by Harvey Karp, MD, FAAP

I love toddlers! Just for the record, when I say toddlers, I don’t just mean 2-year-olds. This wacky, willful time starts at eight months — when infants are almost ready to “toddle” — and stretches all the way to 5 years. But — and I’m sure I don’t have to tell you this — at times they can really push our buttons!

The key to toddler success is realizing that our pint-sized partners are really sweet, adorable little primitives!

I hope you don’t think I’m being disrespectful, but let’s face it: they walk like cavemen, talk like cavemen, drink from the doggie bowl, and pee anywhere they want. And, when upset, they go “ape!” (No wonder the littlest Flintstone was named “Bamm-Bamm!”) In fact, a big part of a parent’s job is to civilize our lovable little Neanderthals: to teach them to control impulses, say “please” and “thank you,” to share toys, and take turns.

Unfortunately, many parents talk to their toddlers with a vocabulary and tone of voice that may be fitting for a business associate, but is way too mature for a tantrum-throwing toddler. Try to see the world through your child’s eyes. Once you “get” why toddlers feel like cavemen, it starts to make sense why they feel like losers so much of the time.

Losers? Let me explain…

It’s Tough for Toddlers

We all know how tough it is to raise a toddler, but did you ever stop to think how tough it is to be a toddler? Toddlers lose all day long. They’re weaker, slower, can’t speak as well, can’t reach as high, and have less influence than everyone else. No wonder they grin ear to ear when they stamp in puddles, show off their biceps, or scare you with a loud “Boo!”

Smart parents take time every day to make their kids feel like winners by doing things like giving choices, soliciting help with chores, and letting them win at pillow fights.

Another reason kids 8 months old to 5 years old struggle is because they are experiencing an explosive rush of brain development. Toddlers literally have twice as many nerve-to-nerve hook-ups zipping around inside their brains than older children. This thick jungle of connections creates chaos, like everyone calling you on the phone at the same time! No wonder they “blow a fuse” when they’re tired, hungry, frustrated, or angry.

Besides feeling like caveman, constant losers, and as if they