And there’s a conversation that goes, “Honey, mommy will always have plenty of love for you. I’ll never run out of love for you. My little love tank will never run on empty for you. I love you no matter what.” But at four you can actually talk to a kid. At two, sit down and reason with a kid, you might just spit in the wind. Four, you can talk with them.

Doug: So for Sharon, you’re saying that four year olds, this is … he’s doing this to get attention. What does she need to be paying attention to that says, oops, this is maladapted behavior. I got to not pay this part off.

Dr. Leman: This ought to be simple for her because as a perfectionist, she’ll be good at seeing flaws. So when she sees the behavior going awry, it’s important that she doesn’t tell herself he’ll stop. It’s important that she’ll tell herself that this is temporary. It’s important that she acts right away, gives him a look, tells him, “I’m very disappointed. Mommy’s very unhappy,” isolate him. Okay? And for that guy, he’s smart enough to … He’ll isolate for few minutes and then he’ll want to come out. And when he comes out, then appropriate things get said by the four year old and like what? Like he apologizes to his sister for tearing down her little tower, her little house, she was building whatever. So it’s just, it’s logical. It’s relational.

And you repeat as is needed because this little guy, again, we talked about this the other day, we’re doing a podcast about the fact that kids’ personalities are formed in the first five years of life or so. So this guy is turning four if I remember, right. So about 80% of his personality is already formed. So that cement, we talked about children are like wet cement and they, they harden up and that cement’s getting pretty hard at age four. So there’s a need to do some work here. If that guy, if safety is a concern, I’d get one of those little wrist things and put on them when I take them out to a mall or I take them out to a store and there’s a street nearby, obviously. I’d put them on one of those little things that look like a curly telephone wire of years ago.

Doug: Well, let me do the ebook promotion. And then I have another question for you, Dr. Leman. So this from our friends at Baker Revelle, they want to let us know that this September of 2020, for all of September 2020, you can get for $1.99, Have A New Sex Life By Friday. So wherever eBooks are sold, you can get that. And off of Amazon, I pulled this. This is from Martin. Martin says, “Yesterday, I read this book my wife ordered. You’d think that after decades of marriage, I would know all this kind of stuff, but I found that to my surprise that I did not. It’s never too late to learn. The book is about the basic differences between men and women. It’s about a total view of sex outside the bedroom, as well as inside. The right way for both spouses to satisfy these needs of the other is thoroughly discussed. Given the basic differences between men and women. It’s not automatic for them to get on the same page, but as the well known author describes it’s reasonably easy. And the rewards for great sex within marriage can be stupendous.”

So since it was a guy, Andrea said, you read this one, Doug. So I’m reading this one today. Martin, thank you. And again, if you’re there and you’re like, “Oh, our sex life is not what we want.” This is a great book to help you out. Get it now, wherever eBooks are sold between now and the end of September. And now a no nonsense moment with Dr. Kevin Leman.

Dr. Leman: Well, hi, everybody. For most of you, school bells are ringing. They’re about to ring for they have rung, but with COVID, it makes a difference, doesn’t it? You know what? Schools are so smart to offer parents an option. Yes. Online can work for a while, but I think the smartest schools are the ones who would invite students or scholars into the campuses. And by the way, schools provide all kinds of great stuff for kids like food, for special needs students. You can’t put special needs students, many of them on computers, and there’s economic factors as well. So parents, I know it’s upsetting. I know it can even be frightening. We don’t live in fear. Get your scholars back at school. Communicate, talk to your people. Every situation is different. I know to do your best.

Doug: So Dr. Leman, you said something interesting. You said that you can actually talk to a four year old about this, right? Did I hear that right, Andrea?

Andrea: Yeah. He said that at that age you could reason.

Doug: So could we role play? Like you be the parent and I’d be the four year old? Like what would that reasoning look like to a four year old?

Dr. Leman: Okay. Number one, you have to understand that the four year old is going to be very concerned when mom or dad expresses disappointment. Now, what are you disappointed in? You go ahead and you role play, and I’m going to show you the disappointment.

