Even if you haven't heard of Dr. Harvey Karp, chances are you have heard of his expert advice from relatives, friends and even your child's pediatrician. Dr. Karp is a pediatrician, child development specialist, and bestselling author. He's known for developing the "5S's for soothing babies" technique from his book The Happiest Baby on the Block that has been featured in many articles and TV shows.
For parenting toddlers, his "fast food rule," "toddler-ese, and "playing the boob techniques" from his book The Happiest Toddler on the Block, and it made him even more popular with parents everywhere. Here are his toddler tips that have helped make him become a household name:
1. Keep in mind that your toddler is a little caveman, not a little adult When you’re about to snap, remind yourself that what you have in your care is not a little adult. Children have not grown and developed enough to handle their emotions, be empathetic towards other people and know all the rules.
“Toddlers are like cavemen. They're uncivilized. A 9-month-old is not born knowing how to say 'please' and 'thank you' and wait in line and share their toys. We have to teach that to our toddlers,” Dr. Karp told NPR. Be the adult your child needs and teach him appropriate behavior and how to manage his emotions.
2. Tantrum? Listen, repeat, and then talk (or what Dr. Karp calls the “fast food rule”) When we are at the height of strong emotions like anger and frustration, we want to be heard to calm down. The same goes for young children. Let your child talk, repeat back what she says, and only then should you offer a solution. It's just like how, at a fast food drive-thru, you say your order and the personnel says your order back to you, and tells you what to do next (a.k.a. your bill ).
“Don't be in a rush to your solution, or your distraction, or your explanations. Start out just by acknowledging what you think is upsetting your child,” Dr. Karp explains. For example, when your toddler is angry because he wants to play with something he’s not supposed to, say something like, “Oh, you’re angry! You’re angry because you want it.” And then, you can add, “Scissors are only for adults. Do you want to play hide and seek with me instead?”
3. Mirror what your child is feeling when he's upset (or speak in “toddler-ese”) “When your child is really upset, if you speak in too calm a voice like you're talking to a little adult, it makes them feel that you don't really understand how strongly they feel inside,” says Dr. Karp. It’s why phrases like “It’s okay. Calm down, calm down” don’t really work.
Instead, “use short phrases, repetition, and mirroring a third of their feeling — I call it 'Toddler-ese'” saysDr. Karp. Scrunch up your face to show that you’re sad or mad too. Say “You don’t want to go!” in an upset way like your toddler. It will help them calm down. When they do, you can tell them that it’s time to leave the park but it’s time to go home because it’s getting late.
4. Get your child to cooperate with you by “playing the boob” Parents do silly things to make their toddler laugh, like pretending to be startled when your child roars like a lion. This is called “playing the boob,” and it gives your child a confidence boost by making her feel smarter, stronger, faster.
You can also use this to your advantage when you want your child to cooperate. When you want him to put down his toys and head to the kitchen to eat, say it’s a race to see who gets there first and let him win. “Your child knows you’re not really weak or a baby,” said Dr. Karp. “You’ll never lose his respect just because you goof with him a little bit. In fact, he’ll love you even more for it.”
5. Reinforce good behavior by using the “gossip technique” When your child behaves in a way you want him to, like picking up his toys, giving out praise and encouragement reinforces that good behavior. Telling him that he's done a good job works, but you can also try Dr. Karp's “gossip technique” where you let your child overhear you compliment his good behavior to someone else.
Say, “Dad, look how our son placed all his toys in his toy box!” You can even do this by whispering it loudly to a doll or a stuffed toy when no one else is around. “It really makes praise five times more effective,” Dr. Karp remarks.