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We all know the scene. It’s been a long day, everyone’s tired and all you want is your toddler to behave. But they have other ideas. They scream because they don’t like their dinner, they fight with their siblings, they just won’t settle. What do you do? Do you calmly repeat your demands? Do you try not to shout but eventually give in to your rage? Do you burst into tears out of frustration? Or do you speak to your toddler in their ‘native tongue’?
Dr Karp encourages the use of toddler-ese which involves repeating short phrases or single words in a passionate tone of voice, alongside exaggerated facial expressions and gestures. His favourite analogy is to think of your child as a caveman who needs civilising. It is your job to teach them how to behave.
The logic behind the process is that in changing the way you approach a child in their time of distress, you are appealing to the right side of their brain which copes well in a stressful situation as oppose to the left side which doesn’t. When upset, your child will not understand long sentences or reasoning and perhaps surprisingly, a calm, soft voice may actually exacerbate their unhappy mood. Short, sharper responses will calm a child quicker in 50 to 60 percent of cases and mirroring their tone is a great way to get this response.
>> Sanity Savers: 5 tips to help tots behave at other people's house>> Sanity Savers: 5 ways to cope with separation anxiety
To understand toddler-ese in action, here are some scenarios:
Your toddler is banging on the front door, screaming and shouting, wanting to go out and play. Reflect their message by energetically saying; "Out! Out! Out!! You say, 'Go, Mummy, go, GO!!!'" Once they have calmed down, if you want to go outside then do, if not then offer some different options for play time.
Your child is upset because you have taken your lipstick back from them. Mirror their feelings and say, "You want! YOU want!!! You want it nowwww!! You want! YOU want!! You want it nowwww!!" The repetition and short phrases should be said energetically but not shouted.
Dr Karp calls it the ‘Fast Food Rule’. Much as a waiter or waitress will repeat your order back to you, you are repeating the behaviour that your child has displayed. You may feel a bit silly at first but it’s actually very similar to the way that you talk to your child when they have done something positive. Chances are you put on a sing-song voice, mirroring their own without even thinking about it. Toddler-ese is the same principal, just applied to negative behaviour.
Everyone chooses to discipline and teach their children in different ways but if you’re at the end of your tether, it may be time to embrace your inner child and try something new nowwww!
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What do you think about talking in toddler-ese? Have you got any other tips for dealing with tantrums? Let us know on Facebook and Twitter.
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Toddler-ese; how to speak your toddler’s lingo
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