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Make 'Em Giggle

A great way to defuse a tantrum: Try a joke. "Toddlers like repetition and predictability, but they like it punctuated by surprises," says Lawrence Cohen, Ph.D., author of Playful Parenting.

So the next time you're butting heads with your kid, try reconnecting through one of these proven giggle-getters:

Act goofy. Kids love to see their all-powerful parent stumbling all over himself, panting on all fours like a dog, or taking pratfalls. If your child refuses to get in the tub, for example, try holding her upside-down and belting out water-themed songs ( "Splish Splash," anyone?) as you head for the bathroom.

Have fun with words. Toddlers don't understand puns, but they love simple plays on the sounds of words. So instead of demanding, "Eat your cheese," say, try using a nonsense rhyme like "Eat your cheese-squeeze, please!"

*Role-play. Try acting out both sides of an argument using two of her stuffed animals. Says Cohen: "If you ham it up and use funny voices, you're both laughing about it instead of being tense and frustrated."