Thursday, April 10, 2008

Defending the Caveman

I read an article titled "Me Mommy, You Toddler" in Parents magazine about how to help derail your toddler's tantrums, which Pumpkin seems to be experiencing more and more these days.  The premise of the article was to think of your toddler as a primitive being and to try to relate to them on a very primitive, emotion-only level, while speaking a form of "toddlerese".  The article discusses how toddlers are working mainly from the right-brain, the emotional side; when they are completely worked up about something, they are so emotional that initially they can't really even hear what you are trying to tell them.  Basically, if your toddler throws a tantrum, the article suggests that you react with about one third of the child's emotional intensity but try to talk to them on a very basic level, such as: "Pumpkin is MAD, MAD, MAD.  Pumpkin doesn't want to have his diaper changed.  Pumpkin want play!" and to repeat it over and over again until what you're saying sinks into their consciousness and they calm down and you can talk to them in a more rational manner.  Or course, just calmly saying the words is not enough; you are supposed to say them with animated facial expressions as well as any necessary arm gestures for emphasis. Supposedly, the toddler will realize that you DO understand what he is feeling and he will therefore calm down.  We all just want to be understood, right?

Since Pumpkin always has a fit whenever we take him out of the bath and try to dry him off, I thought this would be a perfect time to practice my toddlerese skills.  So when Pumpkin started screaming in anger while my husband was drying him off, I leaned over Pumpkin and started saying things like "Pumpkin is mad, mad, mad"  "Pumpkin no want to get out of bath" "Pumpkin no want to get dried off", etc. Unfortunately, I realized that instead of simply breaking what I was saying into simple words and phrases for Pumpkin to comprehend, instead I was channeling Yoda for my performance.  Phrases such as "Pumpkin towel, no want" and then just random words were escaping my lips.  My husband looked at me as if I was crazy; however, I suppose the proof is in the pudding: Pumpkin stopped crying and started laughing at my performance.  Ok, so apparently he wasn't saying "Wow, she really gets me" so much as he was saying "Wow, that woman is crazy" but, hey, whatever works.

1 comment:

Lilypad Mom said...

If you want more information about toddlerese etc, the book that comes from is Happiest Toddler on the Block. We tried it with LP, it worked for about 5 seconds while she looked at me like I was insane, but then she continued with the meltdown. Each child really is different and needs a different method. LP responds better to 1-2-3 Magic, but I think Pumpkin would probably still be too young for that.