You have my permission to reprint this content for your personal use only. If you want to reprint or distribute this to others, please complete & submit a reprint request form. Thank you!– Jody Johnston Pawel, LSW, CFLE, The Parent’s Toolshop, © 2000.




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When we want to build a house, we don’t call a bunch of workers, give them a pile of wood, and say, “Go to work!” We need a blueprint to follow and skilled workers who know when and how to use specific types of tools to build or repair the house. To build a stable family, parents also need a plan—a blueprint to follow. We need to know how to use several types of parenting tools, when to use them, and how to use them to their maximum effectiveness.

The Parent’s Toolshop is a comprehensive, step-by-step plan that uses the most effective tools available to parents. Its “Universal Blueprint” helps us build healthy relationships, prevent problems, and respond effectively to situations that occur. Beyond parenting, we can follow this Universal Blueprint and use its skills to improve any relationship.



Of all the jobs and professions in the world, parenting is the most important, difficult, and potentially rewarding. It is the only job that never ends; we are parents 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 12 months a year, every year. Even when children are adults, we are still their parent. We don’t make money by having children; we spend it. Our paychecks can’t be measured by material standards; they are hugs, thank-you’s, smiles, and seeing our child grow and mature. We need skills, not luck, to reach our parenting goals. Yet, despite its importance, parenting is one of few professions that does not require a license, degree, or any special training.

 Anyone can have a dramatic influence on a child’s life because children record every experience, positive or negative, in their memory. Their minds replay these tapes over and over, influencing their entire lives. Thus, each adult who interacts with a child has a profound responsibility to fulfill—yet often few guidelines to follow.

Since the beginning of time, family and friends have been the primary source of parenting advice. Only in the twentieth century have professionals researched child-rearing, educated parents, and developed parenting expertise. While many of us were growing up, parenting pioneers were testing and refining many theories about the different styles of child-rearing. Some techniques provided short-term successes but had negative long-term effects. For over four decades, one general parenting style has proved to be most effective in producing self-sufficient, well-balanced adults and healthy family relationships. Within this style, there are several types of skills parents need to use, and within each skill area there are dozens of options from which to choose.


Common Problems with Parenting Resources

We are one of the first generations of parents to have a multitude of resources easily available to us. In each of our homes, we can probably find some evidence of parent education—a flyer from a maternity ward, a newspaper advice column, a parenting magazine or book. Throughout my 20-plus years of working with families, and especially after becoming a parent myself, I have read hundreds of these resources. Like many parents, I found a lot of helpful, accurate information, but also had frustrations and concerns. This book is my attempt to correct the following problems with parenting resources.

  • Some books are philosophical, with few practical applications. The Parent’s Toolshop is practical, not just philosophical.  Chapter 2, “Foundation-Building Toolset,” presents a balanced parenting philosophy that is the foundation of effective parenting. Subsequent chapters briefly explain the philosophical basis for each set of tools and why they are more effective than other common parenting techniques. The bulk of each chapter explains nearly a dozen skills in 
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simple terms and applies each tool to sample situations. Plus, there are opportunities to practice using the special language and actions that are a part of effective parenting. 
  • Some authors focus on what not to do, without offering positive alternatives. The Parent’s Toolshop focuses on what parents can do. I promise to avoid telling you not to do something unless I offer one or more positive alternatives. We learn the universal guidelines and the options available within those limits. This is how we create individualized plans for our own families. 
  • Many books have good ideas, but no one book seems to have them all; they are spread throughout hundreds of resources. Parents must buy several books and find the good ideas to get all the information they need for an effective parenting plan. The Parent’s Toolshop is a one-stop resource that equals dozens of books combined. It represents ten years of researching literally hundreds of resources. Consequently, it teaches over one hundred practical skills and addresses over one thousand issues or problems parents could face. Best of all, we can use the Universal Blueprint to file ideas from other resources and know how and when to use them most effectively.

A Graduate’s Comment. Of all the books and magazines I’ve devoured regarding parenting skills, this one put them all to shame. I learned more from one chapter in this book than I could have learned from one hundred books put together. — Debbie Klein

  • Many books discuss only one skill area, one developmental stage, or one type of relationship. When our children mature or we want to improve an adult relationship, we must read a whole new series of books. Many parenting skills can be slightly adjusted to improve adult relationships. It’s less confusing and more consistent to use similar effective relationship skills at work and at home to improve every area of our lives. The tools in The Parent’s Toolshop are useful in any relationship—with children of any age and in adult relationships.

