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Nip This Behavior In Bud, Or Else

Seemingly small behavior problems can become big if you ignore them, so parents should intervene early to turn the behaviors around, according to the editors of Parents magazine.

In The Early Show's "Perfect Parenting" segment, the magazine's senior editor, Debra Skolnik, outlines six such behaviors for co-anchor Hannah Storm, and suggests ways to deal with them.

The behaviors may seem innocuous but, if left unchecked over time, can result in your child growing defiant, rude, and uncontrollable. Skolnik says correcting bad behavior now will result in a better-adjusted young adult. And that's the key here: children aren't young adults, but quickly will be, so parents need to change bad behavior now to avoid trouble.

PROBLEM: INTERRUPTING WHEN YOU'RE TALKING

Why You Shouldn't Ignore It:

  • Allowing her to butt into your conversations doesn't teach her to be considerate of others or occupy herself when you're busy.
  • It also makes your child feel she's entitled to other people's attention, and she won't be able to tolerate frustration.

    How To Stop It:

  • The next time you're on the phone, tell your child she needs to be quiet and not to interrupt you.
  • Settle her into an activity or let her play with a special toy you keep tucked away.

    PROBLEM: PLAYING TOO ROUGH

    Why You Shouldn't Ignore It:

  • If you don't intervene, rough behavior can become a habit by age 8.
  • It sends a message that hurting others is acceptable.

    How To Stop It:

  • You need to confront your child about aggressive behavior on the spot.
  • Let him know any action that hurts another person is not allowed.
  • Before his next playdate, help him practice what he can say if he gets angry.
  • If he does it again, end the playdate.

    You must put a stop to hitting early on; if it continues, it could become harder to deal with as your child gets older and bigger.

    PROBLEM: PRETENDING NOT TO HEAR YOU

    Why You Shouldn't Ignore It:

  • It sends the message that it's OK to disregard you, especially if you've told your child three times to pick up his toys.
  • Reminding your child again and again simply trains him to just wait for the next reminder.
  • Tuning you out is a power play, and if you allow this behavior to continue, your child is likely to become defiant and controlling.

    How To Stop It:

  • Instead of talking to your child from across the room, walk over and have him look at you when you're speaking and respond by saying, "OK, Mommy."
  • Turn off the TV or impose a consequence if he doesn't budge.

    PROBLEM: HELPING HERSELF TO A TREAT

    Why You Shouldn't Ignore It:

  • Letting her have control of activities that you should regulate doesn't teach her that she has to follow rules.

    How To Stop It:

  • Establish a small number of house rules and talk about them often. For example: "You have to ask if you want a cookie, because that's the rule."

    PROBLEM: HAVING A LITTLE ATTITUDE

    Why You Shouldn't Ignore It:

  • Sassy behavior often starts when preschoolers mimic older kids to test their parents' reaction, so don't think sassy behavior kicks in when your child become a preteen.
  • If you don't confront it, you may find yourself with a disrespectful third-grader who has a hard time making friends or getting along with teachers.

    How To Stop It:

  • Make your child aware of her behavior.
  • If the behavior continues, refuse to interact and walk away ("My ears don't hear you when you speak to me that way. When you're ready to talk nicely, I'll listen.")

    PROBLEM: EXAGGERATING THE TRUTH

    Why You Shouldn't Ignore It:

  • Lying can become automatic if your child learns that it's an easy way to make himself look better, avoid something he doesn't want to do, or prevent getting in trouble for something he's already done.

    How To Stop It:

  • Look at his motivation for lying, and make sure he doesn't achieve his goal.
  • Tell him the story of "The Boy Who Cried Wolf": Storytelling helps kids view the problem from the outside in.
  • You must call your child on even white lies, or he or she will bend the truth to get out of sticky situations every time. Lying can quickly escalate from, "I made my bed!" to dangerous, "I didn't drink at Tim's party"-type fibs. You should give your child a chance to tell the truth even when you suspect your child is lying. Make sure, though, to ask lots of questions, so your child knows it'll be harder to trust her when she doesn't fess up.