No doubt about it, toddlers can drive you mad. Sure they are fun and so adorable but they can quickly turn into stubborn and demanding miniature devils the next minute. For them it is like they are fitted with an on/off switch for it. They can be very difficult to manage. Though as unbelievable as it may sound, there is a way devised to turn the daily ‘don’ts’ and ‘no’s’ into hugs and ‘yeses’ full of quality and happy family time. But this will require you to learn the toddler language.
In the recent past, a pediatrician, Dr. Harvey Karp, whom many people referred to as the ‘baby whisperer’ after his first video and book release of The Happiest Baby on the Block, developed unique parenting techniques that thrive on some basic principles concerning toddlers. These principles are documented in the sequel; The Happiest Toddler on the Block. Dr. Karp states that as cute as they might seem, toddlers with immature brains and vigorous outbursts should be considered not as pint sized people but as pint sized cavemen – their behavior and thinking allows them to be thought as such.
During this research (and yes you can trust his findings), he realized that the common mode of communication to toddlers that parents often employ does not work. With that, he set out to determine and come up with a much more effective way of communication. It is during this search that he realized that the key is speaking to them in their very own language as primitive as it might seem. When he tried it out, though it felt so off and awkward at first, he was amazed at how great it worked in soothing the toddler from his/her outburst. Also, during his research, and what led him to actually make this discovery, he also realized that kids between the ages of one and four go through what he preferred to call evolutionary growth. It comes in four distinct stages. Each stage is linked to brain development and each echoing a specific stage in human’s evolutionary theory and journey to civilization. For The Happiest Toddler on the Block book to make any sense to you, you will have to first understand these four stages of toddler evolution. That sad, let’s start our review from defining these four stages.
Charming chimp – Child
This is the stage between 12-18 months. In this stage, the child wobbles all over on two legs grabbing everything he/she can get his/her tiny hands on. In addition, they play an endless game of monkey see monkey do. If you are a fun of the popular series House, you probably have might have noticed Dr. House using this concept (monkey see monkey do), on some of his toddler patients to get them to do what he want. Of course he adds some jest to it but you get the point.
Knee High Neanderthal
This stage is of toddlers between the ages of 18 and 24 months. Toddlers in this stage are surprisingly strong wiled, love to have fun and are absolutely messy. This is the stage where you leave your toddler at home with a nanny new at the job and come back to a home turned upside down with the nanny possibly laying on her back right in the middle of the sitting room and out of breath. You have seen this image in cartoons. Sure it is an exaggerated image but atleast it provides a clear image of what the situation might feel like with toddlers at this age. In addition, it is during this period that they are starting to learn how to talk. They have approximately thirty words in their vocabulary but for some reason they prefer to use the words ‘mine’ and ‘no’ than all others. Theirs is the world and all in it…the rest of us are just but refugees in a world they possess and control.
It includes kids between the ages of 24 and 36 months. It is at this point that they start to realize and acknowledge the presence of other people around them. They start to earn how to share, make friends and maintain them (they become surprisingly loyal to friends at this stage), learn to take turns with toys and everything else they have to share and last but not least they get to learn how to us the potty.
Toddlers aged between 36 months and 48 months fall under this category. They become more and more in touch with the world and become increasingly interested in storytelling, singing songs and dancing. It is at this age your toddler will bore you to death telling a story that you do not even understand or have a clue what it is about. They also will want to play house with you against your will. In addition to this, toddlers in this stage will try all they can to behave themselves.They want to be princesses and superheroes. But they too have their off moments that will make you want to pull out your hair.
In the book, Dr. Karp documents two extraordinary ways of communicating effectively with toddlers in any of these evolutionary growth stages.Below is a brief look at what the two techniques are and entail.
Fast Food Rule of Communication
You surely have been to a fast food joint. How would you describe the communication that the employees at the joint use? For starters, it is always the same and consistent. It allows for better communication. The workers are trained to repeat the orders as they come. To communicate efficiently with your toddler, you will have to use the fast food rules as documented in the book by Dr. Harvey Karp.
