Toddlers are often misunderstood. They’re no longer babies, yet they still have very little knowledge of the world and the way things work—something that is easy to forget when we are constantly being blown away by their maturity and developmental leaps at this age.

I am so excited to be joined this week by the co-authors of the Terrific Toddlers series, Carol Zeavin and Rhona Silverbush to talk all things toddlerhood.

We’ll help you learn and understand exactly how you can best support your kiddo through some common toddler situations (like potty training, sharing, becoming a big sibling, and separation anxiety) all of which will help you to walk away from this episode with a deeper understanding of just what life looks like through the eyes of your toddler.


Rhona (00:00):

The more that an adult understands where a toddler’s mind is, the more there’s, just the easier everything gets.

Dr. Sarah (00:14):

Do your child’s tantrums leave you walking on eggshells, avoiding setting limits and terrified of those judgmental grocery store glares. My new free guide is all about strengthening your child’s ability to self-regulate. So over time they’ll be able to manage their big feelings and those meltdown moments will get less and less. I’ll teach you the psychology of how to rewire your child’s brain and create new neural pathways through five fun and simple emotion regulation building games you can incorporate into your everyday play with your child when their brain is most receptive to learning. Go to drsarahbren.com/resources to download this free guide and watch as tantrums start to fade.


Some of my daughter’s all-time favorite story books are from the Terrific Toddlers series. As a mom and a psychologist, I was so delighted to find these books through accessible language, realistic scenarios and relatable characters. This series helps toddlers to really feel seen and understood. So it was no surprise to me that they make it into my daughter’s pics for bedtime stories like almost every single night. And as a psychologist that works with parents a lot, these books absolutely get my stamp of approval for covering really challenging toddler moments in a really nuanced way that does not shame the kid or shame the parents, but really kind of paints a picture of what it really looks like in reality. The first six books in the series, Boo-Boo, Bye-Bye, All Mine, New Baby, Potty, and Time to Go, serve to teach kids and parents how to navigate some of the most common toddler experiences. And the three new stories in the series that are coming out now, Haircut, Grocery Store, and School, continue to bring to life a world seen through toddler eyes. I am so excited to have the co-authors of the Terrific Toddlers book series, Carol Zeavin and Rhona Silverbush here with me today to help parents immerse themselves in the messy, fun and exhilarating world of toddlerhood and hopefully learn something along the way too.


Hi, I’m Dr. Sarah Bren, a clinical psychologist and mom of two. In this podcast, I’ve taken all of my clinical experience, current research on brain science and child psychology and the insights I’ve gained on my own parenting journey and distilled everything down into easy to understand and actionable parenting insights so you can tune out the noise and tune into your own authentic parenting voice with confidence and calm. This is Securely Attached.


Hi, I’m so thrilled. Today’s guests are, I’m just honored to have you guys on the show, Rhona Silverbush and Carol Zeavin are here to talk about their amazing child book series that I’m personally and professionally obsessed with. So thank you guys so much for coming on.

Rhona (03:17):

Oh, thank you for having us.

Carol (03:19):


Dr. Sarah (03:21):

This is great. So for people who aren’t familiar with your work it’s the Terrific Toddlers book series. Can you tell us a little bit about how this book series emerged and how you two started working together on this?

Rhona (03:36):

Sure and if you’re listening, this is Rhona. Hi. So my son was in early intervention and he was musical, and Carol is also a world class violinist, I’ll say it because she won’t. And so they also is an early childhood educator extraordinaire. And so they knew because he was musical, they paired them up and we were talking about how misunderstood toddlers are and how the books that are purportedly for toddlers, unless they’re about arrow planes and balls and whatever, the ABCs, which the kids don’t even really know what they’re parroting back, but if it’s about something they really care about, people who think they’re writing to a toddler are really writing over their heads. They’re really writing for a slightly older child and they don’t even know it because they don’t understand toddlers. And so we were talking about it and Carol makes beautiful books for her children that she’s working with in their homes in early intervention. And I said, we should write a series that’s not tailored to the specific child. Let’s write the series for toddlers in general. And I already had books published as a writer before, but Carol sort of looked at me and basically said, that’s adorable, haha. And I said, no, no, no, let’s do this. And so we…

Carol (04:58):

Oh, I wasn’t there was like, you are kidding me, this is, you want to publish? No, it’s not. And I didn’t believe it until I saw the books actually in person and held ’em in my hand.

Rhona (05:10):

Yeah, I knew we could do it. And so then we just sat down and with each book we just set to do the developmental psych research on it and then tailor each book so that it was really just at that sweet spot for toddlers. And so we wrote three and then wrote three more.

