No matter what limits you establish, kids will test them. But how much back-and-forth is enough? And is it ever a good idea to allow children to determine their punishment?
Perri Klass, M.D.: If you fight over everything, or think that you must win every tug-of-war for the child's own good, it takes all the fun out of having kids. Is there a reason you have to win the you-can't-go-barefoot-in-the-snow battle? Probably yes. But do you also have to win the you-can't-wear-the-same-shirt-two-days-in-a-row battle? Maybe not.
Even by age 2, a child can understand that there are things (like health and safety) that matter more to you, and things that matter a whole lot more to him. You can explain it simply by saying, "This is a choice," or "This is not a choice."
Dr. Sears: Explain the reason behind your actions to your child, but don't negotiate with him the way you would with a coworker; there's a hierarchy here. You can say, "I'm the parent and you're the child, and there's going to be a consequence so this doesn't happen again." Just remember: Kids expect you to be fair.
Gore: There are three areas in which I'm not willing to negotiate: bedtime, mealtime, and when it's time for homework. But it took me a while to learn to not ask things as a question if I didn't mean them that way. There's a difference between "Do you want dinner?" and "It's dinnertime."
Rosemond (from Parent Power!): The plain truth is, sometimes the most honest, straightforward, and authoritative (not to be confused with authoritarian) reason for making a decision or giving an instruction is, "Because I said so."