Unspoil Your Child
STEP 2: Set rules and consequences.
There is a slippery slope in parenting, where the initial "If you behave, I'll buy you a treat" turns into "Here, take this treat, and hopefully you'll behave." To wean your child off this demand-reward pattern, you'll have to set the new rules in stone. "Observe your child for a few days to notice when she is really being demanding and refusing to take no for an answer — whether it's with staying up past her bedtime, asking for new toys, or wanting candy," suggests Lisa Forman, a family counselor in Sleepy Hollow, NY. Let's say you recognize a pattern: Your daughter refuses to sit still at the dinner table unless she is promised her favorite dessert. The next step is to come up with a rule and a realistic consequence — such as taking away TV or computer privileges — for her behavior, keeping in mind your child's age and tolerance level. And make sure your partner's on board with the new plan; kids are experts at playing one parent off the other. Then, sit down and explain the rules to your child: "In our house, we get ice cream on Friday night if we have behaved at dinner all week. If there is whining for candy during dinner, you will lose the ice cream privilege." Ask your child to repeat it back to you to make sure she understands — or better yet, make a chart together that she can decorate with stickers each time she follows the rules.