Dr. Harvey Karp, he of happiest-baby fame, is making his first global house call, streaming live to a theater near you.
Karp is a California pediatrician who has developed a system of soothing cranky and colicky babies and has shared it since 2002 via a DVD, The Happiest Baby on the Block.
He is bringing his expertise to movie theaters on June 21. The live broadcast, hosted by actress Ali Landry, will be shown at hundreds of theaters across the country. For $11.50 each, parents can watch the baby whisperer at work. It's showing on 11 screens in Kentucky, including in Lexington at Cinemark at Fayette Mall and Regal Cinemas at Hamburg Place, and in Richmond at the Cinemark at Richmond Centre.
In an interview with the Herald-Leader, Karp said he thinks the group effort will help parents learn more effectively.
"We are a media-based people. We learn by watching," he said. "When people are joined together in an audience, the messages are reinforced.
"This is the first time ... this type of house call to every community in America has been tried."
Karp's vaunted baby-soothing techniques involve 5 S's — swaddling, stomach or side position, shushing, swinging and sucking. Karp said the techniques are easy but must be done precisely to get that newborn napping. He said they are unique because they challenge some commonly held assumptions about getting babies to sleep.
For instance, the "shushing" should be loud and the "swaying" vigorous to re-create the feeling the child has in the womb. All together, the systems trigger a "calming reflex" that is like "an off switch" for babies.
Karp said he has researched and refined his technique since he heard about an African tribe in the 1980s that was known for calming their crying babies in less than a minute.
With the success of the Happiest Baby on the Block DVD and book, Karp is now taking on toddlers and temper tantrums. The key, he said, is to remember that a toddler is essentially a little caveman.
"Anyone who has been around toddlers knows they are not civilized," he said.
He said the first mistake parents make when they are trying to deal with a squealing toddler is to "speak in a calm, rational voice."
Remember, he said, you are dealing with a caveman. You need to speak the caveman's language. In this case, Karp has coined the term "toddler-ese." That means using short, repetitive sentences and being at least 30 percent as intense as the children when speaking. This, he said, lets the child know you understand how he or she feels and are willing to help work things out.
An excerpt from his Web site explains the technique like this: "Imagine your 18-month-old is standing at the door, screaming to go outside. Don't just squash his hopes by telling him why he can't go ('It's raining'). First, acknowledge his feelings ... in his own energetic language. Say in Toddler-ese, 'You say, 'Go, Mommy. Go! Go!' You want out, now! Out! Out! Out! You're bored, bored, bored!'
"With gestures and a dramatic tone, repeatedly echo his feelings. Once your irate little caveman realizes that you truly understand, his whining and wailing will noticeably diminish. That's the signal that it's your turn, that he's ready to hear your reasons, reassurance, options, etc."
This might seem a little extreme, but Karp said parents do it all the time when they praise kids.
"When their kids are very happy," he said, "you say, 'You did it, you did it, good job, good for you!"
It might be hard to imagine, he said, but in five or 10 years, Chuck E. Cheese's might be filled with parents speaking toddler-ese to soothe their kids.
"You'll see a major shift," Karp said. "It looks weird," he said, "but you are going to feel embarrassed when your kid is screaming anyway."