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It’s time for another Ask Dr. Leman: “What do I do with my screaming kid?” Dr. Leman gives his advice on what to do with kids that scream.

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NEW: When Your Kid is Hurting –Dr. Kevin Leman



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Dr. Leman: What is the nature of the purpose of behavior? To control. She’s going to be a little control freak. Well, try going through life at age two controlling everything, you end up being a miserable little kid that nobody wants to be around, including mom and dad.

Doug: Andrea, what are we talking about today?

Andrea: Megan has brought in a really good question for Dr. Leman, and I’m really excited for us to hear his answer of how to deal with a child who hates to be contained in their car seat, or a grocery store cart. And will just not give up the screaming. Dr. Leman’s answer to Megan is going to catch you off guard.

Doug: Hi, I’m Doug Terpening.

Andrea: And I’m Andrea.

Doug: If this is your first time with us, we are so glad to you are with us. Just so that 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.
Well, I know I’ve said this before, but I’m going to keep saying this. Megan, thank you for sending in your questions and you can too. Go to There will be a microphone there, and you can click it. You can leave your questions to say, “I need help.” And we get to answer it here.
Let us find out what Andrea has teased us with on the surprise answer from Dr. Leman.

Megan: Hi, Dr. Leman. My name is Megan, I’m calling from Kentucky. I’m a stay at home wife and mom, and I have two children. A four and a half year old son, and a two year old daughter. My question is regarding my two year old. She has hated being contained ina car seat, or a stroller, or a cart at the store.
Pretty much ever since she’s been born, she screamed the whole way home from the hospital. I thought this was something that she would grow out of, but lately it’s gotten worse. When I put her in a car seat or a cart at the store she will go completely stiff and scream. If I wait for her to calm down, and try again, she will just repeat the same screaming and going stiff.
I have let her have fits in public just so I’m able to finish my shopping or my errands. But, that doesn’t seem like it’s fair to the other people. In the car, sometimes she will scream so hard, and loud, that she goes horse and loses her voice. I’m just starting to feel really trapped, it’s kind of driving me nuts that I can’t take her anywhere without going through this.
If you have any advice or tips for me, I’d really appreciate it. I look forward to your advice, thank you.

Dr. Leman: Well, thanks for the question. You’ve got a little screamer, don’t you? Have you ever tried screaming back? You know, it sounds weird. I’m not asking you to scream back at Safeway or Kroger’s in the presence of other people because they’re going to take you away if you do that.
But, in the confines of your home, or in your driveway, and you put her in her car seat and she starts to scream, close the door. Walk around the car, get in the car, and scream as loud as you can, for as long as you can. See what happens.
If she stops, then it certainly is purpose of behavior. For whatever reason she’s learned that it gets a reaction from you, and from other people. Now, if it’s not a learned response, and she just screams … I’m a guy that’s claustrophobic. Okay?
Later today, I go to the physical therapists for some treatments on my back. They bring in the little prickly heat that stimulates the nerves in our muscles, and all that. They always say, do you want me to close the door? I always say, “No, please leave it open.”
Well, I’m a claustrophobic guy. I don’t like closed places. I go to great lengths to sit in the first seat of an airplane on the aisle, of course. Not on the window, don’t put me in that window. I sort of freak out. If you threw me back in coach, in a window seat, I’d go nuts. Okay?
There is something to a claustrophobic type personality. Back to, if that child doesn’t stop screaming when you start screaming, or shortly thereafter, then I’m wondering what is the ideology of that constant screaming? I think it would be appropriate to talk with your pediatrician. Ask the pediatrician, if that pediatrician thinks it’d be a good idea for pediatric neurologist to examine your daughter.

Andrea: What would he be looking for?

Dr. Leman: I have no idea. That’s a medical question that can only be answered my a medical doctor. But, that symptom is really weird that she would just scream continually. Now, again, I’ve had screamers. I had a screamer once, kid used to wake up in the middle of the night and scream. The whole family just decided to scream back, everybody. The kid shut up, almost immediately.

Andrea: And it stopped? How many times did they have to do that?

Dr. Leman: No, just once. It just flat out stopped.

Doug: Why does screaming back at a kid stop them? What is it about that, that makes them stop?

Dr. Leman: If the purpose is to just get the adult’s attention, other peoples attention, all of a sudden everybody starts screaming, you’re sort of taking the pleasure away from screaming. It no longer serves a purpose, now everybody is screaming. Now what am I going to do? You see what I’m saying?
We spend a lot of time on our podcast talking about purpose of behaviors. Again, all social behavior serves a purpose. What is the purpose of nature of that child screaming? Are they saying, “I’m the boss. I don’t like this. I’m going to call the shots. I don’t like these situations, you know it. Why would you put me in a car seat?”
I put in a car seat because it’s the law. If you’re going to scream, I’ll scream. If you’re not a good screamer, and you don’t want to go horse yourself. You have a radio in your car, in all probability. I can’t imagine a car that doesn’t have a radio these days. Find yourself a top 40 and let it fly. Get a wrapper.

Doug: Are you saying to ignore the kid is the key?

