Helping Himself to a Treat
Why you shouldn't ignore it: It's certainly convenient when your child can get his own snack or pop in a DVD, but letting him have control of activities that you should regulate doesn't teach him that he has to follow rules. "It may be cute when your 2-year-old walks along the counter to get the cookies out of the cabinet, but just wait until he's 8 and goes to visit a friend who lives three blocks away without asking," Dr. Wyckoff says.
How to stop it: Establish a small number of house rules, and talk about them with your child often ("You have to ask whether you can have sweets because that's the rule"). If your child turns on the TV without permission, for instance, tell him to turn it off and say, "You need to ask me before you turn on the television." Stating the rule out loud will help him internalize it.
When 3-year-old Sloan Ibanez took some markers without asking and colored one of her arms completely yellow, her mom, Tanzy, told her that she couldn't help with painting a garage-sale sign later that afternoon. "She cried, but I knew I had to nip this in the bud or else I'd pay the price later because she'd do it again and again," says Ibanez, of Lewiston, Texas.