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Kids Gone Wild!


So quit yelling. "That boy is hearing nothing but white noise from his mom at this point," says Miller. Kids are slobs because they can be -- and because eventually most parents cave in and clean up for them. Instead, institute a strict system of rewards (a post-soccer- practice sundae when his dirty duds get dumped in the hamper) and consequences (no movie night if they're still on the floor after one warning). "At this age, loss of a privilege has real impact," says Miller. Dial down your house-proud standards for a while, but don't give in. It'll be worth it.

5. Biting
"My 14-month-old bites me. I try to redirect him but it hasn't stopped, and I'm afraid he's going to start biting other children." -- Tammy Kirkland, 36, Newnan, GA

Being the parent of a biter can be embarrassing, but biting's perfectly normal -- many preverbal toddlers use physical aggression as a way to communicate. He might be in need of a snack or a nap, or frustrated that he can't fit a round block into a square hole. Next time he bites, react swiftly, sternly, and consistently. A firm "No biting!" and a removal from the situation, repeated every time the biting happens, will eventually do the trick, says Ari Brown, M.D., a pediatrician in Austin, TX, and coauthor of Toddler 411. And if your little chomper gets his teeth in another child? Rush to the victim's side so that your child gets the message that biters don't get hugs.

6. Naked at Night
"My 2-year-old daughter won't stay dressed! She takes off her diaper every night. I find her there in the morning in a wet crib, with her pajamas and diaper in the corner." -- Amy Rost, 34, Vandalia, MO

Toddlers delight in practicing every new skill they acquire, and the moment they learn how to unfasten diaper tabs, well, it's striptease time! How to deal? "Two words: duct tape," says Brown. You can put duct tape over the diaper tabs, as Brown suggests, or try zip-up sleepers with the extra snap over the zipper, which make it harder for little hands to do their dirty work. Let's face it: There's no need to embrace a curious child's desire to use her own poop as finger paint. Give your newly nimble toddler a stuffed animal to diaper and un-diaper to her heart's content.

7. Hateful Talk
"My 3-year-old son says 'I hate you!' to his dad and me, even to his grandparents." -- Andrea Menta, 32, Drexel Hill, PA

"When your child says he hates you, he means it -- for that moment," says Fletcher. But he does not mean he'll hate you forever; likely, something you've done (telling him "No more cookies," or not letting him watch Barney for the fifth time) has made him fuming mad. The key is to address what made your child say "I hate you," as opposed to trying to address the fact that he said it. The latter will only have you spinning your wheels as you try to explain how, no, in fact, he does not really hate you. At this age, he doesn't have the reasoning skills to be able to respond, especially when his emotions are running so high. A simple "I guess Mommy made you angry just now, but you still can't have a third cookie" works. When he's calmer, talk to him about how words like "hate" hurt others' feelings.

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