'Caveman Method' Might Help With Toddler Tantrums

Parents already know. There's nothing more primal than a toddler tantrum. It's some real Quest for Fire, dance around the 2001 monolith, Burning Man-on-bad-acid stuff. You are at the grocery store and suddenly in the presence of a Neanderthal toddler.

Well one doctor says that's more than a metaphor. Meredith Small at Live Science explains:

Pediatrician Harvey Karp, author of The Happiest Toddler on the Block, and an expert in getting babies and toddlers to quiet down, claims that tantrums are an expected product of human development. He sees our little darlings as less-evolved savages driven by instinct and emotion, not thoughtful reasoning, and he suggests it's our job as parents to civilize them into Homo sapiens.

Okay ....


Well, thanks doc, problem solved. We just need to wait them out for 5 million years until they evolve properly. I've been through meltdowns that lasted nearly that long anyway. But he does have a point. It's nearly impossible for us not to try to use logic and reason with a screamer. The urge to explain is just too much a part of our adult selves to shake. And nothing pisses off the primitives more. So you need to ditch your clothes, grow out your body hair, and think like a Neanderthal.

His method is to speak in short phrases that reflect the primitive emotions of the child ("You are angry") rather than addressing the adult modern Homo sapiens situation of the moment ("Please stop. Big girls don't scream in stores.").

It's a funny combination. Tell your child you acknowledge and accept their feelings in the most contemporary and coddling of ways, yet presented as caveman language. He's got a point though. I've heard many parents advocating like a lawyer to a jury while the child is in a state where language itself is almost meaningless.

Small, herself an anthropologist, has one big problem with Karp's thesis. She says he slanders Neanderthals, who are a branch of primates that died and not our direct ancestors.

Of course, Dr. Karp maligns Neanderthals by suggesting there were instinctual creatures swayed by emotions rather than thought. Neanderthals didn’t have language, but they had bigger brains than modern humans and could probably do logic problems with the best of us.

And I'll add, they were French, too. Which means they probably ate better than we do and managed to be thinner at the same time.

Does anything work to make your angry early homo sapien stop screaming?


Image via Flickr/KateAmes

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