Takeaways From "The Happiest Toddler on the Block"

photo (35)
photo (35)

When Rooney was 3 weeks old, we watched The Happiest Baby on the Block DVD. It was made in 2002 and could really stand to be updated, but we actually learned a lot from it. Dr. Harvey's tricks and tips worked really well for our family (my favorite is his pacifier trick to teach a baby how to keep it in their mouth!). We liked it so much that we lovingly refer to it as "The Happiest Parents on the Block."

So, when I found out there was a The Happiest Toddler on the Block DVD, I ordered it right away. We haven't had to deal with a full-on tantrum yet (Roo is 16 months, though, so she's just starting to test her independence), but I can see it coming. This information is geared toward parents with children aged 8 months – 5 years. Honestly, it's still a little awkward/kooky to us, but maybe it works?

Anyway, here's what we learned:

Basic Principles

  1. Your toddler is not a mini adult. Their brains are unbalanced (leaning toward impulse instead of reason). Think of them as little cavemen.
  2. Use the fast food rule (see below) when your child starts to whine or cry. FIRST acknowledge their feelings and THEN tell them why they can't have what they want. Calm them down before being rational or explaining to them why you are saying no.
  3. Speak in "toddler-ese" -- short phrases (1-3 words) repeated over and over, using the same level of emotion they do. You would say something like, "You want to go outside! You're so mad you can't go outside!" Once they understand that you "get" what they're saying, they will calm down and listen to what you have to say next (which is why they can or cannot go outside). Every moment is a teaching moment!

The Fast Food Rule

  • Just like a fast food clerk, repeat back to your child what they are asking ("You want to go outside and play!") before telling them what you want ("We can't go outside because it's raining."). Be empathetic! I know Rooney gets a huge smile on her face when I repeat back to her what I hear her saying. She loves this validation that her communication is getting through to me.
  • Everyone wants to know that they are respected and understood.
  • Show that you care about their feelings before telling them no or explaining why they can't have what they want.

Preventing Tantrums

  • Avoid common problem areas (hunger, fatigue, caffeine, being ignored, change, violence, being stuck indoors)
  • Keep good communication/respect with your child all day long (use toddler-ese even when you're giving them what they want)
  • Feed their meter (with rewards, routines, limits and focused playtime)
  • Teach patience (don't always give them what they want as quickly as they want it)

Encourage Good Behavior

  • Gossip about your child. Let your child overhear you praising them to your spouse. For example, I might say to my husband, loud enough for Rooney to hear me, "I heard Rooney ate all her peas at daycare today! What a big girl!" (Hint: Only use this method positively.)
  • Let them win little victories or help you with a chore (pretend that you can't lift something, and they feel big and proud when they help you). This makes them happy!

General Tips

  • It’s hard to be a toddler! Everyone else is bigger and stronger. Toddlers have ideas of their own but don’t always know how to communicate them.
  • Blow in your child's face if they hold their breath when they are mad (although Dr. Harvey says it doesn't hurt them if they do pass out).
  • If your kids laugh at you when you tell them no, make sure your tone is stern, and you can even use a growl if needed (which is how they speak - they understand that language).
  • It's never right to lose your temper with your toddler. If you get to your limit, ask your spouse to step in and put yourself in time out until you can calm down.
  • The "terrible 2s" begin at the child's second year of life and peak around 18 months. (I hope this is true since we are almost there!)
  • If a child asks the same question over and over, ask the question back to them and have them answer you.
  • I’ve also read that repeating your child’s words back to them is the greatest validation they can have at this age. Hooray for communication!

The DVD reinforced my feelings that when Rooney seems fussy, she usually craves one of three things: attention (love), rest (sleep), or energy (food). When we are alone together in the mornings (for about 90 minutes after Eric leaves for work), she occasionally will follow me around and fuss. I try to go through the list to see what she needs from me. Sometimes it's all three!

Has anyone else seen the DVD? I think it will feel awkward at first, and I'm not looking forward to doing it in public (even Dr. Harvey admits it's embarrassing), but I think it may actually work!

What is the hardest thing for you to deal with as a parent of a toddler? When do you think the terrible 2s begin and peak for your child?