My kid’s tantrums disrupt the whole family. – Ask Dr. Leman 166 (Episode 355)


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It’s time for another Ask Dr. Leman: “My kid’s tantrums disrupt the whole family.” Listen in to find out Dr. Leman’s response on this episode of Have a New Kid by Friday Podcast.

Show Sponsored by Revell, a division of Baker Publishing

Produced by Unmutable™


Doug: Today’s question is about a kid that is so loud in their tantrums that it disrupts the entire family. And the devious side of me would love to watch that. I mean, that kid must be so loud. But that’s the question that Tina asked today. “What do you do about tantrums that are so loud that we can’t function as a family?” And we get to hear Dr. Leman’s answer.

Hi, I’m Doug Terpening.

Andrea: I’m Andrea.

Doug: And I would love to be that loud, disruptive kid someday. That would be so much fun. But if this happens to be your first time with us, we are so glad that you’re here. And we want to let you know that 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, shall we hear Tina’s question? Here we go.

Tina: Dr. Leman, how can we handle a powerful child who is loud? His sheer volume disrupts the family life every day and we can’t make him be quiet?

Dr. Leman: Okay. Well, I love the question because it gives us a chance to review some things that every parent ought to know about kids’ behavior. First of all, my latest book is entitled Why Kids Misbehave and What to Do About It. If you noticed in Tina’s question, she’s already diagnosed her child as what? Do you remember? The word she used was powerful. So all kids start off in life as attention getters. And that attention can come in two forms. It can come positively, or it can come in negative form. But it’s still attention. Now when a kid gets discouraged, for whatever reason, they migrate, so to speak, to another level. In this case, they go from attention getting to power. So one of the ways that we know that a kid can quote, make you pay attention. Now, notice, she said that she knows we can’t make him be quiet. That’s true. I wrote the book, Making Children Mind Without Losing Yours. Well, can you really make children mind? No, you can’t make a child mind. But you can set up circumstances where a kid figures out, “I’m minding ahead to behave.”

So with that as a prelude, let’s talk about temper tantrums. And a term that we’ve used on this podcast, I like to use it because nobody ever uses the word. You don’t hear the word, it’s called purposive. It’s a psychological term that says your child’s behavior, namely throwing a temper tantrum, serves a purpose; them being extra loud, serves a purpose. Well, what’s the purpose of nature of that? Again, keep in mind, the powerful child says, “I only count when I dominate, when I win, when I control, when I’m the boss.” So that being said, “Okay, Leman, I got it. I got that little short mini instruction. My question is, and it goes to your book, what do I do about it?” Well, a hermit would never be a hermit and enjoy being a hermit unless he had a society to hermit from. Think about that for a moment.

So one of the things you need to do with this kid is you need to remove the audience. Or better yet, remove the child from the scene. And that’s a classic example that comes out of the book, Have a New Kid by Friday. So as soon as you remove the child from the scene, there’s no longer an audience which feeds the negative behavior. So she didn’t say how old the child was, I wish we had that information. But if the child is a little guy, I’d take him by the arm and I’d put them in their room and I’d close the door. And that child would stay in that room until they quiet down, until the explosion of emotions has come to a dead halt. Then I would open the door slowly. I always say slowly, because depending upon the age of the kid, he might be on the floor with their blankie clutched under their arm. You don’t want to rearrange their nose by opening that door too quickly. And just simply say, “Are you ready to join us now?” So that’s one thing.

Depending upon where you live, this is February, I know it’s winter, but February in Tucson is beautiful. No problem in putting a kid outside, removing them physically from the scene. So there are ways. And notice that lots of times these incidents happen when you’re in the car, on the interstate. “What do you do, Leman? Drop him off in the outside lane?” No. Notice how the powerful child knows the situations where he or she has you over the barrel and you are on the freeway and you’re a half hour from home. “What do you do then, old smart guy Leman?” Well, as soon as you pull in the driveway, you proceed. You take that child by the arm and you place them somewhere where they’re distant from the rest of us. Then on top of that, you apply some vitamin N, which is, “No.” So the very next thing that child asks for, and kids are always asking for things or favors, the answer is, “No. Mommy doesn’t feel like helping you right now. Mommy doesn’t feel like letting you go next door. Mommy doesn’t feel like getting you a glass of orange juice now.”