Dr. Leman: You’re the doctor. What am I going to do? You’re asking me do I ignore it? It’s hard to ignore a screaming kid. But, there’s more than one way to skin to proverbial cat. If the kid really wants a noisy environment, and that’s what I would assume that child wants when they’re screaming. They want noise, I’d give them all the noise they could handle because it really tests the hypothesis. Does this kid really want noise? Or is this kid trying to control a situation?
That’s why I say, is it purpose of behavior? If it’s neurologically driven somehow, because of a social situation, let a neurologist tell us that. Some things become medical questions. I’ve never made the diagnosis on a kid that was ADD, or ADHD. I’ve always leaned on the medical community for that diagnosis.
Why? It’s a medical condition. Who is the best person to make that diagnosis? A behavioral trained pediatrician.

Doug: As part of the new podcast format, I am so excited for you listeners to get this special from Baker Books on an Ebook from Dr. Leman. If you have any interest in the presidential situation that’s happening right now, or all that’s happening with politics, Dr. Leman has written a fictional book about attaining to the presidency called, “A Perfect Ambition (The Worthington Series)”. And this is part one.
What’s really cool about this fiction series, it’s built on the birth order concept. This is about three siblings, and their rivalry to become presidents. It’s only for a $1.99. For less than a cup of coffee, from February 19th until the 25th at Amazon or Barnes and Nobles, wherever you get your E-books, you can get it.
But, now, let’s hear straight talk parenting advice from Dr. Kevin Leman.

Dr. Leman: Well, let me pull out my big book on you. If you love your child, you will discipline him. That is just flat out the truth. There is no choice for a parent. If you don’t live a disciplined life, yourself, you’re not going to be a good disciplinarian.
What does discipline mean? It means holding kids accountable for the things they say and do, it means being in authority without being an authoritarian. We have enough permissives, no need to join that gang. They’re in the millions today.
They’re the ones that snowplow the roads of life for kids, and try to make them happy at every turn. We give them many things way too early in life from cellphones, to computer, to you name it. They’re the ones who have their kids screen time three, four, five hours a day and they’re three years old. I’m here to tell you, that’s developmentally inappropriate behavior.
It results in probably lower learning, lower test scores, lower interest in school, etc. It goes on and on.

Doug: Andrea, this I your kid now. And you’ve screamed back or done the radio back and the kid keeps screaming. Now you have to take your kid to the pediatrician to have them tested neurologically. Can you do that?

Andrea: I think I’m at my wits end. I think like Megan said, I feel trapped. Yeah.

Dr. Leman: I think most parents would say, “That’s the last thing I want to do. But, if it’s necessary, who knows. Are there other symptoms that would make a pediatrician think the maybe the child is autistic in some way?”
As soon as you mention autism, by the way, the spectrum on autism is from East to West, and North to South. I’m not trying to be real specific here. I’m just saying, when you see enough kids over a period of time, you see about everything.
Doug: Your advice to Megan is try, yell back, put the radio on. If that doesn’t stop the kid, then you’d take it up a notch and go see the pediatrician and say, “I have real concerns about this thing [crosstalk]-”

Dr. Leman: Right.

Doug: Apart from there-

Dr. Leman: Because what would Megan think, or what would Andrea think if all of a sudden when they start screaming, daughter all of a sudden backs off. And gets quiet. What would be your thoughts, Andrea, if that happened.

Andrea: I would think she’s testing me when she’s screaming.

Dr. Leman: Yeah. She’s working you.

Andrea: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Dr. Leman: It is purpose of behavior. What is the nature of the purpose of behavior? To control. She’s going to be a little control freak. Well, try going through life at age two controlling everything, you end up being a miserable little kid that nobody wants to be around, including mom and dad.

Andrea: I’d be curious to know what she’s like when she’s just at home playing in the living room, or whatever.

Dr. Leman: Yeah. That’s always a question. Whenever you see behavior … We got a lot of questions from parents about school behavior. Or home behavior. I always like to ask the question, what’s the kid like in school? She’s great at school, it’s at home she’s a little monster.
Then, there’s something wrong in the home that needs to change. If the kid is great at home, and conscious, and thoughtful, and kind, and all of a sudden at school she’s a little hellion. There’s something wrong in that school environment that’s participating that behavior.
Anyway, that’s interesting. I don’t think we’ve ever had a question where the child screams at everything. Any kind of confinement. I don’t think we’ve had that questions. I appreciate that question.

Doug: Megan, thank you for sending this question in. As always, if you have a question that you want to leave you can go to There’s a little microphone, you can click and leave an audio recording. We’ll answer your question.
As always, while I’m on thank you’s, our dear friends over at [inaudible] Books, I just thank you a ton for supporting this, making this happen. They have been incredible to us, great group of people, love working with them. They are sponsoring this podcast to bring it to you. We love being with you.
Thank you for hanging out with us. We look forward to the next time to add to that parenting toolbox. That you can just love those kids more, and more. Thanks for joining us today, and we sure this helped you. For those of you, especially those of you that are fighting your kids in the car seat. As a reminder, I want to let you know that you can get that E-book for only $1.99. A Perfect Ambition (The Worthington Series #1), February 5th [inaudible] 19th through 25th. Get it now and super fun for cheap.
Well, hope you guys have a fabulous, wonderful day, loving those kids more and more.