A Professional’s Comment. The Parent’s Toolshopis absolutely excellent. It is appropriate for all human relationships. It is amazing to me how I can see organizations in all this. There’s great value in relating to people at work the way we do with families. The tools are very practical, so we can use them every single day at home and at work. — Donna Lehner, lay counselor

  • Books that have many helpful ideas often present them randomly. This makes it difficult to understand, properly select, and use the skills to their full potential. The Parent’s Toolshop organizes parenting tools in a logical step-by-step format that helps us plan the most helpful response to any relationship situation. The order of the chapters is specific and follows each step of the Universal Blueprint.

A Professional’s Comment. I’ve been teaching parenting classes for almost 30 years and The Parent’s Toolshop is the best resource I’ve found. It’s so comprehensive, like dozens of parenting books rolled into one. I like the way the toolsets put the whole parenting process into a logical sequence that’s so easy to use. — Millie McCarty, M.A., L.P.C., President & Executive Director, Lighthouse Counseling Inc.

  • Few resources explain how to avoid common misuses or abuses of effective skills. Some people learn a little about effective parenting skills, but not enough to use them to their full potential or in the most helpful way. With every tool, The Parent’s Toolshop explains why, when, and how to use it, and how to avoid common misuses.
  • Parenting advice is often contradictory. One book says to do one thing while another says the complete opposite. Every tool in The Parent’s Toolshop has passed a stringent screening process. They are consistent in philosophy, and can be cross-referenced with other reliable parenting resources.


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  • Many books teach quick-fix methods that are not effective over time. We want to choose a parenting plan that resolves current problems and helps us reach our long-term parenting goals. The Universal Blueprint and its tools often provide quick fixes, but more importantly, the long-term results are always positive. For over 40 years, these tools have helped parents build healthy families, prevent problems, and effectively solve problems that arise. In addition, four years of field testing proved The Parent’s Toolshop is a highly effective resource for improving parenting skills. Here are the results:
  • From 1992 to 1996, over 2,000 parents and professionals of all backgrounds field tested The Parent’s Toolshop. Of those, nearly 1,000 parents participated in an eight-week parenting class in the Dayton (Ohio) area, which is a representative cross-section of the cultural, racial, and socioeconomic makeup of the United States. In addition, more than 100 professionals received training in using The Parent’s Toolshop’s Universal Blueprint in their business, teaching, and counseling professions
  • Almost 900 parents received a pre/post-class skill assessment, using an outcome-focused evaluation tool specifically designed for The Parent’s Toolshop that assesses participants’ knowledge and skill mastery in 11 parenting skill areas.
  • Every parent who completed a Parent’s Toolshop parenting class (100%) showed improvement in their parenting skills. On a scale of 11 points, the average improvement in skills was 3.13 points, from below the midpoint (5.66) to well in the skillful range (8.67). Demographic research showed skill improvement was consistent, regardless of socioeconomic or other background factors. (Parents who had reading comprehension difficulties showed improvement from classroom participation, not just reading the book.) During a 6-month follow-up assessment, the average graduate not only maintained the post-class skill level, but showed continued improvement.
  • Program evaluations, which determine participant satisfaction, showed 92% rated the program “excellent” (the other 8% rated it “good”), 94% said they had learned new information, and 100% said they’d recommend the program to others.

A Professional’s Comment. Each year, since 1992, our agency receives dozens of requests from agencies and community groups to provide Parent’s Toolshop programs to parents of all economic and cultural backgrounds. The programs are very popular and successful in achieving significant parenting skill improvement. The Parent’s Toolshop is a helpful resource for people of all skill levels. — Ronald Eckerle, Ph.D., LISW, Executive Director, Catholic Social Services of the Miami Valley

  • Many books have helpful ideas, but also foster myths or include inaccurate information. Due to my personal and professional background, I can easily recognize inaccurate but commonly accepted information. The Parent’s Toolshop weeds out common myths and misinformation that confuse parents or result in less than effective parenting. We learn a common language and universal guidelines for evaluating information from other resources so we can recognize inaccurate advice we find in other resources.

To give you a sense of the mixture of accurate and inaccurate information experts give parents today, take the true/false quiz on the next page.