The rule states that the individual who is most upset goes fast and the other person listens and then repeats exactly what they are told to prove that they have understood the other. It is only then that they are allowed to speak. This is a complete cycle. The second rule states that whatever it is that you have to say to the upset individual is not as important as the tone and the words you choose to say it.
Parents looking to have a great relationship with their toddlers will use the fast food rules instead of words that are hurting, distracting, comparing to other toddlers and rush to trash the other individuals feelings.
Now, the rulestates that the most upset individual goes first right? You probably are wondering what happens during the times your toddler is in danger, or is being aggressive or important an important rule that you have as a family. Well, in this case, you the parent are considered to be the most upset. In as much as you want your kid to grow and develop having a great relationship with you, you also want him/her to be safe in the process.
Yes toddlers have a language style as well. They might have learnt to talk in English or whichever their native language is but the styles may differ. And since you are the one seeking to bridge the gap, you should consider adopting this style that Karp recommends in the Happiest Toddler in the Block book and DVD.
Now, assuming that your child is not in any danger or has not broken any strict family rule or is being aggressive with other kids, he/she will be the one to go first. You will respond by using the Fast food rules. And when it is your turn to speak, employ the toddler-ese language (toddlers’ true native language). Normally when kids are happy we use this language style with great ease but when things go south we completely forget it. You will try to use calm and hushed tones when your child is upset, but sorry to burst your bubble, it will not work. Toddlers do not hear anything you say to them in a low, calm and collected tone when they are upset. The strong angry feelings flooding the brain language center make sure of this. In addition, they tend to feel misunderstood in the process. So when you try to act all calm in the mild of an argument with them, they will interpret it as though you do not understand their feelings and will feel the need and urge to yell even harder and louder to see if they will get through to you. Clearly, it is not your toddlers fault that he/she ells when angry (he/she just feel misunderstood).
When speaking in toddler-ese, Dr. Karp recommends that you use short sentences. The angrier the child is the simpler your statements should be. For instance, instead of saying, ‘I understand you are feeling upset about everything’ (trying to make sense of the situation and doing some damage control), be like ‘You are mad! Mad! Mad!’
The other technique to use when speaking toddler-ese is repetition, an upset toddler will most likely miss all your initial words. As such, it is important that you repeat the phrase about three to eight times to be able to catch your toddler’s attention. Last but not least, mirror your child’s words. She might not understand half the words you use but she will most definitely understand your face ad voice. They are small experts in tonal variations and facial expressions as well. As such, you should try to mirror your child’s emotions in your body language, facial expression and voice.
In addition to the above, reading the book or watching the video you will learn more of what is documented below.
Tantrums are common with toddlers. It is a way of life with them. But while they are common it does not mean that you should accept them and adjust life to experiencing them. You could very well work to prevent them altogether. The book states how you could do this. First and foremost, you could avoid some of the major problematic areas such as fatigue, boredom, caffeine, violence, change, being stuck indoors and hunger. When you keep your child happy, you will not have to experience tantrums at such elevated frequencies.
Feed their meter. You could use rewards routines, focused playtimes and have limits for most of the tings so that you keep them safe.
In addition to this, you should teach your toddler patience. While you might be looking to provide them with everything it is they might want you also should teach them the art of patience. Do not provide them with what they ask for as fast as they request for it.
Encouraging good behavior
How do you feel when your people praise you? Great right? As a matter of fact you feel the need to continue doing the good you were doing to get even more of such praises. The same case applies to kids. Gossip about your toddler to your spouse and let them hear you say the good things about them. You should however only use this technique positively.
Let your toddler win the little victories or even pretend you cannot lift an item while you are doing your chores. Accept help from them and commend them for it. They will feel al big and proud that they could help you out. As a matter of fact they will feel very important.
Now, for some reading the Book will do the trick. However, if you are the visual kind, The Happiest Toddler on Block DVD will work wonders for you. The writing of the book is in a fun and conversational tone that is very engaging. The DVD on the other hand features lots of examples showing you how to perform the techniques best. After the mastery of the techniques, you will be able to handle all the challenges that come with the toddler years with great ease including sibling rivalry, sleep problems, toilet training, picky eating, night fears, hitting and biting and last but not least medicine taking. And all in a manner that will make your toddler feel understood.