Q: My grandkids, a boy age 2 and a girl age 4, are driving my daughter crazy. The girl runs away when her mother calls her, and screaming is the only way the boy communicates. They also fight constantly. How can my daughter regain control?
-- A Grandmother in Richmond, Va.
A: Unless there's a safety issue, don't chase a child who is dodging you.
"If you run after them, they think you are age 4 yourself," says Nancy Samalin, author of "Loving Without Spoiling" (McGraw-Hill, 2002). "They will win that game every time."
Make it worth the child's while to stop running. Say something like, "I want to be with you, but I'm not going to run after you," suggests Samalin, whose new book of 100 tips aims to help parents feel more competent.
To regain peace in her home, a mother first needs to realize for herself that her tactics aren't working. What's often missing when a mom feels overwhelmed by her kids' daily antics? Follow-through.
"At the end of a workday, it's tough to stick to a 'no.' If you're too tired to follow through, you're Jell-O with your children," says Samalin, of New York City.
Dr. Cathryn Tobin of Toronto, author of "The Parent's Problem Solver" (Three Rivers Press, 2002), suggests that parents focus on changing their own behavior to solve problems.
"Instead of approaching the problem as how can we change the child's behavior, ask how can we fine-tune mom's behavior so she inspires a different reaction in her child," Tobin says. "When you change your own behavior, your children respond differently to you."
Think about how you're tangled up in the issues that cause you grief, she suggests. Instead of asking, "Why won't my kids stop fighting?" ask, "How am I contributing to problems of sibling rivalry?"
"We get into the pattern of doing the same thing again and again, and hoping the child will listen," Tobin says. "Recognize it's not working and do something different."
Be proactive. If you know a request will send your child running, put your arm around her or take her by the hand as you talk to her, Tobin says.
If your child is a screamer, evaluate how much you as a parent yell, and when and why your toddler screams. Try speaking more softly and slowly as you interact with him. If he's really always yelling, is his hearing normal?