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Myth or Truth? 

_____ Parents should attend parenting classes when having problems with their children.
_____ Parent educators tell parents what they’re doing wrong and how to raise children the right way.
_____ Whenever parents use an effective parenting skill, they should see it work right away.
_____ Children should not be the center of the family; the parent should.
_____ Democratic parenting is too permissive and only works with certain kinds of children.
_____ It is the parent’s job to control children’s behavior.
_____ Parents need to immediately react to a problem to effectively resolve it.
_____ When parents stop children’s misbehavior, the problem usually goes away.
_____ Parents can encourage children by giving them lots of praise and rewards.
_____  When parents let children know they are proud of them, children feel parents are giving them credit for their accomplishments.
_____  Sometimes it’s helpful to offer constructive criticism to help children improve.
_____  Children should obey their parents because they are adults in authority. When children ask “Why should I?” parents only need to say, “Because I said so.”
_____  Behavior charts with stars or rewards foster internal motivation.
_____ When parents give children choices, children think they should have a choice about everything.
_____  All toddlers go through a “no” stage; it’s a normal part of childhood.
_____  Parents should give children more independence when they show they can handle it.
_____  When children struggle with simple tasks, it helps to say, “You can do it if you try harder.”
_____  When children have problems, parents should help solve them.
_____  When children aren’t doing their homework, parents should set up a homework schedule, make sure they stick to it, supervise their work, and sign off on it every day.
_____ People get angry because other people and events are out of their control.  
_____  Children know how to push their parents’ buttons because they program and control them.
_____ When children misbehave, parents should show their disappointment so the children will want to change.
_____ When parents repeatedly tell children to stop misbehaving and they don’t stop, parents can assume their children know how to behave better.
_____ Children misbehave to get what they want or sometimes just to get on their parents’ nerves.
_____ When misbehaving children need to “learn a lesson,” parents should make sure they suffer a little, to drive home their point.
_____ When parents want children to behave, they should threaten to punish the children.
_____ Time-outs should be one minute for every year of age. Children should be isolated in an unpleasant or boring place and not allowed to play.
_____ Parents should call a family meeting when there is a problem.
_____ Every family member votes on decisions in family meetings.
_____ Parents should be consistent. If they say they are going to punish their children, they need to follow through, even if they realize later they overreacted.
_____ Inconsistent parenting is damaging. Effective parenting partners do things the same way.

Permission for reader to reprint this page for personal use only granted by author, Jody Johnston Pawel, LSW, The Parent’s Toolshop, © 2000.


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The Parent’s Toolshop and its Universal Blueprint offers parents three major benefits:

  1. A universal plan for effective parenting.
  2. A way to apply this plan in ways that meet the individual needs of each individual family, even when these needs (such as personalities or backgrounds) differ from other families or among family members.
  3. The freedom for parents to express their unique personal style, while using the Universal Blueprint and its tools.

Universal Purpose

Building a healthy family is similar to building a stable house. All houses need certain things, no matter where or by whom they are built: a sturdy balanced foundation, protective walls that are not imprisoning, doors and windows for healthy ventilation, repairs to problems in the structure or its contents, and a roof to protect the inhabitants from the harsh outside elements. These are the universal, common factors necessary for quality human shelter.

Healthy families also have certain universal features:

  • A stable foundation of love and respect.
  • Flexible boundaries that are protective yet not imprisoning.
  • Doorways that invite rather than inhibit helpful communication.
  • Outlets for healthy ventilation of feelings and concerns.
  • Effective responses to problems that affect the whole family or individual family members.
  • A sense of security and togetherness that provides support in times of crisis.

The Universal Blueprint and its tools provide a universal plan for building a healthy family. They offer parents clear guidelines to follow and a means for knowing when they have stepped over the line into ineffective or unhealthy practices.

You can use the Universal Blueprint and its tools with any age child—and even in adult relationships—because they are consistent with the universal laws of human behavior, feelings, and thoughts. The tools are so valuable, we want to use them in every relationship and model and teach the skills to children and others.


Individual Needs

A house that meets the universal guidelines for quality shelter must also address the specific needs of the people living within. In swampy marshlands, the foundation of a house might be supported by stilts to protect the house from flooding. Still, the stilts must be balanced and sturdy. Many factors influence how a particular house is built. These  individual needs must be met while meeting the universal qualities of stability and quality shelter.

While our families are similar in some ways, they are different in even more. To build a stable family, we need to address these individual needs while following the universal process of effective parenting.

When you look at all the factors that could play out in a particular problem, there are an infinite number of individual problem combinations. Each of these combinations, however, will fit within one of six problem “types” identified with the Universal Blueprint. Once you know which type of problem you are dealing with, it narrows down which group of skills or toolsets you want to use. This is how you take the Universal Blueprint, the universal effective parenting plan, and tailor it to the  individual needs of each person in a specific situation at any point in time.


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Within the Universal Blueprint, there are many options (tools) parents can use to meet the  individual needs of each family member and each relationship. In each situation, we use the Universal Blueprint to identify the steps we need to take. At each step, we choose specific tools based on the  individual circumstances or people involved.


Unique Personal Style

A stable, quality house that meets an individual family’s needs differs in one final way—personal style. Whether a simple hut or Tudor mansion, a house is a reflection of the builder’s personal taste. Even the interior decorations, whether simple or ornate, reflect the creativity of its dwellers. It’s the finishing touch that makes a house a home.

Each of us has a unique personality; some of us are loud and goofy (like me), others are soft-spoken and reserved. We can each follow the Universal Blueprint’s guidelines and still feel comfortable and genuine in our responses and expressions. We can also use our imagination and resourcefulness to add to or adapt the tools to fit our unique style, while still remaining true to the universal principles.



Whether building a new house or remodeling an existing home, we start with a plan. What type of house or change do we need? What features are important? What steps do we need to take and in what order?

When we build or remodel our family we need a plan with clear-cut guidelines. Otherwise, it is confusing to receive too many ideas. Many parents fly by the seat of their pants, learning as they go from trial and error. These parents are more likely to emotionally react to problems rather than follow a plan that gives them the results they want. The Parent’s Toolshop is the only book available to parents that provides a decision-making guide, organized in a specific logical order that helps us respond effectively to any situation in any relationship. We can even add tools from other resources if they fit the universal guidelines in The Parent’s Toolshop.

Just as there are four major steps to building houses, there are also four major steps to building healthy relationships and responding to problems. The bold italicized words below show how each step, called a toolbox, deals with a different type of problem. The bold and underlined letters show the universal response formula, called PASRR (pronounced “passer”), which we’ll learn in Chapter 3, “The Universal Blueprint.”



Building a House


Building Healthy Relationships


Universal Blueprint



Lay the foundation.


Prevent problems from starting or worsening by developing positive qualities in self and others and teaching skills.


Prevention Toolbox



Build the external structure.


When children (or other adults) have a problem, Acknowledge their feelings and guide them through  the process of finding their own solutions.  


Child Problem Toolbox 



Installing the internal systems.


When you have a problem, Set limits and express your concerns assertively and respectfully. This may include Redirecting misbehavior and/or Revealing discipline.


Parent Problem Toolbox



Add the finishing touches.


Maintain the progress you’ve made in your personal growth and family relationships.


Maintenance Toolbox


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Every second, each of us is at one of these steps in every relationship we have. The Universal Blueprint shows us the step we are on and which skills we can use. If we follow the steps of the Universal Blueprint, in order, it greatly improves the quality and effectiveness of our response. Since the blueprint is a step-by-step process, we start by setting a balanced foundation and work our way up to maintaining progress. 

Most parents lack guidelines for choosing the best tool for a particular situation and using it correctly. When problems arise, we often use the first tool that comes to mind, even if it is not the most appropriate. This is like using carpentry tools to fix a plumbing problem, simply because the carpentry tools are the only tools we have or know how to use. The Parent’s Toolshop is a common-sense, logical method of correctly identifying problem types and choosing an appropriate response. This sets The Parent’s Toolshop apart from all other parenting resources. This problem-solving method is straight-forward and really quite simple, once we get used to stopping to think before we respond. The more difficult tasks are using the tools to their maximum potential and avoiding common misuses.

A home builder uses electrical tools to install wiring. Similarly, parents use specific groups of skills, called toolsets, located in the appropriate toolbox. To prevent problems, for example, we can use any of the toolsets in the Prevention Toolbox—the  Cooperation Toolset and the  Independence Toolset are just two possibilities. Since there are several ways to build  cooperation or independence, each toolset contains about a dozen individual techniques that meet the toolset’s special purpose. For example, the  Cooperation Toolset houses the  individual tools that promote cooperation. Offering children choices within limits is just one of nearly a dozen tools parents can use to build cooperation. Once we know the type of problem we are facing (the toolbox) and the type of tools we need (toolset), we can choose individual tools based on the needs of the people or situation involved.* 



In summary, the blueprint is the universal plan. We can solve certain types of problems (the toolboxes) by following specific steps (the universal PASRR response formula), using different groups of skills (the toolsets). We choose specific tools from these toolsets, based on the  individual needs of the situation and people involved. If we follow the basic universal guidelines, we can apply the tools in ways that express our own unique style.


The Toolboxes and Toolsets 

The Universal Blueprint contains four toolboxes; each addresses four major problem “types.” Each toolbox houses the toolsets (types of tools) that can prevent or best resolve that type of problem. Each toolbox is one of the four major steps of our universal response formula:

Step A.  Prevention Toolbox
Step B.  Child Problem Toolbox
Step C.  Parent Problem Toolbox
Step D.  Maintenance Toolbox


* This tool graphic appears next to individual tools.

  ►      Triangular bullets flag examples of the tools in use.


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Together, these four toolboxes contain 12 toolsets. Each chapter (toolset) of The Parent’s Toolshop describes the following:

  • Why certain tools are more effective than others.
  • When to use the tools.
  • How to use the tools appropriately and avoid common misuses.
  • Which tools to use when specific problems arise.
  • We also practice using the tools in real-life situations.

Here is an overview of what we learn on our detailed tour of The Parent’s Toolshop.



These are the themes of the Prevention Toolbox:

  • Prevent problems from starting or worsening. 
  • Develop skills and positive qualities in self and others that enhance relationships.

These practical tools are useful anytime so we want to use them 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. First, we learn how to use these tools to prevent problems. In later chapters, we learn how to use these same tools to respond to problems.

We start our tour with Chapter 2, “Foundation-Building Toolset.” The foundations of parenting are the beliefs and attitudes that influence our parenting choices. First, we set healthy long-term parenting goals, so we know what we are seeking to achieve. Then we look at the different styles of parenting and how effective each is in reaching these goals. We will see that “balanced” parenting helps children develop the qualities and life skills they need to succeed in adulthood. Next, we get a few tips for working cooperatively with other parenting partners and how to avoid unhealthy seesawing between imbalanced approaches. Then, we examine some attitudes and beliefs that influence parenting. We can choose the beliefs, attitudes, and perceptions that lead to more positive responses and maintain a balanced approach.

Once we’ve laid the foundation, we need to review our blueprint, the general plan we’ll follow.  Chapter 3, “The Universal Blueprint,” is different from all the other chapters, because it is an overview of how The Parent’s Toolshop is logically organized. 



When you experience a problem you will know how to…

STOP and

 1. THINK for 1-10 seconds 
2. PLAN a helpful response
3.DELIVER it effective              

In this chapter, we learn two critical skills: how to identify the six general types of problems and how to apply the universal response formula to each. These two skills help us arrive at the most appropriate response to any situation that arises in any relationship. This meets the first two mission goals. Each chapter thereafter takes us, step by step, through the Universal Blueprint, learning what tools we can use and how to use them to their maximum effectiveness. This meets the third mission goal of delivering our response effectively. Throughout our tour of the remaining chapters, we will refer often to the Universal Blueprint, as we build our comprehensive parenting plan step by step. We immediately use what we learn and begin to see rather quickly how all the pieces fit together.


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The first toolset that details specific, practical tools is Chapter 4, “Self-Esteem Toolset.” This chapter teaches us how to use descriptive language to encourage positive behavior and stimulate internal motivation in others (not just children). We learn the difference between self-esteem and self-image, encouragement, and praise. We learn how to prevent discouragement, which is the root cause of most problem behaviors. These tools help others see themselves as unique and valuable, without feeling conceited, pressured to perform, or dependent on others’ opinions for their self-worth. The first five-star tool* is in this chapter.

