«If there is such a person as a “baby whisperer,” it is the pediatrician Dr. Harvey Karp, whose uncanny ability to quiet crying babies became the best-selling book “The Happiest Baby on the Block.”
…] Now Dr. Karp, assistant professor of pediatrics at the University of California, Los Angeles, has turned his attention to the toddler years, that explosive period of development when children learn language, motor skills and problem solving, among other things.
[…] Dr. Karp notes that in terms of brain development, a toddler is primitive, an emotion-driven, instinctive creature that has yet to develop the thinking skills that define modern humans. Logic and persuasion, common tools of modern parenting, “are meaningless to a Neanderthal,” Dr. Karp says.
The challenge for parents is learning how to communicate with the caveman in the crib. “All of us get more primitive when we get upset, that’s why they call it ‘going ape,’ ” Dr. Karp says. “But toddlers start out primitive, so when they get upset, they go Jurassic on you.”
[…] But Dr. Karp’s method of toddler communication is not for the self-conscious. It involves bringing yourself, both mentally and physically, down to a child’s level when he or she is upset. The goal is not to give in to a child’s demands, but to communicate in a child’s own language of “toddler-ese.”
This means using short phrases with lots of repetition, and reflecting the child’s emotions in your tone and facial expressions. And, most awkward, it means repeating the very words the child is using, over and over again.
For instance, a toddler throwing a tantrum over a cookie might wail, “I want it. I want it. I want cookie now.”
Often, a parent will adopt a soothing tone saying, “No, honey, you have to wait until after dinner for a cookie.”
Such a response will, almost certainly, make matters worse. “It’s loving, logical and reasonable,” notes Dr. Karp. “And it’s infuriating to a toddler. Now they have to say it over harder and louder to get you to understand.”
Dr. Karp adopts a soothing, childlike voice to demonstrate how to respond to the toddler’s cookie demands.
“You want. You want. You want cookie. You say, ‘Cookie, now. Cookie now.’ ”
[…] “The thing about toddlers is that they are uncivilized,” Dr. Karp says. “Our job is to civilize them, to teach them to say please and thank you, don’t spit and scratch and don’t pee anywhere you want. These are the jobs you have with a toddler.”»