Ask, Don't Tell
Your 3-year-old walks over to where his big sister is drawing, grabs a marker, and puts a line across her latest masterpiece. You take the marker from his hand and scold: "You've ruined your sister's picture. Say you're sorry right now!"
The Problem: Lecturing kids about what happened, how they should feel about it, and what they should do to fix it robs them of the chance to learn from their mistakes, says Nelsen. "Demanding that a young child say he is sorry is just silly. He may say it, but he won't mean it, so what has he learned other than that he should lie to get approval from others?"
The Fix: Decide what lesson you'd like your child to learn and then ask questions aimed at teaching it: "What happened? How do you think it made your sister feel? How would you feel? What could you do to make it better?" Such questions help to teach empathy and problem-solving skills. "You want to draw out information, rather than stuff it in," explains Nelsen. "We want to teach children not what to think, but how to think."