The next chapter in the Prevention Toolbox is Chapter 5, “Cooperation Toolset.” This chapter teaches us how to build teamwork and cooperation, which helps avoid most power struggles, rather than demanding blind obedience, which causes rebellion and resentment. We learn how to word requests so others want to cooperate. The  Cooperation Toolset is many parents’ favorite because it contains many eye-opening and practical four-star skills and the only chapter with two five-star tools.* Most parents see immediate changes in their approach and their children’s behavior, especially if their children are into testing and defiance. 

A Graduate’s Comment. I like this book because it gives me power—not over my children, but over the situation and myself. It also empowers my children to be in control of themselves. I saw immediate results the first week! I’m spending less time being in power struggles and they’re learning to make choices. I know, now, that there is going to be a solution to every problem. I especially like the fact that the book tells me what to do, instead of what not to do. — Bonnie Sessley 

The last stop in the Prevention Toolbox is Chapter 6, “Independence Toolset.” This chapter focuses on teaching children life skills so they can handle more freedom responsibly. We learn how to foster independence through every separation stage, from weaning to leaving home. As we teach children tasks, behavioral skills, and family values, children develop responsible behavior. Then, we can increasingly trust them with more freedom, instead of overprotecting or abandoning them. This healthy balance allows children room to grow and mature. The fourth five-star tool is in this chapter.



These are the themes of the Child Problem Toolbox:

  • Open the door of communication by acknowledging the other person’s perspective first.
  • When others have problems, keep the ball in their court and guide them through the process of discovering their own solutions.

Chapter 7, “F-A-X Listening Toolset,” helps us respond helpfully when someone else has a problem, without taking over and solving the problem for them. We cover the basics of effective communication, how misunderstandings occur, and how we can better understand our child’s perspective. We learn how to listen effectively, which can peel off defensive layers and reveal the core of a problem. Often, this alone helps others figure out how they feel and what action they want to take.

If, after listening, someone is still unsure about a solution, we can move on to Chapter 8, “Problem-Solving Toolset,” to help the person explore possible options. These tools teach children independent, responsible problem-solving and decision-making skills. This chapter also offers specific suggestions for dealing with dozens of common problems that can arise between a child and siblings, peers, or people at school. The conflict mediation tools can help any group of people, adults or children, work toward a solution that is agreeable to all. By the end of this chapter, we know when to intervene in others’ problems and how to help them resolve their own problems independently and responsibly — using the last five-star tool*. 


  • Every tool is helpful or it would not be included in a toolset. Four-star skills, however, are exceptionally effective — and only five tools have earned a five-star rating!  We want to use four-star tools regularly, as part of our daily parenting style and want to master the five-star tools. The star rating of a tool has open stars () next to it when it is first introduced and on the summary page for that toolset. One solid black star () appears next to important points to remember.

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The Parent Problem Toolbox contains the largest number of toolsets. It provides parents with the tools they need to deal with problems they find the hardest to respond to—those that affect them.

The themes of the Parent Problem Toolbox are consistent with the Universal Blueprint’s effective-response formula:

  • Think before you speak.
  • Speak before (or while) you act.
  • Take action instead of reacting.

First, Chapter 9, “Keep Your Cool Toolset,” focuses on understanding our feelings and reactions. We learn what really causes anger and stress and how to manage it. We can use these tools to develop individualized anger/stress management plans for ourselves and our children. If we have emotional trigger buttons, this chapter teaches us how to reprogram them. The Keep Your Cool Toolset is the first and most important step in responding to Parent Problems because we can turn all the other tools in this toolbox into weapons if we use them in anger.

Next, Chapter 10, “Clear Communication Toolset,” helps us express our feelings and concerns without blame, criticism, lectures, nagging, or hidden messages that cause others to tune us out. We learn how to communicate in simple, clear, respectful, and assertive ways. Many parents are surprised how well their children listen when they use these tools. By combining the Communication, Listening, and Problem-Solving Toolsets, any relationship can improve, including those with spouses (or other partners), relatives, friends, colleagues, bosses, or employees.

The Keep Your Cool Toolset helps us think clearly and the Clear Communication Toolset helps us plan what to say. The last three toolsets in the Parent Problem Toolbox help us plan what to do when responding to problem behavior.

The first step in responding to misbehavior is recognizing the difference between unintentional and intentional misbehavior that serves a purpose.  Chapter 11, “PU Toolset (Parent problem, Unintentional misbehavior),” redirects misbehavior resulting from children’s lack of skills or maturity by teaching them appropriate behavior skills. Rather than excusing age-appropriate problem behavior, children can move through troublesome developmental stages in healthy ways while learning important life skills. This toolset also addresses other causes of unintentional misbehavior, such as personality traits and medical conditions such as Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD).

Chapter 12, “PO Toolset (Parent problem, ‘On purpose’ misbehavior),” deals with children who have mastered the skills to behave properly but intentionally misbehave. We learn why children (and adults) misbehave and how to avoid common reactions that either give a payoff or make matters worse.

This information helps us choose the most appropriate tools (from previous toolsets) that help meet the child’s purpose through positive behavior. When misbehavior no longer achieves its purpose, it usually stops.

Chapter 13, “Discipline Toolset,” is the final chapter in the Parent Problem Toolbox. It’s the toolset you are probably most anxious to see, but don’t jump ahead to this chapter. This toolset is located farther into the Universal Blueprint for four specific reasons:

1. We need to reserve the discipline tools for serious situations or use them after or in combination with other tools. By the time we get to this toolset, we have dozens of other tools that might resolve a problem before it gets to the point of discipline. 

A Graduate’s Story. I don’t need to discipline as often as I thought I did. Before the class, I used discipline this much (holding his arms wide apart) and the rest of the skills only this much (holding his hands in front of his chest). Now, I only need to use discipline this much (his hands in front of his chest) and I use the rest of the tools this much (holding his arms wide apart). — Bryan Belden

12                                                                                           The Parent’s Toolshop


2. Discipline is most effective when we use it to teach children how to behave properly. For this, we use the Prevention Toolbox, Clear Communication Toolset, and PU Toolset (Parent problem, Unintentional misbehavior) before or with the discipline tools.

3. Discipline is only effective if we first break negative behavior patterns such as power struggles or revenge cycles. This is what the PO Toolset (Parent problem, “On purpose” misbehavior) does. If we don’t use the PO Toolset before discipline, there is a good chance the discipline will escalate the misbehavior or give it a payoff, which is ineffective or even harmful.

4. It is easy to misuse the discipline tools. To discipline effectively, we use everything we’ve learned up to this point with the discipline tools.

These are the three themes of the Discipline Toolset:

  • Teach children self-discipline, by revealing the effects of their behavior choices and holding them accountable for poor behavior choices.
  • Decide what you will do, not what you will make others do.
  • Help children learn from their mistakes and be involved in solving the problems their mistakes caused (discipline), rather than making them suffer for their mistakes (punishment).
These changes in attitude prevent us from misusing effective discipline tools as weapons that destroy relationships. There are many commonly accepted myths and inaccurate information about discipline. In this chapter, we dispel each myth so we can respectfully, helpfully, and effectively discipline. It might be hard to wait, but trust the experience of other parents who learned about discipline too early and became more confused and ineffective as a result. By using the other tools, many problems will have already improved by the time we get to this chapter. With the tougher problems that remain, it is especially important to make sure we use the discipline tools appropriately.


The Maintenance Toolbox builds on and uses almost every tool in The Parent’s Toolshop. These are the two themes of the Maintenance Toolbox:

  • Prevent new situations from becoming problems.
  • Maintain progress in personal growth and family relationships.

Chapter 14, “Family Council Toolset,” teaches us how to effectively consult the entire family when decisions or problems affect the family. Effective family councils develop each family member’s communication skills and leadership qualities. They help each person feel like an important, contributing member of the family team. Family councils enrich family relationships and help us make decisions and resolve conflicts in ways that meet everyone’s needs. This chapter presents several council formats we can use, based on the ages of the children and what we want to accomplish. There are several myths about conducting family councils and many ways family councils can turn sour. This chapter has a troubleshooting guide that can keep our family councils a sweet experience.

Finally, Chapter 15, “Three C’s: Consistency, handling Criticism, and Confidence,” details the reasons we can stray from our parenting plan and offers suggestions for maintaining the progress we’ve made. We learn how to be the kind of parent we want to be, without feeling the need to bend or sway to the demands of well-meaning, but unhelpful, advice-givers. We learn how to apply the Universal Blueprint and its tools in non-parenting relationships, when others criticize us or exhibit troublesome behavior. We also learn how to recognize inaccurate advice and use the universal guidelines to select tools from other resources. By the end of this chapter, we realize how far we have come in our growth and establish a positive vision for our future.