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Better Than Bribery

It's all too tempting to offer a bribe to get your child to cut out the bad behavior. After all, it usually works.

The problem, of course, is that kids are quick learners. They'll figure out that the way to get a treat is by misbehaving, says Sal Severe, Ph.D., author of How to Behave So Your Preschooler Will, Too! Instead:

Recast the bribe as a reward for good behavior  -- "If you stay by my side and do as I say, we'll stop by the playground on the way home." It's important to suggest a reward before the bad behavior starts. Otherwise, you're in bribe territory.

Think ahead. You know your child: Does she get really cranky when you have more than two errands? Do doctor's offices induce meltdowns? Plan accordingly.

Try not to offer a reward for every little thing done right. You don't want to hear, "What will you give me?" Save goodies for tough situations.

Remember that big prizes aren't really what most kids want. Fun time with you is the best kind of reward, and when your child starts to associate behaving with your undivided attention, she'll see how great it feels to be good.