Dr. Sarah (05:31):

For parents who are listening who are not familiar with the series, and I’ve talked about it a couple times probably on the podcast, certainly in when I do workshops for parents, but there’s six books in the series and well maybe you guys can describe, can you set up a little bit of who There’s a set of characters and they go through very specific challenges, but the books are written just as much in my opinion, for kids as they are for parents.

Carol (06:00):

They are written for and about toddlers. And in my opinion, I think they’re unique because we tried really hard to write them from the toddler’s own point of view.

Rhona (06:13):


Carol (06:13):

So you’re not the authority figure saying, oh, look what you’re doing and here’s how you do it. It was just validating and acknowledging what toddlers go through with these particular books is a specific topic. So Bye-Bye is about saying bye-bye to parents when you don’t want them to leave and you don’t know if they’re ever going to come back and you don’t have a sense of time and you don’t know what’s happening. So we wrote that one and then Boo-Boo, you get a boo boo, you’re a toddler. You’re like, is this going to heal or I don’t have no idea.

Rhona (06:48):

They don’t even, they just think I’m in pain and I’ll always be in pain because they have no concept of time yet. So they’re panicked and in pain. So it’s a lot.

Carol (06:56):

And the book doesn’t, it just says the dad speaks the child’s feelings and he says, I see you got a boo boo. Ouch. Let’s fix it, let’s wash it. And she’s like, no, let’s put a bandaid on. No, I mean just from the toddler’s point of view, what is this? And then there’s a debrief at the end, which we’re very proud of that wraps up the whole thing.

Dr. Sarah (07:19):

And I think that’s when I was saying it was just as much for parents, it’s like the book itself is very much written for the child through the child’s eyes. But I think as a parent reading this story to your child, you are receiving so much as the parent.

Carol (07:35):

Information about toddlerhood.

Rhona (07:35):

And there’s a lot layered in there. There’s a lot of it about toddlerhood layered in there. And it’s interesting because we, it’s people who don’t know toddlers or don’t have toddlers or they, they might look at the book and go, oh, that’s cute, or there’s not much there because there aren’t many words. But we put each word in with a pair of tweezers. It’s very crafted and layered. And at the same time that if you’re a toddler, people don’t realize, first of all, they don’t realize how little a toddler knows of the world because you can’t remember how much you didn’t know when you were just emerging from babyhood. And so we assume that they understand things that they don’t. And that’s part of what the research is so great for and what Carol’s two advanced degrees are so great for, we were able to really, really hone in on what a toddler understands and then how do we help them feel understood in this situation Because the adults so often misunderstand where a toddler’s at, we assume they know more and then we get frustrated with them and we don’t understand, they don’t have the language to put to what’s going on inside them.


And all they know is now the people they love the most are getting frustrated. So what we try to do is really have the situation occur and then help them in toddler speak in terms they can understand. And so when they look at this little simple story for them it’s really profound and it’s big and they’re like, whoa. Their minds get blown and they really do feel seen. We keep hearing how seen they feel, they feel seen. And on another level, I mean you want kids to love to read, you want them to love books. Finally, there are books where they’re like, oh, I love this book for me, this is a great book. If you’re two, this is a great book. If you’re an adult without kids, you’re like, eh, whatever. I don’t see much there. But if you’re two, this is a lot for them and they’re feeling understood and at the same time, because of what’s happening in the story, the parents who are reading the book kind of go, oh, and it shifts their dynamic with their child and it makes everything smoother and easier for their kids, for them with their kids.

Dr. Sarah (09:42):

I really feel that when I read these books with my own kids I think the first one I read to my kids was Bye-Bye. And it’s all about the different feelings that a kid goes through in the different thoughts that they might have when they’re separating with a parent. But the thing that I love the most about these books is like you said, okay, we as adults, when we read a book and we feel like a character is thinking the thoughts we have before they, we can even realize it, we identify so much with that character that feels really good and we really enjoy reading that book cause we identify with the character. And I think that is one of the things that you capture so nicely in this book is that a really, a little kid, by the way, if you guys are not familiar with the book, there’s four different children in the series and some of them, some books have all four of them, some have just one child, but there’s this, there’s somebody to identify with for every child.


And the children in the books have represent different stages of development too in the Potty book, you know, kind of present it as this one kid is at this stage, this is what they like to do with the potty and this is what this kid is kind of practicing with the potty and it kind of moves up in developmental readiness but the way that the child, but it’s really told through the eyes of the child. I love that about the book because I really see how my daughter, when I would read these books, she was obsessed. She would ask for these books over and over and over and over and over again. And I think it’s because she identified with the children in the book. But also the other thing I really love from as a psychologist is someone who works with children and works with parents and helping them have developmentally appropriate expectations for their kids, not necessarily by chronological age, but by where their child is at in this moment is parents are able to see this language of when my child’s at this developmental stage, this is one way to speak to them about it.


