Sunday, November 25, 2007

Win the Seat Battle With Toddlers

By Beth Whitehouse(c) 2007, Newsday

MELVILLE, N.Y. -- Sometimes, when I try to put my toddler into his car seat or stroller, he arches his back and fights me because he doesn't want to get in. How do I get him to cooperate without causing a public scene?

Forget reasoning with him, says pediatrician and University of California, Los Angeles Assistant Professor Harvey Karp. Your little guy is -- and these are Karp's words -- "a Neanderthal" who cares not one iota about highway safety statistics or your need to make it to an appointment on time.

"Toddlers are not so much little adults as they are little cavemen. They're uncivilized. They're primitive," says Karp, creator of the DVD and book "The Happiest Toddler on the Block: The New Way to Stop the Daily Battle of Wills and Raise a Secure and Well-Behaved One- to Four-Year-Old."

Therefore, you have to communicate in a way they understand. Here's what Karp would do: Even though you might feel like an idiot, get down to your child's level and imitate his words, actions and feelings. Say, "No, no, you don't want to get in the car seat, do you?"

"The goal is not to make them laugh, not to be funny or clownish, but to empathize with them," he says.

He predicts the tantrum will stop in 50 percent of the cases. Then, you can negotiate with your child. Yes, he does advocate a little negotiation in this case. "You're not a general and they're a soldier," he says. "When you're out of the house, they've got you over the barrel."

So, he recommends making a little agreement once they quiet down. Say, "OK, we'll run to the wall and back together three times, and then you have to get in the car seat."

Then, it's time for some prevention homework. You can reduce future battles by making the car seat or stroller a more fun place to be, Karp says. Take the car seat or stroller into the house, and let the child play in it. Read him stories while he's sitting in it.

Select a special treat -- a cookie or a song or a story -- that he only gets to eat or hear in the car seat or stroller.

Then, next time you're out and he doesn't want to cooperate, you can entice him with the only-when-you're-in-the-car-seat treat. "In a pinch, you use all the tools in your tool chest," Karp says. "Use diplomacy as opposed to brute strength."

Distributed by the Los Angeles Times-Washington Post News Service

No comments: