You are here

Meltdowns: Do You Speak 'Toddler-ese?'


Any parent of a toddler has been there: trying to reason with a child in the midst of a nuclear meltdown that would impress a Three Mile Island survivor. Good luck with that. A child mid-meltdown is a force of nature that few can reckon with.

Take heed, humbled parent. Now there is maybe – just maybe – a breakthrough way to cool your kids jets.  

Best known as author of The Happiest Baby on the Block, Dr. Harvey Karp is the go-to guru for parents with fussy, crying babies who don't sleep. 

The good doctor's follow-up tome was titled, naturally, The Happiest Toddler on the Block. In it he addresses, among other things, how to handle your child's temper tantrums. The trick? Have one yourself. Make it look like you're right in it with him, feeling those feelings and conveying that you understand where he's coming from. 

Plus: Toddler Tantrum Solutions and Discipline Tips

Last week, the Atlantic posted this video of Karp in action. In it, he tells visibly wary parents that  "When your young child is lost in the jungle of his emotions, you can't just calmly call to him. You have to reflect his level of feeling and join him in the jungle."

Cut to Karp mirroring a toddler's meltdown, using the same language, tone and hand gestures to convey empathy. He calls this approach speaking “toddler-ese” and compares the corollary behavior to that of a cave-man. Amazingly, the toddlers in the video appear to register Karp's sympathy meltdown and emerge from the weeds a bit. 

But how practical is this really? Can you imagine throwing a toddler-style fit in a supermarket just to calm your own little Chernobyl tot down? Or is it just too humiliating to check your dignity, even if it means junior will continue to fly off the handle? Let us know your own meltdown hacks in the comments