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How to Calm a Cranky Toddler & Week in Review

Dear Debie,
How can I calm a cranky toddler?
Debi's Tips
Debi Gutierrez
Debi Gutierrez
  • When speaking to your toddler: use short phrases; repeat those phrases over and over again; and match your tone of voice, facial expression and body language to that of the child’s.
  • Play with your child as often as possible
  • Establish clear and consistent limits
  • Treat your child with respect
And don’t forget about the great things that we learned this week:
Expert Advice
Dr. Harvey Karp
Dr. Harvey Karp
Pediatrician and author of “The Happiest Toddler on the Block”
Toddlers are sweet and fun, but they can also be wild and impulsive. If you learn to speak your toddler’s primitive language, you’ll be able to defuse his outbursts with love and respect – often in minutes.

When little kids are happy and calm, it’s fine to speak to them in a normal way, using the same words, tone of voice, and expressions you would with an adult. First, use very short phrases. Long sentences are tough for stressed out toddlers to comprehend. Stick to one-to-three word phrases, or three-to-five word phrases for kids over the age of 2.

Secondly, repeat those phrases over and over, as often as five to ten times to maintain your child’s attention.

And finally, match your tone of voice, facial expressions and body gestures to the child’s. How you say your words is actually more important than what you say. For instance, grimace, clench your fists, sigh, or furrow your brow as you speak in a dramatic, empathetic tone to show your toddler that you understand how strongly she feels.

Reflecting your toddler’s feelings and speaking “toddler-ese” aren’t magic cures to all struggles. You should proceed immediately to your message if you child is in danger, if he or she’s being aggressive, or if he or she’s breaking an important household rule. But for milder behavior, it’s important to let the child know that you understand and care about his or her point of view.

In addition to speaking “toddler-ese,” here are a few helpful secrets you should know which can help you raise “the happiest toddler on the block”:

Play with your child as often as possible. Just as you would feed coins into a parking meter all day long to avoid getting a ticket, playtime buys you more peaceful interactions with your child. Ward off temper outbursts by giving your toddler many little bits of play throughout each day.

Establish clear and consistent limits. Toddlers are like lawless little cavemen who will push you around if you’re wimpy about the rules. Pick your battles. Only set limits you know you can enforce and then be prepared to take a stand.

Above all, treat your child with respect. Even when you’re making your toddler do something that he hates, you should always be respectful with your words and actions. Energetically echoing his feelings will help you quiet the yelling, lessen the frustration and create a more loving happy time for both of you.

Child Care Provider of the Week Featured Video:
Child Care Provider of the Week
Learning to Share Featured Video:
Learning to Share
Supportive Interactions Featured Video:
Supportive Interactions
Sensory Garden for Infants Featured Video:
Sensory Garden for Infants
Developmental Stages Featured Video:
Developmental Stages
Topic: Social & Emotional Development
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Dr. Harvey Karp's website
Child Trauma Academy
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Tips on Resolving Conflicts pdf
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