When my child’s at this developmental stage, this is maybe an A window into their inner thoughts and feelings about this stage and this is what language I can use to talk to ’em about it. And that is what I love the most about the book

Carol (11:55):

And each book has a note for parents and caregivers at the end, which goes into more detail, a little bit about development where you know what to expect and suggestions for how to manage the particular topic.

Rhona (12:09):

What’s kind of neat is to see that we are now at a stage we have written seven, eight, and nine and they’ve just been illustrated and we’re, we’re going to be bringing those out in the winter, in the middle of the winter and it’s going to be School, which is really preschool, but okay, School and Haircut and Grocery Store. Yeah, no, it was really good, really excited.

Dr. Sarah (12:37):

I need the Grocery Store one for sure.

Rhona (12:40):

One thing that up a lot that’s really cool in Grocery Store is that you have two of our four kids, everything works well. One because she’s helping in quotes, air quotes and the other because his mommy packed a backpack with lots of options for him and he gets very busy deciding which toy, which snack, which whatever. But two of them, one of them has a tantrum because her daddy makes the rookie mistake of going down the cereal aisle where everything looks like a toy and she wants all of them. And the other one has a sensory meltdown, which parents often misunderstand and think is a tantrum. And we have no judgment on either of them because they’re toddlers and we help understand how you navigate both of those things that are just going, the tantrums are just going to happen. Sensory stuff is sensory stuff. But we also really do show that those are two different experiences, even if they might look the same to the parent.


And we help parents see which is what and what to do in those two different scenarios because even though the kids falling apart, they’re very different experiences for the child. And that speaks to what Carol said is we really try to help, the reason the children feels so seen and identify with these characters so much is because we tell the story through their eyes and through their lens and that also helps open it up for the parents. So you see these four different experiences of what happens in this very fraught moment in the grocery store.

Dr. Sarah (14:14):

One of the things, and then this is another thing I really love about the books that I think you’re sort of talking to as well in this is that with the grocery store, and sometimes it goes well and sometimes it doesn’t, right? And this idea that not all of these stories get wrapped up in a nice bow and that I think is really also important for kids, again, to see the messy stuff reflected back to them. So that that’s very validating. But then again, for parents to sort of manage our expectations. I use the new baby one a lot in when I do workshops for helping parents help a child prepare to become a new sibling. And it’s always the book that I recommend they read with their children to help them get ready because it doesn’t put a bow on it. It talks about the baby crying and that not feeling good and having worries about, well my parents still think about me.


So it brings up the kind of less nice thoughts and feelings and worries and frustration that often come with her new baby in the home, but are often not presented to kids ahead of time. Hey, a lot of times we’re very pollyannaish about a new baby and how awesome it’s going to be. And we really want to push the positive tone of preparing a kid to be a new sibling. And I think while very well intentioned I think can lead kids to not really understand and cope ahead for the pain that comes with having a new sibling

Carol (15:47):

And they think there’s something wrong with them.

Rhona (15:50):


Carol (15:50):

Feel bad and that doesn’t help their behaviors and their emotional reaction to the new baby either.

Rhona (15:56):

Because everyone’s so excited. And here take it even a step further when we talk about how people don’t remember what a toddler does and doesn’t understand, they don’t know how the world works and you say we’re getting a new baby and everyone’s so happy and some of them go, well then where am I going to go? Who’s going to be? Because all they’ve ever been is your baby up until that moment and they think you’re getting rid of them and that’s logical, it’s wrong, but it’s logical, right? And they’re thinking, is today the day that I’m going to kick to the curb? It didn’t happen. Today is tomorrow the day I’m going to kick to the curb? They really are walking around thinking that, and we don’t have any idea that they just don’t understand that this is an addition and they’re seeing everyone happy, they’re feeling terrible and then they’re feeling terrible about the fact that they feel terrible when everybody else is so happy. To Carol’s point and all we know is, oh, my kids started biting again and I don’t know why.