Doug: So I’m the four year old and I walk in and I’m like, I’m walking over to my older sister Andrea’s sweet little perfect tower. And I just happened to walk by and I trip and I fall and I knocked them all over. All her Legos are now shattered. And as I lay on my back, I have a slice smile on me.

Andrea: Okay. Douglas, Douglas, come here.

Doug: Yeah, yeah.

Andrea: Now, Douglas walks over. And I give Douglas the look and notice I’m calling him Douglas and not Douggie As most people call him. It’s Douglas. It’s formal.I might even say Douglas Arthur. Oh, “Dad is very unhappy. I’m very disappointed what you just did. I saw it with my own two eyes and please don’t tell me it was an accident because it wasn’t. I just want you to think about something. And I want you to think about it in your room. Was that a kind thing to do? And what should have you done and what should you do now? Come with me.” And I grab four-year-old’s arm or hand. I take him to his bedroom. I place him in his room and I pulled the door shut. Now, if the kid melts down, he might cry at that point.

So be it, let him cry his little eyes out. I could care less at that point. That’s good for the washing out of the eyeballs. But he could also throw a temper tantrum where he’s angry. He’s hitting the floor. He kicks the door. Don’t say a word. I’m not going to say a word. I’m just going to let him melt down. He’s going to … he’ll stop. No kid continues to go on forever. Once he stops, you can wait a few minutes. You can go to the door, just tap on it gently and say, “Douggie.” Notice we’ve gone from Douglas to Douggie. “Douggie. Are you ready to come out?”
If he says something, I’d open the door and take a look. You might open the door, he might be asleep on the rug. Who knows, but that’s how I would handle it. So it’s not a big long conversation where we’re going to go into depth and have this big, long conversation with a four year old. But you can reason with the four year old, you can tell the four year old exactly how you feel, what you observed. Notice we didn’t sugar coat anything. And then the followup to that is “Honey, you know sometimes kids will do something that’s not nice to other people to make themselves look better, to feel better. Do you think that’s a possibility? I’d love your opinion on that.” With a four year old, you can have a conversation like that. And they’ll usually say at that point, “I don’t know.”

Well, you have to be smart here. They know when they say, I don’t know. They’re just really saying, I don’t want to tell you. They know, give them an opportunity, give them some time to think about it. I wouldn’t let that pass. In other words, I wouldn’t let the kids squirm of that. I’d follow that up later that afternoon, or maybe that evening when you’re tucking him in bed so that the display of inconsiderate behavior becomes a teachable moment as a child. So he realizes that mom and dad take this stuff seriously. And again, it’s important that it’s not just mom or just dad, that both mom and dad, if they’re available, assuming it’s not a single parent home, that they both have input on this. So the kids see mom and dad united and on the same page.

The things that Sharon described was that he also would be really sweet and cuddly at times. So now say, he’s come out of that room and he’s ready to cuddle on the couch and read a book together or something. Is that a time that she should continue to display some disapproval or is it now time to … do you respond to that in a snuggly way?

Dr. Leman: Yeah. He comes out in a cuddly mood. There’s nothing wrong with you loving on him and all that. That’s fine. But when we’re done and maybe you’ve read them a story. Say, “Honey, there’s something that I need to talk to you about. I know Dad said some things to you as he put you in the bedroom, but I want you to know that I feel exactly like Dad does. I was very disappointed to see that in you and we all make mistakes. We’ve all done things that are wrong.” So we’re entering into this is, is Kylie as we can, but we have a firmness about us. So we have a resolve about us, that the kid reads is this is important, pay attention, because again, he does not want an unhappy mommy or daddy. I guarantee you that’s 100%.

Doug: So could you help clarify for some of our listeners and me that sometimes you say no words, just actions, but in this case we use some words. So what is the difference and what is the difference when we use words?

Dr. Leman: Well, it’s a judgment call on the part of a parent. Sometimes you remain quiet. You take action. Other times words are very appropriate. And again, the age of the child, if it’s a two year old, it’s pick them up, isolate them, no words at all. Four year old, you can say some things and you’ll want to give that four year old, in a situation like this, think time. Where they can think about what they did again, we said, what was the right thing to do? And what could have you done better or whatever.

