Q. "Our just-turned-6-year-old is a very affectionate, loving boy. He's above average in intelligence, has been reading since he was 4 and is at the front of his first-grade class.
"However, he has a smarty-pants attitude we can't take.
"He also likes pulling tricks and fooling people, but that doesn't really bother me--much.
"I've sent him to his room, spanked him (lightly), taken away TV privileges, asked him to stop. Nothing works for long and I'm fast losing my reserve of patience.
"What can I do?"
A. You can do the one thing you haven't done so far: Ignore him.
Don't say anything when he acts wise. Instead, look into the middle distance; read the paper; walk away. Don't get involved. Even a spanking, a restriction or an argument is a reward, for a contest is what he wants now.
It's an easy trap for a parent to fall into and most of us succumb occasionally. At this point, it doesn't sound like your child is off the track very much -- just a bright, amusing fellow who is awash with his new self-confidence. The behavior is typical of the swaggering 6.
If you find it hard to ignore, you can get more extensive support in a book by Bill and Kathy Kvols-Riedler called Redirecting Children's Misbehavior (R.D.I.C. Publications, Box 3118, Boulder, Colo. 80307). Their suggestions are born of the Rudolph Dreikurs' method of discipline, which is a descendant, in turn, of Alfred Adler. This is the let-a-child-be-disciplined-by-logical-consequences school and it's recommended with some hesitation. Many exponents carry Adler to an extreme and extremism is no wiser in child care than in anything else.
The written word, which tends to seem so absolute anyway, often seems even more pronounced with this method. Parents may carry the advice still further.
Also, some disciples stress logical consequences to such an extent they forget that a child must be taught to be kind and generous and honest. If lessons were only learned as consequences, a child might infer that anything is all right, so long as he can get away with it.
The Kvols-Riedlers' book is more humane and realistic than most Dreikurs' material, and the authors will be in the area to give four workshops, so you can see how they handle the technique:
The Individual Psychology Assn., two sessions, 7:30-10 p.m., Nov. 9 and 10, 6050 Wisconsin Ave., Chevy Chase, Md. $25. Call 652-6611 to reserve space.
Another session, sponsored by the Silver Spring YMCA, is scheduled for 1:30-4:30 p.m. Nov. 10 at 10920 Connecticut Ave., Kensington, Md. $10. This workshop is basically for professionals and has special agency rates.
The final workshop, based on the book, is set for 7:30 p.m. Nov. 11 at Takoma Park Elementary School, 7901 Holly Ave., Takoma Park, Md. It's sponsored by the PTA and the Family Education Center, and it's free.