Tuesday, August 10, 2010

tantrums & toddler-ese

Whenever I imagined being a mom, I imagined having kids. Not babies or toddlers. Kids. I glossed over the ragged days spent keeping an infant alive after a night of no sleep. I skipped the potty-training age entirely. I jumped right into having four or five year olds, taking trips to the zoo and having mini-adult conversations. But babies, toddlers, kids: none of them are mini-adults.

I may sometimes be an adult-toddler though.

So I've been reading online about toddler discipline (I even cut and paste the best ideas and highlighted key phrases so I can quickly remind myself: When they test the limits they are asking you to show them how dependable you and your limits are. Okay. Gives an understanding to why Claire looks at me and then runs in the opposite direction when I say, "Come here, please.") Anyway. Then a friend loaned me "The Happiest Toddler on the Block" dvd, hosted by Harvey Karp, M.D., an energetic pediatrician who has great advice about handling todddlers. I am going to start playing it on a loop.

Karp offers a strategy for speaking with toddlers. Toddler-ese. Speak their language. Keep it short, use repitition. Make sure that your child knows you understand what he or she is communicating. For example, Claire wants hot cocoa and she needs to eat her oatmeal first. I say, "Claire wants cocoa. She wants cocoa. She wants, she wants, she wants cocoa. I know you want cocoa, Claire. But first, you need to eat your oatmeal." The other part of toddler-ese is about showing your toddler that you really do understand what they are feeling. So if they are angry, you don't dismiss that anger entirely by speaking in a quiet voice. Instead, I use my face and voice to show Claire, "Claire is angry. She is upset. She is upset," and from there, bring the emotion down to a calmer level, "I know Claire is upset. You are not happy. You can calm down now. We can calm down."

I'm typing this and realizing I sound like a nut. But sometimes this toddler-ese works. Claire stops and realizes: Oh, Mama gets it. I'll point out that while my success with toddler-ese remains "sometimes," it always works in Harvey Karp, M.D.'s dvd.

In my non-Harvey-Karp-M.D.-dvd-life, there are times when Claire is hysterical and struggling and we're both sweating and tired and my instinct tells me to just hold on to her tightly so she doesn't smash her head against the floor or tear my hair out. Keep her safe. And if we're out in public, it's just horrifying. In public, my instinct is to yell to passersby that EVERYTHING REALLY IS OKAY. KIND OF. CARRY ON. My instinct is not to toddler-ese my way through her hysteria.

Still, I'm going to stick with toddler-ese. See how it goes. I count it a blessing that Claire isn't given to frequent tantrums. But when she throws herself into a fit, it's a grand fit. And I guess it's my grand job to sort out how to be mama to her when she unglues.

Advice, ideas, suggestions, encouragement welcome.


Angela and David said...

I've been reading "Parenting the Strong Willed Child" which has some helpful advice. I'll have to check out Harvey Karp's book as well. I am also open to an advice, ideas or suggestions. And I have so been there with public hysteria and just wanted to shout "EVERYTHING REALLY IS OKAY."

Anonymous said...

When Justin was a baby, I looked forward to the day when he could talk so I could understand his needs better. When he started to talk I had to learn Justinese which constantly evolved. Either way it was frustrating for both of us. It gets better and then suddenly you find yourself having these wonderful conversations about the most simplest of things and you look at the world a whole new way through their eyes, which of course you have already, but once again evolution happens. Rollene

Clare said...

i loved happiest baby on the block...not so much the toddler one. maybe i just couldn't make myself talk that way...though given the screaming going on upstairs now, maybe i should reconsider.