A mom pointing her finger at her daughter(Hill Street Studios | Getty Images)

In a new study, University of Virginia researchers found that if an adult gestured with their index finger, children were more likely to believe that person was more knowledgeable than an adult who used a palm-down grasping gesture. "Children interpret pointing as a marker people use when they are trying to share or teach something," says study author Carolyn Palmquist, a Ph.D. candidate in psychology at Virginia. Of course, attention problems might only be the tip of your parenting iceberg, so here's how to handle a few more daily dilemmas.


"Stop screaming in the store!"

Don't try to reason with your kid during a full-on meltdown, says marriage and family therapist Susan Stiffelman, author of Parenting Without Power Struggles. You need to get your kids to say "yes"; shoot for three times. Stiffelman suggests something like, "You really wanted that candy? It doesn't seem fair that you couldn't have it? A lot of times dad says 'no' when you want to hear 'yes,' huh?" By showing that you hear and understand them--and getting an affirmative response--it should help to bring tempers under control. But don't be afraid to let them spend a few extra minutes watery-eyed, because tears help the body flush out the stress hormone cortisol.

"Eat your vegetables!"

Let your kids save their least favorite item on the plate until the end. Why? When psychologists gave people five different types of chocolate to try in a recent study, they consistently rated the final piece as the best, regardless of its actual flavor. "If you save a mediocre thing for the end, it may all of a sudden not seem so bad," says study author Ed O'Brien, a graduate student at the University of Michigan. Emphasize that they only have to eat one more bite of broccoli or beans, and pretty soon they might begin to appreciate their greens.

"Go to bed!"

You probably have a narrow window of time between when you get home from work and your children's bedtime, and most dads like to play and roughhouse. But all that excitement can make it tough to get your kid to lie down and close his eyes. "Plan on at least an hour of quiet time, either reading or singing to your child before lights out," says Stiffelman. Young children also benefit from having something to occupy their mind other than a dark ceiling, she says, so try a night light that projects constellations or other images onto the wall.