5 Feb 2008

Toddler Tantrums? Try the WIG

Posted by paulandrew

smb_crying_baby_sxchu_452511_91991606_c_t_rolf.jpg Interesting article in the New York times about Dr. Harvey Karp’s novel approach for dealing with toddler tantrums. The key point is to let the toddler know that you understood him by repeating back what you got from what they said. In other words, giving your WIG (what I got) works–even with toddlers.

The example given is that if a toddler is repeatedly saying “I want a cookie, I want a cookie, I want a cookie” then jumping right to an explanation of what he can’t have a cookie doesn’t work.

Why? My guess is that it’s because the child is still too anxious, too worked-up to hear anything substantive.

The alternative is to give the WIG, for instance “Oh, so you want a cookie? You want a cookie? You want a cookie?” which the article says will help the child to “get it” that their message was heard, and thus calm down. And then once the child calm’s down, then an explanation might be more likely to be heard.

Let’s assume that Dr. Karp is onto something. If so it strikes me that here we have the familiar “hill of anxiety”: when a distressed speaker is climbing the hill, he can’t hear anything new. It’s only once he comes down from that hill that a more logical conversation can happen.

And thus as a listener–the best thing I can do is be present, be calm, and WIG.

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