And so you have to show the child that you are very unhappy. Now keep in mind, I’m always telling parents that these kids actually want to please you. Now you’ve taken away their ability to please you because you’re telling them, “I’m upset with your behavior.” You’re giving them the psychological cold shoulder. “Well, isn’t that going to damage their psyche for life?” Lady, you’ve been reading the wrong person’s books for too long. No, you’re going to show them what I call reality discipline. And if you want to train up your child, you want your child to start going in a different direction, you read those books step by step, follow through, use action and very few words and you’re going to have a new kid by Friday on your hands. So for openers, that’s how I would view that situation, Doug and Andrea.

Doug: So purpose of behavior was one of the best phrases that we’ve got from you that has really helped us frame why our kids are doing that. So do you mind just giving us just a little bit more information on what that is?

Dr. Leman: Yeah. So in other words, you know that this kid is powerful, just like our lady who just asked that question, Tina. She knows that kid’s a powerful child. And so a conversation with a kid is, “You know, honey, I could be wrong on this…” Now notice I’m not saying, “I’m right and I got all the answers in my back pocket.” “… I might be wrong on this, but it seems to me your behavior is really telling us that you are in authority over us. Could that be right?” And the kid won’t know what to say to you, quite frankly. They’re not going to say, “Yes.” Number one. They’re going to stammer. But you’re beginning to reveal the psychological purpose of nature of the behavior. You’re taking the fun out of the kid being powerful. You’re taking the wind out of their sails.

You’re deescalating as you explain to a child that you know what’s going on here. “I think you see life as you only count when you dominate, when you control, when you win. Could I be right? Well, let me just give you a little teaching on that. If that’s how you go through life, I feel sorry for you. People aren’t going to like people who always want to win, who want to control.” And by the way, ladies, you have a boy like that, he makes a lousy husband for a girl someday. So you’re helping your future daughter-in-law by setting your young sons straight when they’re young, instead of letting them grow into adulthood thinking that he is king and everybody else around them is a serf.

So you talk psychologies to the kid, you’re using what I call psychological disclosure. You’re telling the kid that you know what’s going on. To the attention getter, “Seems to me, you’re saying you only count in life when you got everybody’s attention. Do you really think you can go through life like that, where you get everybody’s attention all the time? You don’t think people are going to be bored of you always getting the attention, nobody else gets any attention ever?” Those are the kind of questions you can ask a kid, which will, again, deflate their purpose of nature of their behavior. It’s all about self. And again, take a look where I’ve said it many times, parents today rear kids like they’re the what? Center of the universe. You want to set that on a different course, do some of the things we’re talking about right now, and you will cut a new path in life for your son or your daughter.

Doug: If you are somebody hearing this for the first time, this can sound super harsh. You’re going to sit your kid down and you’re going to say, “Hey, I got the game plan on you here.” So just to give you real life, we’ve done this a couple of times with our kids. We’ve actually sat down, not in anger, because it’s really not, once I’m calm and said, “It appears to us that this is what’s going on around here.” And that has been some of the most effective parenting I have ever done. And you only have to do it once, at most twice to kids and they way more respect you because of it. And the other thing that you say that I think you’ve said so many times and I just go like, “Oh yeah, yeah whatever.” But now I’m like, “Oh yeah, now that I have a daughter that’s marriable age, it’s like at some point we do all have to grow up and stop being so selfish.” So this is a great way just to call it like it is and not be it that way. And you’re not hurting your kid’s psyche. That’s what I’m trying to say. [crosstalk].