Dr. Sarah (16:48):

Yeah, absolutely. I get so many times I’ll get parents who, I do a lot of parenting support and parent coaching and I get a lot of people who reach out to me and like my child is doing this and this and I don’t know why. And it feels like it’s all of a sudden and don’t, it’s just their personality, their behaviors, everything’s shifted and I’m like, huh, okay, well what’s been going on? What are some of the shifts in their, and so often I can’t even tell you how, oh, well we just had another baby. And I’m like, okay. So probably potentially part of the context in which we’re understanding some of these new behaviors coming up because people very, very under, and I say this with zero judgment, if you don’t know what you don’t know, and a lot of times our society is so pumped about new babies and a kid getting to be a big sibling, we don’t think about how much that’s flipping their world upside down and how egocentric children are in the way that they kind of fill in the gaps in things in their world. So if there’s something that they’re not sure why this is happening or they don’t have an answer for, there’s some sort of gap in their fundamental understanding of their world, they usually fill in the gaps with an egocentric sort of narrative.


So I must have done something that caused this. I deserved this because of something I did or I caused this right. Or some more magical thinking of that that’s scary to them in some way, so someone’s going to take me away now or, and we really want to fill in those gaps for kids. And it’s hard for parents to know what those gaps are. I think these books do a really nice job of presenting to parents some of the worries and fears and difficult thoughts and feelings kids might have in a lot of these different situations for sure. With Potty, the potty training book and the new baby books and even Time To Go, which is there’s six books in this and I, I’ve read them all, but Time to Go I love because I think it really helps parents realize like, yeah, they’re going to have a meltdown when you take ’em out of the park and how do we help support that without thinking of it as them being in quotes bad.

Rhona (19:06):

The more that we get into the mind of a toddler, the more that we can accomplish the different things we were trying with these books, the more that we can actually have a toddler come out with a book that a toddler will love, love, love, which they deserve good books the same way we do. But also as you’re talking with this, the couple of levels, the more that an adult understands where a toddler’s mind is, the more there’s just, the easier everything gets because people don’t, we don’t understand how often we say a counterintuitive thing like a child cries because you’re leaving and you say, oh, don’t cry. They’re like, don’t cry. So you’ve now done the opposite of validating their feeling and helping them understand their feeling. And then if you start from the place of where is the toddler, the toddler doesn’t really know you’re coming back.


And if you start from that place of I see you are feeling blah, they feel a little understood, my adult is connecting with me. And then you say, and I will come back and you give them something, it’s in toddler time as opposed to I’ll be back in an hour. They’re like, they can’t do anything with that, but I’ll be back after you go to the park with nana, they know what that means. And then they go, oh, they’re saying they’re going to come back with after the park with nana. And then you say, and mommy always comes back, they go, well, it’s interesting because mommy said that yesterday. And then she did come back and they’ll still cry, but they might cry little less. And they’re gathering empirical evidence, they’re gathering data because they’re little Sweeny scientists. They’re figuring out their worlds, they’re using their minds unbelievably, incredibly impressively, but they need more data. And so what we are trying to do in the is talk in a way that they can understand, help them understand themselves in their worlds and understand what’s going on around them. It gives them a feeling. Everybody wants to have control. It gives you a feeling that you have a little more control if you’re not completely bewildered and mystified while the adults are saying, oh, don’t be upset, which does nobody any good,

Dr. Sarah (21:06):

Right? And I say this because I definitely have said that to my kid, or I know parents who have, and they don’t do it because they’re trying to squash that child’s sense of safety at all. They’re doing it because that was probably what they were told and when they were upset and that’s what they see other parents telling their kids into their, they think it’s reassuring. And I get it. And again, this is why these books are so helpful because they’re not preachy and they’re really not shaming of parents. They have this really nice beautiful language that you kind of get to see modeled and it, it’s very easy to sort of see, oh, I could say that in this situation that would work a little better. And I kind of see why. So there’s a way that you’re presenting these alternative ways of communicating, seeing our children’s emotions, validating them, communicating kind of compassion and empathy while also helping them understand what’s about to happen next. We’re not necessarily saying, well, I won’t leave, then we’re saying I’m going to go and I’ll be back. And in doing that, we’re just meeting their need a little bit more effectively. But that’s a great way for parents to learn this language.

Carol (22:19):

And I’m glad you’re pointing out that these little books for toddlers do give a little bit of developmental information for parents. I mean, being a parent, I never wanted to be a parent, not for one split second. I’m like, I’m not spending my time and energy that way. It’s hard. It’s really hard. From my personal observations, it’s really hard and you don’t have the time to do the research and look it up. And so I’m glad that these little books can do that can give parents a sense of where their kids are developmentally like they’re irrational. They don’t have rationality, they don’t have logic, they don’t have a sense of time and their behavior is whacked out a lot of the time and it’s stressful. And then of course a new baby comes in and that’s a whole other layer of stress and involvement for the parents. And that’s another reason why the first kid gets kind of, you’re big. Now you can kind of fend for yourself, but no, they can’t. And so I’m really glad to hear you both you and Rhona talking about how the books are developmentally appropriate and can give information as well as being completely absorbing for the toddlers they’re written for.

