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Be a Take-Charge Mom

"It's time to leave, okay?" In yet another futile attempt to make every family member completely happy, I'd tacked "okay?" to the end of my sentence, which had the dreaded effect of turning my statement into a plea. Naturally enough, my 2-year-old twins seized the opportunity to respond like miniature royalty. No, they informed me, leaving the library was not okay. Outnumbered and outsmarted, I let myself get dragged into negotiations with two tiny tactical experts skilled in strategic whining, crying, and lying prostrate on the library rug.

Who's in charge? That would be the two kids pawing through the videos on the low shelf in the children's section.

Although it took me an inordinately long time to catch on, I finally figured out that "okay?" needed to be deleted from my vocabulary. With a one-word change in my communication style, I took a stab at becoming a take-charge parent -- the kind of mom who isn't bogged down in a half-hour conversation with a toddler about which socks to wear.

Why is it so hard to take charge of these small beings? Every mom who lets her children run her ragged has her own story. In this age where psychologists emphasize the impact we have on our kids' brains and self-esteem, we want to get it right. At the same time, we may not want to use the parenting styles we were raised with -- I sure don't want to be the yeller my mom was -- but it's easy to get confused about what's a reasonable amount of accommodation for a three-foot-tall human. Compounding the situation are toy commercials and TV shows that encourage kids to be surly and demanding. The result can be a drag: kids who rule the roost.

When you set reasonable limits and teach kids to respect authority, there's a big payoff in academic achievement as well. Studies show that self-discipline -- the ability to delay gratification -- is a greater predictor of academic success than intelligence. This all sounds good, but how could I morph into a mom who's consistently decisive, calm, and firmly in charge? My twins aren't 2 anymore -- they're moving up the ladder in elementary school -- but it's still a struggle for me to maintain my role as alpha mom. In my quest for answers, I talked to parents who'd once been mired in endless negotiations and fruitless begging but had changed course. Their take-charge strategies:

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