Do I have your attention? Good, because to achieve this amazing feat you will need to learn some new techniques, and understand your toddler’s perspective more clearly. Take a look at two of my popular posts on toddler behavior, then practice a bit until your new communication skills shine. The posts that will teach you some new ways of responding are Stretch Your Toddler’s Patience, Starting Today! and Taming Toddler Tantrums Using Sympathetic Reframing. They give you easy strategies to use two of the best Happiest Toddler on the Block techniques. These moves build listening skills and enhance cooperation in little people who are prone to big reactions. Tantrums happen less often when toddlers feel heard and feel powerful. You still are the parent. Set limits and create consequences, but start here to get your toddler calm first.
Why change yourself in order to change your toddler? Because they are waiting for you to show them how to behave, and waiting for you to reward them for their great progress. You are teaching them skills, and so you have to model them. Trust me, this isn’t that hard to learn. Once you see a potential tantrum dissipate into the air, you will want to practice these techniques all the time!
You need to know a few things about the toddler mind. It isn’t the same as the kindergartner mind, and certainly not the elementary school mind. It’s an immature brain, running on very little frontal lobe power and a lot of amygdala and hippocampus use, all in a frenzy. Add sugar, some taunting from an older brother, shake gently, and watch the “fun” erupt! But that is life, so accept that your toddler is who he is, and teach him some skills to manage his reactions.
I will mention that these techniques will come in handy in about 10 years, when you have an emotional teen standing in front of you!
Here are some highlights that you should know about the toddler mind while you practice:
- They haven’t mastered language, so talking more isn’t helpful. Pare down the amount of words you use, and use more expressions/ gestures to express yourself.
- They always react emotionally, not logically. Your responses have to acknowledge their feelings, rational or not, or you are going to increase tantrums, not stop them.
- Brains grow slowly, like trees. Don’t expect that success once or twice means you can stop using these techniques.
Yes, I am really promising you an actual 50% reduction in tantrums . Maybe not today, since it does take some time to become really good at the Fast Food Rule and Patience Stretching. And maybe not when you are in the nightmare trifecta of a very tired child who is also feeling ill and is changing schools or caregivers. That is a super-stressed child! All bets are off then, but I think you will be able to diminish even these tantrums. But all those other tantrums over broken cookies and not being allowed to stand on the table? The Happiest Toddler methods can help you stop those before they even start.
The other great Happiest Toddler on the Block techniques such as Gossiping and Playing the Boob ( Dr. Karp, I wish you would rename that one!) support a warm and loving relationship with your toddler, and they will give you another 10-15% reduction in tantrum severity, depending on how much your toddler needs a more positive connection with you right now. But just these two techniques from Dr. Harvey Karp will give you more smiles and less whining, all day long!