Rhona (23:41):

That reminds me of when our agent said, oh, let’s go with these two books to start and can you write a book about sharing? And we’re like, haha, no, no, no, no, we can’t, but we can write because sharing, you have to be at a certain stage that a toddler isn’t yet, and what precedes that is turn taking and they’re not at that stage yet either because they have no concept of time, but even more than that, they don’t have a full sense that they’re not you and you’re not them. They’re still figuring that out as little scientists,

Carol (24:13):

Sense of self. Yes.

Rhona (24:14):

They’re gathering data about the self.

Carol (24:16):

And what’s mine and what do I own, and I don’t care about you own, I care about what I own. So show me concretely, physically that I own this thing and then I’ll be able to share it with you because I now own it. And there’s no question that I’ll get it back.

Rhona (24:34):

Once I understand the concept of time, which I’m not there yet,

Carol (24:37):

But it’s also individual. It’s like, okay, one and a half to three and a half toddler, it’s a hell of a two years, but it can go on for longer depending on the individual and sharing tends to be a big topic.

Dr. Sarah (24:53):

Yeah. And I think that book all, you’re referring to the book All Mine, which is the one we haven’t talked about yet. But I’m not kidding when I say I’m a fan of your books. I literally have all of them and read them to my kids very regularly. But All Mine is absolutely my favorite book about sharing because it’s absolutely not about sharing and there’s nothing in it where you are suggesting to the child that they should be able to share, which is kind of a mind meld for a lot of parents. And I actually think it’s the best book for parents to read because again, this is why I like these books is because they have this dual process. The children see themselves in it, they see these really realistic scenarios play out. They’re like, I’ve been there, I said that before. I’ve felt that before. Oh, you get me. But then the parents are also getting a dose of like, well, what does this actually look like when it plays out? My big fear of my child not sharing is that they will have no friends and people will think that they’re mean and they’re going to get yelled at and they’re not going to learn how to share ever, and they’ll grow up to be a bully or a sociopath. But, in All Mine..

Carol (26:01):

They stand up for themselves.

Dr. Sarah (26:01):


Carol (26:03):

In a whole reasonable limit setting kind of way. I love all my time to go because they’re about limit setting and which is so hard to do, but all mine is about teaching the child how to set the limit for themselves, and it applies to all the kids. So we made sure in All Mine that the kid who got the hat grab that kid then got their carrot grabbed and then because it’s across the board and it’s just…

Rhona (26:31):

Right, you might be the one being grabbed at one moment and you’re the grabber the next moment when you’re the toddler.

Carol (26:37):

They’re both going through the same developmental mishegoss. And it’s their phase. It’s not their fault, it’s their phase.

Dr. Sarah (26:45):

And I love that it builds upon what is actually the developmental steps for sharing. Right? I, and this is what I think is so important. Parents often fear their worst fear is that my child won’t learn to share if I don’t make them share. But when we skip the precursors to sharing, we’re not setting them up for success. And the precursors to sharing is a sense of ownership. Yes, a sense of assertiveness, appropriate assertiveness skills. This is mine. I don’t want to share this with you. You can have it when I’m done. No, I don’t like that. Stop. Kids need to have that language in order to ever get to the step where they say, I can let you use this.

Rhona (27:28):

Because how do you share something that isn’t yours to begin with, right? First it has to be yours. Then you have to understand that it will, you can get it back if you do share it. And when you know that and you have safety because you’ve been allowed to have something be yours first, and you have a sense of safety and a sense of I am allowed to assert my boundaries, realistic and appropriate boundaries, then you get, not that they have those words for it, obviously, but then you can let somebody share it in a relaxed way because you know that it is in fact yours and you’ll get it back

Carol (28:00):

And trying to force it. If you try to encourage them to share before they’re developmentally ready, we know what it’s like to try to force a toddler to do anything. What happens, resistance and rebellion, and I’m not going to do it. And it just postpones it. It is hard though because you look like, oh, I’m a terrible parent. My child looks, but given the words and the understand, the developmental understanding again, which is important, and I’m glad the books can do that.

Dr. Sarah (28:34):

And I think they normalize it. If you see it in a book, it’s a lot easier as a parent to say, oh, I’m allowed to say that. I’m allowed to say you are using that. You can have it until you’re all the way done. And then you friend can have a turn. So hi. When you’re a parent and you’re actually reading this in an actual book, it’s like permission to not force your child to share in these situations and to have say someone is saying This is okay. And they have credentials.

