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Handling a Bossy Kid

When it starts, it's charming. "Milkie," says your toddler, holding out her cup. It's not until a few months later, when she's bashing the cup into the back of your leg, shouting "Milk! Want milk now!" that the thrill  -- at least for you  -- will be gone. Your sweet little talker is now a demanding toddler.

To turn a me-me-me monster into a civilized human being (or at least a kid who acts like one), you need to give your child some direct coaching, says Jane Nelsen, author of the book Positive Discipline for Preschoolers. To start:

Choose your moment. You may need to pick a calm time to teach the right words and phrases to make a polite request, and give her a chance to practice with you.

Signal the problem. Once she's learned to ask for something-not demand it-you can say "How do you ask?" whenever she slips, or ignore her request until she uses the magic words. Or come up with a sign (like tapping your nose) that means she's forgetting her manners. It'll get her attention but keep things positive.

Gossip about her achievements. Overheard kudos can be even more effective than direct compliments. Tell your child's doll how polite she was at lunch, or Grandma how nicely she asked for that cookie.