Posted by Fitz

Now that the Bean has taken to flailing and screaming if she doesn’t get her way, I thought it was time to read some books on parenting toddlers.  I really enjoyed The Happiest Baby on the Block by Dr. Harvey Karp and used most of its techniques with great success, so imagine my joy when I discovered The Happiest Toddler on the Block!  “Ah,” I thought to myself.  “This toddler tantrum thing will be a cinch.”

The main concept of the book is that toddlers don’t think like us – their brains are immature (obviously), and they can’t reason or react like older kids and adults do.  The author describes toddlers as “little cavemen”, who basically storm around their worlds wanting what they want when they want it.  Their instincts crumble when stressed or upset, and we have to meet them where they are instead of expecting the opposite.  I was intrigued reading this, because it makes perfect sense to me.

So, how do you manage this, especially when you’re in the mall and your kid is practically chewing through her stroller straps for a chance at running free down the wide, carpeted aisle?  The author’s answer is what he calls “Toddler-ese”, basically, a crude language that mimics how a toddler thinks and feels when they are stressed out.  Essentially, you mimic a percentage of the child’s emotion and give words to what they are likely thinking – “Bean wants out of that stroller!  Bean wants to run!  Run, run, run!” – so they feel heard and can calm down and begin to problem solve with you.  Again, this made so much sense to me – I basically teach the same concepts when facilitating a management class on active listening, and it works.  I put the book down feeling pretty darn confident about how the next chapter of my story would go…I’d diffuse tantrums before they started, and we’d have a peaceful little household.

Yeah, right.

I’ve tried the techniques, and they actually do work – if by “work”, you mean that your toddler forgets about what she’s upset about because she’s too busy laughing at you for talking like Fred Flinstone.  I’ve found that the song “Elmo’s on your diaper, Elmo’s on your diaper, Elmo’s on your diaper, and he’s super cool!” was more effective at getting the Bean to not roll over in a pile of poo than saying “Bean is mad, mad, mad.  Bean doesn’t want her diaper changed!”, but that could be because I’m not that confident speaking Toddlerease quite yet.  I’ll keep trying, because The Happiest Baby on the Block was such a lifesaver and because I respect Dr. Karp’s methodology, but I think I need to find a few other techniques in addition to those listed in Happiest Toddler in case I don’t get the hang of it.  When it comes to toddler tantrums, I want my box of tricks to be bursting at the seams.