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Do-Overs in Discipline

Go to any playground and you'll hear kids clamoring for "do-overs" when they goof up or forget a rule in a game. Why not use that concept to get them to redo bad behavior at home?

"Children under age five think of right and wrong as absolute. But from five on up, they're all over the idea that everyone slips up and you can ask for a second chance," says Mimi Doe, author of 10 Principles for Spiritual Parenting.

The next time your child does something he knows is wrong—whether it's shoving a sibling, grabbing a cookie without asking, or playing ball in the house—offer him a do-over. Then, when he politely asks for the cookie instead of grabbing, praise the good behavior. This gives him a chance to own up to his mistake and try again without your having to scold him.

Of course, he can't have unlimited do-overs. "At some point, there must be a clear consequence for doing wrong," says Doe. The older your child is, the fewer chances he gets to do it right—so offer a 5-year-old two or three chances to fix a mistake, but give an 8-year-old only one.