Dr. Leman: Yeah, I appreciate what you just said, Doug. But if you’re one of those people that really think it’s too harsh, as Doug just said, here’s a suggestion; just do what you’re doing. Do it for another month. And I guarantee you there’ll be no change in behavior and you’ll be just as frustrated 30 days from today. Okay? After that 30 days, you know what you’re probably going to do? You’re going to look up this podcast again and you’re going to listen to every word and you’re going to start implementing it, in a few couple of days you’re going to see a huge difference. You want to throw that kid a curve ball. I like to say, you want to pull the rug out and let the little buzzard tumble. Blindside the little sucker. Let them see that mom and dad is no longer your man or woman servant in the home. That they’re going to expect some action on you to pull your weight and give back to the family, et cetera. It works, folks.

Doug: And in our current environment, that sounds super harsh, super unloving and like, “My kid’s not going to attach to me.” Well at the last podcast you just said all five of your grown children are hanging out with you from Thanksgiving to Christmas. Our kids are all hanging out here at our house. And I got 21 year olds and 19 year olds that give me a hug every day. And I think I already said this once, my 21 year old came to me and said, “Dad, it’s been too long that you and I just got to hangout, and I just want to tell you what’s on my heart.” Like a hello? You get the opposite. You actually get to have great conversations with your kids.

Dr. Leman: Yeah, that sounds like something out of the… What’s the name of that channel that always has those-

Doug: Hallmark.

Dr. Leman: Hallmark Channel, yeah. It sounds like one of those Hallmark movies. But isn’t it great to have a kid come in and say, “You know, I need some daddy time or some mommy time.”?

Doug: Yeah.

Dr. Leman: Steve Covey, who has left this earth by the way, died a couple of years ago, he said something so profound. I’ve stole it from him and used it many times. “You start with the end in mind, parents.” Start with the end in mind. What kind of a kid do you want at age 18 or 21? Do you want a responsible child? Then give him or her lots of responsibility, et cetera. So that’s a good clue from Steve.

Doug: A lot of us as parents, when we’re brand new, we have no idea what we’re doing, which is why I’m doing this podcast for all of you to say, “Go read these books.” I don’t care which one you read, to be honest. But there are some that we could point you to and say Making Children Mind without Losing Yours, Have a New Kid by Friday, and Birth Order book, start there and you will be so blessed to have a framework on how to raise your kids. Okay, I’m going to do the ebook. Andrea’s pointing at it again. And then I have a question for you, one more question for you, Dr. Leman. The ebook today is Have a New Sex Life by Friday for a buck 99 between now and the end of March of 2021, wherever ebooks are sold. Andrea, do you have anything for us?

Andrea: I have a review from Amazon, no name. “We’re having to go back and correct our behavior. Great book for couples that can be open to discuss their relationship.”

Doug: Awesome. And the reason that I think this is a great book, one of my personal opinions is that if you screw up your marriage, it’s going to make parenting way harder. And all you single moms, I respect you so much that you’re doing it. So we’ll add to that parenting toolbox by helping you even with your marriage.

And now, a no nonsense parenting moment with Dr. Kevin Leman.

Dr. Leman: When a kid says somebody’s been mean, they referring to their teacher, I always chuckle and laugh; show me a mean teacher and I’ll show you a good teacher who demands structure and accomplishment from their students. But today’s kids are mean. Well, why are kids mean? Kids are mean because they don’t feel good about themselves. It’s their way of saying, “If I put somebody else down and I’m snarky and I make fun of them or whatever, somehow it’s going to make me feel better.” One of the things I’ve told our scholars in our school is, “Hey, when somebody really gets snarky with you, nasty with you, just look at him and say, ‘Wow, I didn’t realize you felt so bad about yourself.'” Parents, you could use the same line.

Doug: All right, Dr. Leman, I want to go back to what you said earlier, that this is purpose of behavior to get our attention. Is this a cry for, “I just don’t feel like I get any attention from you. I don’t get any good attention from you.” Or is this just raw selfishness that, “I want to be the center of the universe.”? Which one is it?

