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Creative Discipline

Are time-outs, scoldings, and stickers for good behavior losing their punch? It may be time for a new approach:

Choose a code word

A special term can work magic with a child who's quick to pop his top when things don't go his way. Anytime the word is spoken, he must stop talking and moving for 60 seconds. During this minute, both of you should try to breathe deeply and think peaceful thoughts. Ask him for help coming up with a word that sounds calm, such as "cool," "blue," or "ocean."

Ask a question

The next time your child kicks her brother or picks a fight at school, ask, "What do you think you should do now?" or "What can you do differently if this happens again?" says Elizabeth Pantley, author of Perfect Parenting: The Dictionary of 1,000 Parenting Tips. "This lets her focus on a solution without worrying about your wrath."

Put it on paper

To change a habitual behavior, use a letter, list, or colorful sign to get your child's attention  -- and cooperation. When your daughter forgets to give the dog his breakfast (again), tape a note to the front door: "Please feed me before you go to school. Woof!"

Pretend you're a broken record

If you're met with whining every time you ask your child to turn off the TV or come into the kitchen for dinner, pick a phrase, such as "It's time to come in now," and repeat it after every argument he presents. "Why yell when you can remain calm until he runs out of steam?" says Cynthia Whithan, author of The Answer Is No.

Have her "pay the maid"

Instead of nagging your child to put her cereal bowl in the dishwasher or rinse the toothpaste out of the sink, she must "pay the maid" by placing five or ten cents of her own money in a clear jar any time she forgets. The sight of all those coins piling up will remind her that it's wise to clean up after herself.

Play "Behavior Baseball"

Three strikes and he's out one privilege. Choose a quiet time to sit down with him and explain the plan, says Pantley: Each time he doesn't put the Legos away after playing with them, he'll earn one strike. If he earns three strikes, the toys will go on a shelf for the rest of the day, where they'll be off-limits.