The Happiest Toddler on the Block

The Happiest Toddler on the Block: The New Way to Stop the Daily Battle of Wills and Raise a Secure and Well-Behaved One- to Four-Year-Old by Harvey Karp, MD

9780553802566_p0_v1_s260x420I read The Happiest Baby on the Block over a year ago and thought it was ok. This book is about as good as that one is. It gives a few good tips and tells parents some ideas of what to expect from the developmental stages between ages 1 and 4. Throughout the book, Karp uses a metaphor comparing kids to cavemen, comparing the growth children experience as toddlers to the way humans evolved over millions of years. The tone and style reminded me of children’s television, so I found reading the book somewhat irritating. I felt I was being talked down to.

The core method of this book, the thing that’s supposed to make toddlers so happy, is that parents are instructed to reflect the toddler’s emotions back to them in simple, emphatic language. This gets the toddler’s attention and makes him feel understood. When he feels understood, he calms down and becomes more cooperative.

I haven’t really found this to be the case with my son. I like the idea of making him feel understood, but making it clear to him that I understand how he feels does not seem to have any effect on his tantrums unless it follows by my giving him what he wants. He’s a pretty stubborn, determined, focused kid, and he doesn’t just forget about the fact that he’s not getting that thing that he wants. I’ve tried to do what the book says, but mostly it just means his crying is joined by my fake-crying. The overall volume just increases.

Maybe I’m not doing it right. Reading parenting books and not getting the amazing results they promise makes me feel like a worse parent because obviously I’m not doing it right. Oh well. At least I’m trying.


One thought on “The Happiest Toddler on the Block

  1. Wow. The concept of mirroring a child’s emotions back at them just sounds… um, insane. Working in daycare, teaching first grade, and in all of my other interactions with children, I would never fake-cry or show fake-anger or fake-frustration in order to mirror what a child was feeling. If I’m happy and content while a child has a meltdown, then I’m going to stay happy and content. I see no reason to fake anything with children. This sounds like a book I will totally avoid. Even small children know when you’re acting like a whackadoo and being fake. If this book was written in a way that was talking down to adults, it’s probably because this approach to child-rearing is pretty insulting to children.

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