Rhona (29:04):

Yeah. Do you remember Carol, when we were at Bank Street and we got to that point and we turned the page and a couple of the adults who were there, the young people gasped, their toddlers gasped, they went, but we got the crayons. They were fine before the crayons, but then all the crayons, they gasped and it was just so funny to think we were controversial.

Carol (29:24):

Can’t he have just one. I mean, the point is, and that’s just the way it is.

Dr. Sarah (29:31):

Yeah. You’re describing a scene in the book, it’s very cute, where this little girl has all the crayons and this little boy sits next to her and wants one, and she says, no, they’re all mine. And clutch. It’s not like the teacher doesn’t say, can you give him one? She says to the other kid, she’s using them, she’s using all the crayons right now. What else can you do?

Rhona (29:53):

Yeah, markers, dot dos. Here you go.

Carol (29:56):

And then she tells JoJo to tell him they’re all mine and JoJo does. And that’s the end of the book.

Dr. Sarah (30:04):

Which is practicing appropriate healthy assertiveness skills, which I think like language lead language developmentally appropriate because we also, it’s hard to ask a two-year-old to teach a two-year-old to say, I’m using this. You can have it when I’m done. I think we’re a very young kid. All mine is pretty much all that they can handle in those moments. And if they can say that instead of hitting, that’s great. That’s fantastic.

Carol (30:30):

And the book actually takes into consideration the toddler language skills. The teacher, the grownup says the whole sentence, the toddler responds by practicing the part of the sentence that they are able to, and that’s okay.

Rhona (30:45):

It just does point to the fact that very often what is really best with regard to sort of being with your toddler is a little counterintuitive to people who already have adult understandings. It’s counterintuitive to have jojo have all the crayons. It’s also counterintuitive, like our potty book, the idea that it’s not about trying to be about recognizing the different stages and applauding and supporting as they move through the stages to the end game and being calm about all of it. It

Carol (31:17):

Can be uncomfortable, literally uncomfortable. I was so uncomfortable when I learned that I had to say, I had to label the emotion. The child was screaming and I had to say, I see you’re mad. I see you’re sad. And I thought to myself, this is in the beginning of my education. I thought that’s just going to reinforce the feeling. Why would I want to tell the child what they’re feeling and make them even more? And I learned that no, that isn’t true. And it’s just validating and it builds cooperation and trust. And over time with the child, they are more willing to see you as an ally. And so that this discomfort that in the counterintuitive right is a real thing. And we can get over it if we have…

Rhona (32:07):

And I think that’s where I was going before was the idea that if the more, it’s not about trying to modify your toddler’s behavior. It’s about really understanding what’s fueling them. Because the more you understand what’s fueling them and how that is really not what you would’ve thought, given what you know about the world, but the more you understand what they understand about the world so far and how they’re interpreting things and what they can’t manage and how that affects them. And the more you can get into the toddler experience as we’re trying to do in the books for the themselves, but the more that you do it as a parent, the more things fall into place. The less your toddler is getting frustrated and then doesn’t have the words and they fall apart, the less often that happens. And things just get to be better. And just speaking with my own son, and I was very lucky that I had Carol and a couple other members of his early intervention team, but Carol, really my aim was always do my best to understand. And the more I understood, the more he felt understood, and just the better everything went.

Carol (33:20):

My favorite saying is, everybody feels better when they feel understood and when we feel understood, we feel better and then we function better. I mean it just goes one after the other, but everybody feels and they feel understood, grownups and the kids.

Dr. Sarah (33:35):


Rhona (33:36):

So by writing a book that really helps the children feel like they have a good book and helps them have what they need, interesting how that does that for the adults too.

Dr. Sarah (33:46):

Yeah, absolutely. And I think what you are describing to me sounds just like attunement. When we are in attunement with our child, we are attempting to see the world through their eyes. We are trying to understand what’s motivating. This little snapshot that I’m have access to observing. I get to see just the tip of the iceberg. I don’t know all the things going on inside of you that are leading to this temper tantrum or this, you hit me or you saying all mine when I want you to be able to share, I can only see the behavior, but if I have this ability to reflect back to them, curiosity about their internal experience, a sense of, right, there’s a reason why you’re doing this, and I’m here to try to figure out what that is. I think you might be upset because you really want this to be all yours right now and you’re not ready to share this.


