Avoiding ChoresWhen Dylan Price was 5, he refused to put away his toys, and his mom, Barbara, hated feeling like a nag. "I was constantly annoyed that the house was a mess," she says, "but I didn't just want to pick everything up myself. I wanted Dylan to learn that he needed to clean up his own mess."
Why they do it: No mystery here -- does anyone really enjoy doing chores?
How to deal: Put a large box in the garage or basement, or any inconvenient place -- anything that's left out after you've asked your kids to clean up goes into the box for a couple of days. "This gives you the chance to straighten up, and it'll teach your child that if he doesn't put away his playthings there will be consequences," says Weinhaus.
When my three oldest were preschoolers, they looked forward to bedtime stories. But I was so exhausted after a long day that by 8 o'clock, I couldn't face reading to them and putting away all of their stuff. So I built toy cleanup into our routine: Everything had to be put away before the books were chosen. It worked -- and I began enjoying our evenings together no matter how tiring my day had been.
After my teenage nephew spent a weekend with us and every now and then used a swearword, my daughter Madeline, then 4, began to imitate him. My older kids thought it was hilarious and snickered each time she came out with a bad word.
Why they do it: Like Madeline, kids typically hear obscenities from someone in their world -- a parent, an older sibling, or a caregiver -- and may use bad language to get attention or as a way of getting a rise out of you. Your child may also think it's an acceptable way to express her frustration. (No need to wonder where she learned that!)
How to deal: "If you let it go completely, your child may get the feeling that it's okay," says Riess. "But you also don't want to make a huge deal out of it, or she'll repeat the cussword to get attention." Just tell her to go to her room and swear all she wants there; she'll probably discover it's not so much fun when there's no one around to listen.
The first thing I did was ask my other kids not to laugh when Madeline tried out her new vocabulary. Then I told her that swearwords can hurt other people's feelings. Madeline went back to using words like "dummy" once the thrill of her older siblings' attention had stopped. And when I have an exasperatingly slow driver in front of me, I try to remember that I have an audience with a parrotlike skill for repeating whatever I say!