In our schools, in Leman Academy of Excellence schools. We have seven of them in the country now. I always suggest to teachers, they have a thinking chair because sometimes a kid is doing something inappropriate where it’s taking away from the learning of most of the kids in the classroom and let them go sit in the thinking chair for awhile and just think it through. And when that child has a better way of dealing with that, they get to put their hand up. Teacher comes over to the desk and the kid gets an opportunity to say what he should have done differently. So it’s some kind of a learning experience. Then he joins the class once again.

Doug: Well, I think as an outside observer, you can correct me, please correct me. It seems to be that the difference is that often we are berating the kid or yelling, “Stop. Don’t do that ever again.” Where you’re saying no, we talk about we’re disappointed. We don’t ask any questions. We display that we’re not content with it. And then the action follows. Where I think most like me, I would have been like, “What? You crazy child. Why are you doing this? Can’t you see what you done and apologize to your brother right now and blah, blah, blah, blah, blah.” You’re saying no, no, no, no, no, no. Don’t do that. You say you’re disappointed. Put them in the room. So there’s a few words about your disappointment. And I put them in the room. Is that right? Is that the difference?

Dr. Leman: Yeah. And again, I think an admonition to all of our mommys and dads listening, don’t make this bigger than it is. Just deal with that situation. Okay. Don’t read into it. Oh my goodness. This kid’s going to be in jail by the time he’s 18. I mean that little lovable four year old, he can be a terror. I can see it as she describes him. I mean, this is a guy that’s, he’s ready to go. There’s a kid that’s going to have, he’s got a lot of energy. And so he needs a way of dealing with that energy in a positive, healthy way. So there’s a young kid that’s probably, she’s a ball. It just to him, it says kick me. He’s going to be probably athletic. And he’s probably going to be very physical oriented and about everything he does in life.

Doug: Well, Sharon, I love your question and appreciate you being such a conscientious, great mom. Like honestly, you can just hear it in your voice that you’re loving that kid and trying to, trying to do the right thing. So kudos to you for investing. And I think Dr. Leman’s encouragement to you is this four year old is going to be okay and you’re doing well.

Dr. Leman: Yeah. Doug, these parents that call in these are good parents. These aren’t flaky, far out, weird … I’m telling you, trust me, I’m an expert on parents. And some of them are dumb as mud. They don’t know some of the basics. They really don’t. But I’m trying to think of an exception. I can’t think of one that we had the call in with a question that wasn’t a good mom or a good dad. Who’s trying their best to rear their kids in such a way as they become productive citizens someday.
So we’re just happy always to hear your concerns. And if we give you something to think about, or we give you a resource, use those resources. I have people say, “I’ve read that book four times, four times, and I still get a little bit more out of it.” It’s like my favorite all time movie, The Three Amigos. I’ve watched it so many times, but I continue to find little innuendos, the little things that I find funny that sort of alluded me the first time. So be conscientious. You got a job to do. It’s going to pay off. And those early ages, those formative years are important, parents. So I’m glad to know you take that job seriously. God bless you for everything you do.

Doug: Well. And so for the reason I wanted to also add that is that I don’t want anyone that leaves a message to not because they’re like, “Oh, I’m going to sound like an idiot.” No, you sound fabulous. So if you have that question that you just like, “Man, he’s never addressed this,” or “I wish he would do this.” Go to … like this episode is 329. You can go to 329 at the bottom there’s a microphone. You can click there and leave an audio question for us. And we would love, love, love to answer it for you. And you sound fabulous. So please think about doing that.

And also between now and the end of September of 2020, you can get Have A New Sex Life By Friday for a buck 99, wherever eBooks are sold. Well, it was great to be with you today and on Dr. Leman’s birthday when this is released and we look forward to the next time that we get to be with you and add to that parenting toolbox that you can love those kids more and more.

Andrea: Have a good week.

Doug: Take care. Bye-bye.

Andrea: Bye-bye.