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Discipline Dilemmas

Aggressiveness, not listening, talking back: your fix for every age and stage.
 

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You know what to do — so why isn't it working? Maybe you're paying too much attention to what your child is doing and not enough to why he's doing it.

"Every action is a communication," says Alvin Rosenfeld, M.D., a child and adolescent psychiatrist and lecturer at Harvard Medical School. "Too often parents jump in to stop a behavior they don't like instead of taking the time to figure out the reason behind it. When you see things from a child's perspective, it's easier to know the right way to respond when he does something wrong."

Of course, when kids act up, talk back, and melt down — sometimes all in the space of a few hours — it's hard to dial down the stress and come up with a fresh tactic. "Most parents are overworked, overtired, and overwhelmed," notes Michele Borba, Ed.D., author of No More Misbehavin'. "So they fall into tired patterns and empty threats that have lost their effectiveness. When that same misbehavior keeps popping up at different times and in different ways, they feel like a bad parent."

Here's the good news: most likely, the basic premise of your discipline technique is still valid — but to keep it fresh, you need to stay on top of the cognitive and emotional development of your youngster at different ages. Here, five crazy-making discipline dilemmas, along with ways to tweak old tactics to fit new circumstances:

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