You walk into the bathroom to find your 3-year-old elbow-deep in a water-filled sink, faucet running, a steady stream spilling onto the floor. Exasperated, you send her to the time-out chair while you mop up the mess she's created.
The Problem: While time-out can be a useful cool-off period (for you and your child), experts agree it's not a particularly effective stand-alone discipline technique. "Time-out doesn't teach anything," says Nelsen. "And with discipline, we should always be asking ourselves, 'What am I teaching my child?'"
The Fix: Enlist your child's help to mop the floor. "When you encourage your child to make amends, you help him or her feel competent," agrees Clarke. With a younger child, you may need to suggest appropriate amends: "You've spilled water. Let's get a towel and clean it up." Three- and 4-year-olds can begin to suggest their own ideas for making amends. You might ask, "What shall we use to clean this up?" By allowing your child to help right her wrongs, you'll be providing her with critical opportunities to build character and a sense of responsibility.