Does Your Kid Have an Attitude Problem?

Toddlers: Bossy & Bratty

Your once-mellow baby has become an opinionated 2-year-old who responds to your request to put away her toys with a hands-on-her-hips, head-cocked "You're not the boss of me!"

Brat Buster: Count to three. A snappy comeback might help you blow off some steam, but there is no dignity in mudslinging with a minor. Instead, remember that this is a teachable moment: Say something like, "I know what you really meant to say is, 'Sure, Mommy, I'll pick up my toys.'" Then help by giving clear, specific instructions that she can follow. Remember, she's only 2 -- you need to help her focus on what you want her to do.

The Big Picture: Think of your toddler as a scientist. She's trying to discover with her sassy stance what kind of reaction she can provoke. She may have realized already that if she picks up her toys when you ask, you'll go check your e-mail or start dinner. But a little back talk and -- wham! -- the kid now has your full attention. So don't slip away and attend to business when your child is happily engaged. Instead, focus on her. This positive reinforcement will gradually teach her that she doesn't need to provoke you to get your attention. When she does give you attitude, don't take the bait, but don't ignore it either. "Call her on it in a clear, simple, unemotional way," says Dr. Borba. Come up with a statement and automatically use it every time you feel she's crossing the line. For example: "That's rude talk. Please rewind and try it again."

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