Dr. Leman: Well again, we’ve diagnosed the kid as a powerful kid. So apparently the attention getting attempt wasn’t satisfactory. And my guess would be that again, you said when we start out we don’t know what we’re doing as parents. Nothing could be truer than what you said, Doug. And what we try to do is over-correct, hover over a child, make too many decisions for them. The kid feels that pressure. They don’t like it. So they seek attention. But what they’re getting is negative attention because the parent’s been too involved in the kid’s life. So the kid then migrates to negative attention and from negative attention, then they just move forward into powerful behavior because they resent the parent being too controlling.

So here’s the irony. The parent is too controlling when the kid is just starting out in life. And what problem develops just a couple of years later is the kid is what? His mantra in life is, “I only count in life when I dominate, when I win, when I control.” You see the connection there?

Doug: Yeah.

Dr. Leman: So it sort of flows together. And then, you take kids who feel like life has been hurtful. And of course, a lot of kids have had very hurtful situations. They feel hurt by life. Then their mantra becomes, “I only count in life when I strike out at other people.” And see in a democratic society, if you have the right to put me down and hurt me, then I have the right to strike out and hurt other people. And I just want people to see the continuity there, how it just flows together. As the situation gets worse, you can predict worst behavior in the kid. But notice the similarity between the parent being too controlling and the kid ending up a powerful child. You have taught, parent. You’ve taught the kid how to be a controlling domineering kid, because you were too overpowering as a parent. You didn’t let that kid learn through logical consequences, through life. You were there hovering over them, catching them before they fell. I mean, sometimes kids need to fall.

Andrea: What age does that start at? Are you talking at two, we start letting them feel their consequences?

Dr. Leman: I’m going to give you an answer that’s going to surprise people, Andrea. It starts in the first couple of weeks of a child’s life.

Andrea: Oh.

Dr. Leman: It means when you leave the baby with a babysitter and you go out for an evening by yourself. It starts with putting some distance between your child and yourself. You take care of your marriage first. Your marriage comes first, the kids comes in second. That’s hard to do as a young mom because these kids are totally dependent upon you. But you’ve got to cut yourself some slack or you’re going to end up with a husband who feels like he’s way out in left field and he feels like he’s playing second fiddle to the children every day of his life. And that creates bitterness and angry feelings. And then the cheap shots start coming and you two become more distant. The kid feels the dissonance between you and your husband and things slowly unravel into rebellion at the adult level and the kid level. So that’s why I said I think that answer would surprise you.

Andrea: Yeah.

Dr. Leman: It really does start with a commitment to be a couple, to realize the great place kids have in your home, a rightful place, but you need to assume that position of authority in the family or your kids are going to pay for it and so will you.

Doug: To wrap this up, some of these concepts today sounds so out of left field with where we currently talk about raising kids. And yet the phrase I think you often say is, “If you want a different outcome, you have to act differently than everybody else around you.” That’s not how you say it, you say it much more eloquently. And it is proof that you do have to act differently to get a different result from your kids. And I’m telling you it’s so worth it. And the sooner you start this, the easier it gets. Our teenage years were the best years ever of parenting. So my encouragement, again, it’s why I’m doing this, is please go read the books for yourself, so that you have the confidence that you can do this and you can relax in your parenting and you’re not always on edge and you’re not having to try and figure out… It’s so much easier. And honestly, the truth is, by about age five, we were done raising our kids on the discipline side, and then it was just fun from there to be honest.

Okay, enough. Please go buy the books for your sake, not for ours. Doesn’t help Andrea and I one iota. So please go do it. All right, Tina, thank you for the question. As always, you can go to, and click there and leave your question. And we would love to answer it for you. Well we look forward to adding to your parenting toolbox so that you can love those kids a whole, whole bunch.

Andrea: Thanks, Tina. And thank you, Dr. Leman. Have a great week.

Doug: Have a great day. Bye-bye.

Andrea: Bye-bye.

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