The tools: Grade-schoolers
Tool: Teach consequences
Age: 5 to 8 years
How it works: We want our children to make the right choices — finish their homework before they turn on the TV, for example, or not play ball in the house. But when they don't, what do we do?
To handle problem behaviors, involve your child in finding a solution, says Harvard professor Dan Kindlon. For example, if he doesn't finish the night's homework, he may decide to wake up earlier the next morning to do it. Because this isn't a great long-term solution, make a plan for the future together: Does he want to do his homework before going out to play, or does he want to set aside time in the evening?
If he's been part of the planning process, it'll be a lot harder for your child to pretend he just "forgot." But be consistent in enforcing limits — if the plan is to finish homework after dinner, it must be finished before the TV goes on.
Real-life application: Your 7-year-old breaks a lamp throwing a ball in the house. Instead of scolding him by saying that he wasn't supposed to be doing this in the first place, tell him it's up to him to fix his mistake. Have him glue the lamp back together if he can — if not, he can do extra chores to earn enough for a new lamp.
Tool: Allow redo's
Age: 5 to 8 years
How it works: How many times have you wanted to take back something you said the moment you said it? Well, when your child sasses or snaps at you, and you snap right back, chances are everyone feels that way.
One way to maintain peace in the family is to allow "redo's" — a chance for your child (or you!) to say what she wants again in a more respectful way. "When you tell your child 'redo,' you're saying, 'I want to hear what you've said, it's important to me, but I want to be respected. So say it in a more respectful tone and I'm happy to listen,'" says Kathryn Kvols.
She and her daughter, Briana, even have a secret signal they use to tell each other to redo without having to say anything out loud. Asking for redo's when your child talks back keeps the situation from escalating. It also teaches her that speaking to people calmly is a better way to get the response she wants.
Real-life application: Your child screams "I hate you!" Stung and hurt, you immediately yell back, "Go to your room!" and the evening's lost. Instead, take a deep breath and ask your child if she wants a "redo" (or use your signal if you're in public). This gives your child a chance to articulate her feelings in a calm way rather than just exploding.
"You want your child to know that you're not trying to shut her up, and that you're capable of hearing the good and the bad," says Kvols. "Then you can address the issue that's actually at stake" — the underlying problem that prompted a regrettable comment in the first place.