Tips for a Happier Toddler

It's inevitable- that cute bundle of new joy- your child, becomes a toddler. And that means temper tantrums, little fits of rage, and the sound of your voice echoing the word "no" as a daily ritual. "Toddlers are uncivilized little people in our society who spit and scratch when they are angry, pee when they want, lack patience and continually test boundaries," says Dr. Karp. They are also entering into one of the most unique and curious times of their developmental life."

1. Validate Their Feelings- The Fast Food Rule

Everyone wants to know they have been heard. The Fast-Food Rule is simple: Before you tell an upset toddler your concerns, you must repeat back the child's feelings first- repeating his or her words and sincerely mirroring the child's level of emotion in your voice, face and gestures. "You don't want to get out of the bathtub! You're mad because you have to get out of the bath tub! You want to stay in the bath tub!" Let the child know you understand their message to you, and then you can get your message of reassurance, distraction or explanation back to them.

2. Use Emotion- Speak in Toddler-ese

We as parents are taught to speak calmly to children in a sedate tone. Dr. Karp encourages you to throw that philosophy out with the dirty diapers and understand that a toddler is primitive in their language ability. You have to reflect their level of feeling and join them in the jungle (so to speak,) and then you can guide them back to civilization.

When speaking in toddler-ese be sure to:

Use short phrases
Use lots of repetition
Mirror the child's face and voice levels

Your child is upset- to them getting that cookie is a life or death situation. When using toddler-ese you would join them on the floor mirroring their physicality. Then emulating their voice you would say, "You want that cookie! You're mad that you can't have that cookie! I know, you're upset because YOU want the cookie!" You have now responded and repeated what it is that child wants to do. Once the child has seen your acknowledgment of the situation, you can then get your message across. Everything comes back to your voice.

3. Find the Sweet Spot- The way you say it is Important

When you are talking to a toddler in an emotional state, what you say is not as important as the way you say it. Watch the tone of your voice so that it is not too high or too low. If your toddler climbs up the slide, you don't calmly say, "nice job." You clap your hands and yell, "Great Job!" Dr. Karp recommends the exact same style when your child is upset. By using emotion and animation you will get the attention of your child.

4. Gossip is Good!

Normally we are taught that it is rude to whisper. But "gossiping" to a child means speaking our opinions in a whisper to make our children pay more attention to them. Overhearing a comment makes it 4-5 times more powerful. Say something proud like "Did you hear that Lucy ate ALL of her vegetables?"

For this technique begin with your toddler close by and loudly whisper some praise about him to someone else (your spouse, a bird, his teddy bear, or pretend you are talking to someone on the phone)

Don't look at your child when you do this and be sure to heighten their interest by making the conversation look like a really big secret.

Later in the day repeat the same compliment, but this time to your child directly.

Your toddler will begin to believe in the phrases that have been accidentally overheard, because we as humans believe the things we accidentally overhear more than the things that are said to our face.

5. Playing the Loser- Everyone Likes to Win

Toddlers lose all day long in their environments. They are weaker, slower, less coordinated and they can't speak as well. By letting your toddler win little victories all throughout the day, they feel like real winners and are much more giving to us. For example, just by asking your child to give you a high-five and pretending it hurts, because they are so strong, is a major triumph for them. You can also point to your foot and pretend to have forgotten the name of the clothing item you put on it- until your child exclaims "shoe!" You can find ways all day long to reward your toddler with little victories just by playing the loser. Everyone likes to win, especially a toddler because winners feel like confident players in our society.