Every time I come upon a new obstacle in parenthood I approach it with the same tactic: research.
Let’s just say disciplining doesn’t come naturally to me.
I’m basically a sappy teddy bear and my natural response to any situation with my kids is to immediately cuddle, hug, and smother them in kisses. But as we have delved further into the land of tantrums, it’s become clear to me that as P&G get older, I need to set boundaries and clear, consistent rules with them. So what to do? Hit the books!
First, I did research on what to research. I read blogs, reviews and talked to friends about their favorite books on toddler discipline. From there, I narrowed it down to three books that seemed like they fell in line with my natural style and drew on my inherent skills: The Happiest Toddler on the Block (because who doesn’t want happy kids? And hey, I’m a pretty happy person), No-Drama Discipline (because drama avoidance is totally me), and Positive Discipline for Preschoolers (this one piqued my interest the most; because if I can effectively discipline my kids in a positive way, I have succeeded at this mom thing…but is that too good to be true?).
First up in my three-part series: The Happiest Toddler on the Block
This book was an easy read.
Dr. Karp believes that toddlers are little cavemen (banging on things, running around wreaking havoc in general, screaming and crying when upset) and we should not be talking to them as if they are sophisticated little adults who can understand reasoning. The author recommends that, in order to calm your child down, you need to employ the “Fast Food Rule” – which is to repeat back what your child is telling you (just as they do in a drive-through when you order food) and mirror them when upset, then proceed to calm them down only after acknowledging their feelings. This must be done in “toddler-ese”, which is toddler language. Short, choppy phrases–repeating words and mimicking the child’s inflection and tone, only to a lesser degree and not quite as animated.
The book also recommends rewarding positive behavior in the hopes of staving off negative behavior, with things like constructive praise (specific as opposed to general statements about being the best, smartest, etc.), playtime, attention, and so-on.
My biggest takeaway from this book was that my attempts at reasoning with my toddler twins are probably futile. And meeting them at their caveman level seems to make some sense.
One more important takeaway for me from this book was determining what category my child falls in – easy, shy or spirited. P is definitely on the shy side, and G has got a lot of spirit in her. Knowing what category your child falls in helps to determine how you discipline them. Being that P is shy, he needs less mimicking and mirroring when I’m trying to bring him down from the brink of a tantrum, and G needs more of it.
Recommended? Yes. This book is fairly straightforward and the tips are easy to effectively implement. After using Dr. Karp’s strategy (FFR and toddler-ese), the book suggests that 90% of tantrums will be preventable and 50% of meltdowns will be settled in a matter of seconds. I would say 50% of meltdowns did benefit from using this tactic (so far) but not usually in a matter of seconds. Often, when I start using FFR & toddler-ese (i.e. “Mad! Mad! Want toy! so mad! but wait… P has it right now. Let’s play with this instead!”) it does work in a matter of seconds, but then shortly after we settle the meltdown, it happens all over again when she sees him with the toy. We often have to work through the exercise two or three times for it to stick. Unfortunately for me, this could be a twin-specific problem that really has nothing to do with the effectiveness of the strategy.
Oh and one more tidbit that I just loved from this book. Apparently, research suggests that cuddling your kiddos boosts their IQs [p.102]. Did my sixth-mom-sense know this? Are us moms inclined to cuddle because we just know it’s not only going to make our babies feel loved, but also make them smarter? If I lack in the disciplinarian arena, at least my over-propensity to cuddle means my kids may have a shot at being the smartest kids on the block…