Or you know, are scared that the toilet made a really loud noise and you are maybe even worried. Am I going to go under that drain too? Is that going to pull me under? I think you speak to these fears and these frustrations that kids really authentically experience. And when you name that, they feel very seen. And everybody like, Carol, you’re so right. How many people listening have ever had that experience of feeling really seen? And you might be coming in really hot with something, you’re really pissed off and you’re feeling really defensive and someone says, oh my God, I totally understand where you’re coming from. And instead of fighting, all of a sudden you just melt and you say, oh, I’m not mad anymore. Just now we can problem solve.

Carol (35:22):

And I’m entitled to have the feeling and it’s part of me and and you see me and I feel better.

Rhona (35:29):

And to Carol’s earlier point about limit setting, yes, in all mine, they have all the crayons and they get to all the crayons or all or whatever it is. I’m still using it because that’s the stage they’re at. They can’t possibly understand turn taking yet they don’t understand time and they can’t get to sharing because they haven’t moved through turn taking. So in that instance, when you understand your toddler, you are going to do something like say, help them establish the boundary of all the crayons. But that’s not the same as we’re not just saying, figure out where they’re, and then just let them do whatever. When our book time to go, when it’s time to go, it’s time to go. We’re not going to say, cause the toddler doesn’t want to. That’s not the same thing as they don’t have the developmental capacity to understand sharing yet.


I’m not going to voice sharing on them when they can’t understand it. But I am, when it’s time for me to go, I am going to use the right language and stuff to help them be a little more with the fact that I have to go and I’m going to go right when it’s time for the toddler to leave the playground, we’re not going to go, oh, but the toddler doesn’t want to because they’re two. So we’re not leaving and like, oh gosh, now it’s 10 at night. No, you’re going to set the limit for them, but you’re going to do it in a way where you’re able to understand what their capacity is and work with it. And there may be tears and they may be unhappy. We’re still going to do it, but we’re also going to validate that they have feelings about it. I know. I wish we could stay. I see that you’re sad that we have to go, or I see you’re angry that we have to go. And I get that. I hate leaving things too. And now it’s time to go. We’re going to tomorrow.

Carol (37:03):

Limit setting. I’m telling you, I love limit setting. It’s a form of art. And that’s why All Mine and Time to Go are my favorite books. It’s like, it’s so crucial to the toddler’s feeling of being safe in the world. And it can be so difficult for parents because they want their toddlers to be happy, and I want my toddler to like me. And it’s, it’s a tricky thing, but limit setting, reasonable, consistent limits. Matter of fact, this is how it is. I love you. I still love you.

Rhona (37:34):

Yeah, matter of fact with empathy. I get that this is hard.

Dr. Sarah (37:38):

Yeah, both. And I think that that’s the recipe. I can see you, I can validate what you are feeling right now, why you’re upset. It makes sense to me. And I have this confidence that you can handle this upset. We’re still going to set, keep and hold this limit. I’m predictable. I am consistent. I am this sort of sturdy frame that holds everything in place. You’re holding power. You can trust me when I say we’re going to go, we’re going to go. I’m not going to get mad at you for being upset. I’m going to validate that you’re upset, but I’m not going to not go. Because then there’s a balance of power and it’s very confusing and maybe even scary for a kid to feel more powerful than their parent. They need to know that we are in charge. They want us to be in charge. They feel way safer in the world when they trust in our being in charge. We can be in charge with a lot of warmth and a lot of validation for the friction that comes with our edges. This is the line I’ve drawn this line. You can trust in this line, but it doesn’t feel good to brush up against this line, I know.

Carol (38:46):

But those boundaries, otherwise you’re untethered.

Dr. Sarah (38:51):

Which makes for anxiety.

Rhona (38:53):

Yes. Highly stressful. It is.

Dr. Sarah (38:57):

So this book, these books, this series is such a service to families and they’re adorable and cute, and the illustrations are awesome, and the kids are going to find some element of themselves in all the characters. So I can’t get enough of these books.

Rhona (39:12):

I’d love to give a shout out to John or Illustrator, Jon Davis. He really, he’s just exceptional. We loved him before we even started to get work.

Carol (39:21):

We looked long and hard, actually. We looked at a lot of illustrators, not to dis any other illustrators, but he was the one. And I love the way he gets emotion with very little fuss and muss.

Dr. Sarah (39:31):

Yeah, no, the illustrations are great. Yeah. Well, oh, thank you guys so much for coming on. I really cannot wait for the next three to come out. I will definitely be getting them. And you had mentioned something before we started recording about a film that parents can look at. What’s the info on that?

