Friday, March 06, 2009

More Happiest Toddler on the Block

I realize that I didn't fully explain the fast-food rule. I don't have the book sitting in front of me, but I'll give it try anyway.

Basically Karp argues that you talk to an upset toddler (or any upset person, of whatever age) as if it were a fast-food exchange. When you are the the drive-thru and order a #3 with extra pickles, the guy inside repeats your order back to make sure he's got it right before telling you what the total is. He doesn't speak until he's sure you're done speaking and that he's heard you correctly.

So, in the case of your toddler (or mine), when the kid is upset, instead of saying "It's okay, it's okay" while they are hysterical, repeat back to them what they are saying (in toddler-ese). They get to speak first because they are upset. You should also hit their "sweet spot," mirroring back their emotions, maybe ratcheted down a notch or two. So be sad when your little one is sad, be angry or scared when they are. Your little one, if this works right, recognizes that you hear them and empathize and then they calm down enough to hear what you have to say. When it's your turn to speak, you can remind them of the rule they just broke or distract or give them an alternative or whatever else you need to do diffuse the situtation. In Cate's case, sometimes just calming down is enough to diffuse the situation. Karp reminds us that these are the kind of interactions we have with our toddlers when they are excited. He gives the example of a kid who climbs to the top of the slide by herself for the first time. We let her express her enthusiasm first and we mirror that enthusiasm, in toddler-ese ("You climbed up! All the way! Yay!") before we then take our turn ("I'm so proud of you.")

A typical exchange here goes something like this:

Cate (hysterically crying because Frances won't let her stand in front of the sink to brush her teeth): I want to brush my teeth! I want to brush my teeth! Frances is breaking my feelings!

Me (getting down to her level): What's wrong Cate?

Cate: I was brushing and Frances won't let me. I want to brush my teeth. Frances is mean. She broke my feelings.

Me (with a sad voice): You want to brush your teeth?

Cate: Yes.

Me: Catie sad? Sad sad Catie?

Cate: Hmm hmm.

Me: Why don't we wait to for Frances to finish and then we can take our turn.

Cate: Okay.

On other mornings, there would be hysterical tears and yelling the whole time we're getting ready as I try to explain to Cate that she can just wait her turn or get her to brush her teeth in the other bathroom. Now, it's brief exchange in which I get her to calm down and we move on.

We're about a week into our campaign to get Cate to act like human child and not wild animal and it's going well. We are now adding in some of Karp's time-in suggestions and those are going well to.

Again, in my pre-Cate life I the very idea of reading a book to figure out how to raise your kid was just plain silly and wrong-headed. And, again, I'm not sure these tricks would have worked with Frances (Frances *hated* baby talk and responded, still does, best when you talked to her reasonably and truthfully), but this book is really helping with Cate.


Alison said...

Alright, now you have to tell us about the time-ins.

Anonymous said...

Hi, I found this while google searching on reviews for this book. I'm about to try some of Karp's techniques with my one-year-old--his "5 S's" were fantastic for newborns, so I am optimistic.

And let's hear it for Afrogeeks!