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Q. At family gatherings, my husband or I inevitably wind up quizzing our toddler on things like the alphabet to show off her smarts. Other parents do it, too, but is this such a good idea?

A. From time to time, the stage mother in all of us emerges. As a proud parent, it's only natural to get excited about sharing your child's accomplishments. And as long as your toddler is comfortable with your requests, occasional quizzing is fine, says Kerri Kreh Reda, a child-development educator with the Cornell Cooperative Extension of Suffolk County, in Riverhead, NY. Many 2- and 3-year-olds welcome the opportunity to ham it up.

But if your child seems uneasy, make sure to phrase your request as an option—such as "Would you like to sing The ABC's for Aunt Lucy?" If your child demurs, let it go right away, says Reda.

Keep in mind that asking even an eager toddler to perform too often can backfire, giving her the idea that her accomplishments are more important than who she is as a person. Also, it may teach her to crave attention from outsiders and behave in certain ways just to garner praise. Use your instincts to find the right balance, and be sure to recognize positive traits, such as kindness and compassion, to make her feel valued well beyond her act.