Book Report: "The Happiest Toddler on the Block" by Dr. Harvey Karp

Dr. Karp has found success in managing his toddler patients, and offers his tips and tricks in the national best selling book The Happiest Toddler on the Block.

He promises to “eliminate tantrums, raise a patient, respectful, and cooperative one- to four-year-old,” - that’s a heavy promise, if I’ve ever heard one!

Plenty of parents I work with have mentioned this book, and I needed to see what they hype was about.

Who this Book is Best For

Those who work with toddlers, or are interested in being less frustrated with the quirks of toddler tantrums and moods. Not just a good read for parents- but, teachers, nannys, and doctors, too. Great for parents who are preparing for the toddler years, or those who are already there and struggling. This book has lots of tips and tricks, great for those ready to try something new!

My Biggest Take-Away's:

1. Mini Cave Children

Adjusting the way we view and understand toddler behavior as being more like a mini caveman than a mini adult. Parents are to be more of an ‘ambassador’ to their child, helping them understand how things work in our civilized culture - with respect. 

2. Fast Food Rule

When you go to a fast food drive through the first thing they do is repeat back to you what you ordered, then they tell you how much it’ll cost. Dr. Karp believes that communicating in any high tense situation, with toddlers or adults, should be the same. 

The key to success is that the most upset person talks first, and the other person spends the first minute JUST listening and mirroring back what they hear the upset person say. Most importantly the listener will repeat and validate the upset person’s perspective and feelings. Only after the upset person feels heard will they be open to hearing the other’s message.

I love this! This is one of the first skills taught and practiced in ‘Therapy School’; the idea of active listening. Even if there’s no good response to a situation, providing an opportunity for the other person to truly feel heard is often the most therapeutic thing we can offer- even to toddlers.

3. Toddlerese

This is Dr. Karp’s name for the very short and clear sort of communication that toddler’s understand best. The 3 Steps to Toddler-ese are use short phrases, repetition, and mirror your child’s feelings. Although this sounds great on paper, I’m not sure how using this in public will turn out as it sounds a lot like emotional baby talk. 

I like the offering of a tool to mirror your toddler’s emotional affect, in a way they can feel understood. It supports the understanding that the toddler’s brain is still developing and struggles to handle too many words or phrases, especially in a moment of emotional chaos.

 The bottom line is that before your child feels understood they will not be compliant with your requests of them - so, understanding first, and requests follow.

Final Thoughts

Overall, I found this book worth the read. I listened to it on an audio book and it was pretty easy and painless to get through. I found a bit of it to seem a little dated but, the tools were approachable and seemed to be able to be adjusted as the child grows.

Dr. Karp uses plenty of great examples, and the paper copy of the book is laid out in a fun way with cartoons and illustrations. Most of Dr. Karp’s ideas were not earth shatteringly new (although they may have been when the book was originally published in 2004) but, I was impressed with new ideas of teaching toddler’s magic breathing and patience stretching.

If your partner isn’t into reading all the books, this may not be the ONE to pass along for them. The tips and tools are clear enough that you could read it and share your favorite parts with them, and save their one read for something else. 

What might that book be? Stay tuned for our next parenting toddlers Book Review!

Need some support when it comes to implementing and staying consistent with the parenting strategies you read about? Do you and your partner struggle to co-parent with the tools you learn?

Empower Family THerapy is happy to help. Contact Us.

Tina ShraderComment