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4 Going on 16

Make no mistake, Ally Kukuk is not 4 years old. "It's 'four and a half, duh,' if you ask her," says her mom, Shelley, of Danville, CA. Don't try rushing her, either, or you might hear "Just give me two seconds!" What's with the teenage tone?

She's throwing a little attitude around to see how it feels  -- and it feels pretty good, says Karen Deerwester, a parent educator in Coral Springs, FL.

She might be imitating you  -- you've probably rolled your eyes or joked with your spouse  -- or pals or people on TV.

Trying to thwart her entirely could be tough  -- expressions like "Whatever" and "Give me a break!" are simply new to her and begging to be tried.

Give her appropriate outlets by allowing a bit of sass during playtime. You might try role-playing  -- acting like a movie star or princess, for example  -- or singing songs. For instance, try the version of "Ten Monkeys Jumping on the Bed" that includes Mommy. She'll relish wagging her finger and saying, "No more mommies jumping on the bed!"

But you can  -- and should  -- put your foot down if her "wit" crosses the line. If she's disrespectful to, say, your mom, tell her, "You may not be rude to adults. Please apologize and ask Grandma what you can do to help her instead."

And look at it this way: You're getting plenty of practice for how to handle attitude when it really rears its head a few years down the road!