Q&A: Kids & Discipline

Disciplining kids can be tricky. Parents try the old star chart, then scolding, punishing, maybe even a swat or two. Bad news: Alan Kazdin, the new president of the American Psychological Association, says none of it will help much. His new book, "The Kazdin Method for Parenting the Defiant Child: With No Pills, No Therapy, No Contest of Wills," in stores this week, lays out a different approach. He spoke with NEWSWEEK'S Peg Tyre.

How did parents get this wrong?
If you see a negative behavior in your child, you're going to respond. The behavior changes instantaneously. But in the long run, the response doesn't keep the behavior from happening again.

What do you suggest for a, uh, friend whose 7-year-old has a tantrum at bedtime?
The key is focusing on the behavior you want rather than on the behavior you don't. Then create situations where your child can practice that [good] behavior, even if you have to simulate or fake it.

You mean like playacting? Isn't that kind of weird?
Maybe. But good behavior needs to be practiced like a musical instrument. The more you practice, the more you get it down. It's not rocket science.

Will it work on husbands? Bosses? Co-workers?
These principles are used in business and industry all the time. It works.