For parents of young children with severe behavior problems, Parent-Child Interaction Therapy (PCIT) offers tools to help manage conduct. Here are a few examples of PCIT rules that can help any parent deal with temperamental kids, according to PCIT International:

●Use direct commands rather than indirect ones or questions: “Please hand me the block” rather than “Let’s give Mom the block” or “Will you hand me the block?”

●Issue positive rather than negative commands, so the child knows what to do and doesn’t feel criticized. “Come sit beside me” rather than “Don’t run around the room!”

●Give one command at a time, to make it easier for the child to remember and for the parent to check compliance: “Put your shoes in the closet” rather than “Put your shoes in the closet, get your pajamas on and brush your teeth.”

●Be concrete, so the child knows exactly what’s expected: “Talk in a quiet voice” rather than “Behave!”

●Be firm but calm and polite in response to bad behavior, lest a child learn to obey only when yelled at: “Please put the train in the box” rather than “Put the train in the box this instant!”

●Explain commands before they are given and/or after they are obeyed, to avoid the “why?” stalling tactic. Parent: “It’s time to clean up and go home. Put that chalk back in its box.” Child complies. Parent: “Thanks for listening! It’s good to clean up when we’re finished with the toys.” Rather than: Parent: “Put that chalk in its box.” Child: “Why?” Parent: “Because we’re going home.” Child: “Why?”

●Avoid sarcasm and criticism (“That wasn’t very smart” and “No, sweetie, that’s not where it goes”), which cause angry feelings between parent and child and reward negative behavior with attention.

●Generously praise good behavior, and be specific: “I like how gently you’re putting your crayons away” rather than just “Good job.”

Ariel Sabar