But Dr. Karp’s method of toddler communication is not for the self-conscious. It involves bringing yourself, both mentally and physically, down to a child’s level when he or she is upset. The goal is not to give in to a child’s demands, but to communicate in a child’s own language of “toddler-ese.”
This means using short phrases with lots of repetition, and reflecting the child’s emotions in your tone and facial expressions. And, most awkward, it means repeating the very words the child is using, over and over again.
For instance, a toddler throwing a tantrum over a cookie might wail, “I want it. I want it. I want cookie now.”
Often, a parent will adopt a soothing tone saying, “No, honey, you have to wait until after dinner for a cookie.”
Such a response will, almost certainly, make matters worse. “It’s loving, logical and reasonable,” notes Dr. Karp. “And it’s infuriating to a toddler. Now they have to say it over harder and louder to get you to understand.”
Dr. Karp adopts a soothing, childlike voice to demonstrate how to respond to the toddler’s cookie demands.
“You want. You want. You want cookie. You say, ‘Cookie, now. Cookie now.’ ”
I'm trying to imagine what this looks like in practice. But it makes sense. This is sort of the "active listening" of cognitive coaching taken to an extreme. Would it really work, or will it just infuriate a little tantrum machine?