2021 · Book Review · Nonfiction · Parenting · Self-Help

Book Review: The Happiest Toddler on the Block by Harvey Karp

Title: The Happiest Toddler on the Block: How to Eliminate Tantrums and Raise a Patient, Respectful, and Cooperative One- to Four-Year-Old
Author: Harvey Karp

Pages: 303

Genre: Non-Fiction, Self-Help, Parenting

Publication Date: August 26, 2008 (first published in 2005)
Publisher: Bantam


Dr. Karp comes back to share some of his experiences and suggestions of how to handle those infamous toddler years with respect and cooperation.

my review

Since reading The Happiest Baby on the Block and wishing I read it before baby boy came along, I decided to give Dr. Karp’s other book, The Happiest Toddler on the Block, a try before baby boy enters those toddler years. Making some mistakes with a newborn (like not swaddling the right way, not understanding how to rock baby, etc.) is one thing, but dealing with toddler tantrums, I feel, is a different ball game altogether. I have some experience (since I worked at a daycare/preschool for a few years), but being a substitute teacher at the time and raising a child can hardly be considered the same thing. In other words, I can use all the help I can get!

Some of the suggestions offered I found to be great, even if he gives these suggestions odd names. For example, the Fast-Food Rule sounds odd. What? Am I giving my toddler McDonald’s a lot? However, it’s merely a comparison of how to acknowledge your child’s feelings in a way that a fast-food server would – they repeat your order and make sure you are heard. In the same sense, you would acknowledge your toddler’s feelings first and let them know you hear them. I love this because toddlers don’t have a great way to communicate since their language development and reasoning skills are just beginning to develop, but these little tykes have very big feelings. If all we do is push those feelings aside, don’t acknowledge them, and try to distract them, then we are just teaching children that their feelings don’t matter and that they should be pushing their feelings down, which then becomes an extremely slippery slope to travel down.

Another suggestion I truly found interesting and am already practicing with my baby is Toddler-ese. Again, odd name, but a wonderful suggestion. So many times when children are happy or they finally understand how to complete a task they’ve been working on for a while, we use simple language: “Yay!” “Good job!” “Mama so proud!” However, when it comes time to handle a situation when the child is angry or upset, we tend to want to give these long-winded sentences, “Honey, I know you’re upset, but we have to go home now and eat dinner.” When the child is less likely to hear most of an adult’s words (when they’re upset), why is it we try to give them so many words? I, for one, think this is an interesting concept that I would like to try with my own baby when he becomes a toddler. In fact, I’m practicing it now. 🙂

Lastly, I really like most of the green-light, yellow-light, and red-light behavior suggestions that Dr. Karp offers. Green-light behaviors like star charts, patience stretching, bedtime sweet talk, and magic breathing are all ones that I plan on trying. The yellow-light behaviors like kind ignoring is something I would do as well. Then, the red-light ones like time-out and consequences are, again, ones that I would try, too.

Some other suggestions like clap-growl not sure I would do. Clapping to stop a behavior right now (like biting or hitting), maybe that would be fine. However, growling? Not sure if I can do that. It seems a bit odd. I also am not a big fan of using the phrase, “You win! You always win!” when you’re trying to get your toddler to do something that they don’t want to do (like eat peas). It’s meant to be used during a compromise and you pretend that your toddler got the best out of the deal you two made. I do agree that toddlers begin to realize they lose all day (can’t jump on the couch, can’t play when they want to, they need to do things that they don’t want to, etc.), so building in time when they do “win” (like giving a choice of which toy to play, what bowl to eat out of, etc.) can help prevent some tougher times later. However, telling them they always win when they were clearly just arguing with you about what to eat…not sure. Guess when my baby becomes a toddler I can play around a bit and see what works best for him and what doesn’t. Also, I can see what I’m comfortable with and what I’m not comfortable with. Teaching compromise is great when they are playing with peers, but when it comes to adult/authority figures (teachers, for example), there’s no way they can compromise their way out of everything. Sometimes there are assignments or tasks you have to do just because it’s a requirement. We’ll see. There were a couple of more of these uncomfortable suggestions within the book, but those are the two that come to mind off the top of my head that I’m holding on reserve for now.

Overall, this was an easy book to follow and one that I have marked some suggestions will definitely try with my future toddler! Maybe not everything, but definitely some!

My Rating
4 out of 5 stars


I would recommend this book to parents who will be raising a toddler soon. It’s probably best to use some of the techniques as soon as you can versus when you have a toddler already. However, I’m sure those who do have toddlers can find something new to try.

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