Rhona (39:50):

Yeah, we were really delighted that early childhood initiatives have started to really respond to the books and get excited about the books. So we worked in partnership with the National Diaper Bank Network and the Clinton Foundation’s Too Small to Fail initiative. And we made a little four minute video that this one’s not for the kids. This is really for the parents. Although we use the illustrations from the books and then we added some…

Carol (40:19):

Yeah, they asked us to make it so that the parents could understand what the potty training thing was all about or should be.

Rhona (40:27):

Yeah, because again, counterintuitively, you don’t want to be focused on the goal of getting your kid to be going to using the potty counterintuitively. You want to recognize that there are a gazillion steps that go into being able to use a potty. You need to understand your body and how to make all that work and what even you’re supposed to be understanding about your body. You need to also understand social norms. You need to understand your own emotions around all of it. There’s so many levels of things to figure out in order to get potty training potty to get to use a potty that we actually prefer instead of the term potty training, we prefer potty readiness and we help the children feel seen in this book because we have, our four kids are at four different stages of potty readiness. But at the same time, we’re helping the parents understand that these are the stages that they go through.

Carol (41:16):

And so we made this video for the National Diaper Bank Network so that they could promulgate it amongst their families. And it’s a potty readiness video. It’s about the bridge to the other side of the potty training looks long and it has lovely music background music and what do you call that? Whiteboard illustration.

Rhona (41:37):

Whiteboard animation. Along with and with using some of the images from the books. Yeah. So it’s just a four minute thing for parents that can really be reassuring and supportive of the parents in this process as the books are intended to be supportive of the children.

Dr. Sarah (41:53):

Yeah. Well, we’ll put a link to that video in the show notes so people can watch it because I’m sure if it’s as good as the books, it’s going to be very worth watching. But yeah, I also kind of agree, I’m not a big fan of potty training as much as I’m a fan of potty learning, or the reality is it’s learning a new skill and any good educational experience, if the child’s leading that process, they are going to get there faster. They’re going to feel better about themselves, and they’re going to at their unique pace.

Carol (42:26):


Dr. Sarah (42:27):

And I think we really have to sort of shift as a society the way we think of potty training. And I just think it does not understand child development typically. And so I think that this is a really necessary resource. I’m so glad you guys are working on that.

Carol (42:44):

Thank you.

Dr. Sarah (42:45):

Thank you. I love it. And if people want to get copies of the original books or get the brand new ones that were just released, or even just learn more about the work you’re doing, where can they go to find you?

Carol (42:57):

We can give you a link to our website, which talks a lot about the books and their purpose and how they came about and describes them and about the authors.

Rhona (43:07):

And they’re on Amazon.

Carol (43:08):

They’re on Amazon.

Rhona (43:09):

They’re on Amazon. And we do have a website. And we have Instagram. We’ll get, we’ll put all of those that you can.

Dr. Sarah (43:16):

Sure. Amazing. Well, thank you so much for coming on the show.

Rhona (43:22):

Oh, it’s such a pleasure. Thank you so much for inviting us.

Dr. Sarah (43:31):

One of the things I love about these books is that they help parents get an inside look at what is often going on in our toddler’s bodies and minds when they go through these various scenarios. The more we know about our kids, the more we’re able to set developmentally appropriate expectations, respond in a way that really properly supports them, and ultimately helps us get closer to our goals of guiding them through tough moments. So whether it is struggling to get out the door in the morning, managing separation anxiety or helping them get through the bedtime routine, when you know why you’re doing what you’re doing, even if it’s messy, because there are times when it absolutely will be messy, you’ll still feel more confident and capable in parenthood. So let me paint a little picture. Think about when you tell your three-year-old that they cannot have an ice cream sundae for breakfast. They might protest and cry, but chances are you’re going to stand pretty strong in your conviction because you know unequivocally that you are the grownup and you know better than your child what they need in that moment and that ability to understand why you are doing something and feel that confidence is why my course, the Science of Tantrums starts by helping parents learn the framework of what’s happening inside your child’s brain and body when they’re dysregulated before we then go into lots of different strategies that we can use to strengthen their emotion regulation skills, whether it’s before or during or after tantrum. But you have to know the foundation first.

(45:05):So to get access to this two and a half hour video crash course of everything you need to know about emotion regulation as well as the companion workbook to help you apply this information to your unique kid and access to a community of parents who are navigating these same challenges, go to drsarahbren.com/tantrums. That’s drsarahbren.com/tantrums. Or if you’re listening to this as you scroll through Instagram, just go to @drsarahbren and click the link in my bio to sign up and learn more. Thanks for listening and don’t be a stranger.

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90. Seeing the world through your toddler’s eyes: Helping your child feel seen, understood, and validated with the co-authors of the Terrific Toddlers series