Is your older child trying to take the role of parent with your younger child?

Q. Our 4-year-old daughter is constantly correcting her 9-year-old brother. She tells him—to use a recent example—that he's making noise when he drinks something, then proceeds to show him how to drink without slurping. At bedtime, she adds, "And please God, help my brother to act better." At first, it was cute. Now, however, it's starting to be annoying for her brother and us. We've talked to her about it, but it keeps right on happening.

There are lots of grown men out there who will be able to relate to this. After all, men need correcting. I've accepted that, and my life is much better for it.

But seriously, when you react to a child's behavior as if it is cute and then want it to stop, well, good luck. Once a snowball begins rolling downhill, it becomes increasingly difficult to stop.

But take heart! This can be stopped. Simply sit down with your daughter and say, "It is our job to correct your brother, not yours. You are not a mother. Only mothers and fathers can correct their children. That's the rule. From now on, if you forget the rule, it means you're tired, that you haven't had enough sleep. So when you forget the rule, we are going to put you to bed right after supper, so that you can catch up on your sleep."

I call this an example of "disciplinary judo" because while it's not really punitive, it's highly motivational. Obviously, this sort of "gentle" approach works best with young children.

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