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Before or during discipline, ask yourself the following questions:

  • Is discipline really necessary? Could I use the prevention, communication, or behavior management skills before or instead of discipline?
  • Have I skipped steps in the Universal Blueprint that could address the behavior? (If you skip the PO Toolset, your discipline could turn into a power play or revenge.)
  • How will my child interpret the discipline? (View your words and actions as children do.)
  • Am I focusing on suffering or learning? Am I adding extra suffering? What do I want to teach? Will this discipline teach this lesson?
  • Am I making a power play or threat? (“If you . . . I’ll . . .”) Am I revealing discipline respectfully, as a choice? (“If you choose to . . ., I’ll know you’ve decided to . . .”)
  • Am I using positive words? (Avoid “if you don’t stop . . .” Instead, say “You need to . . .”)
  • Am I controlling my emotions and tone of voice? (Volume is as important as the content. Keep your cool and respectfully communicate.)
  • Is my discipline logically related? Is the logical connection obvious to my child? If not, have I stated it?
  • Is there any natural consequence I can allow to happen that isn’t dangerous or too far in the future?
  • Is this discipline reasonable? Am I giving my child information about the positive behavior I want to see and another chance, as soon as possible, to change the behavior?
  • Can I use problem solving to either avoid discipline, reveal it for the next time, or decide what discipline is appropriate in this situation? 
  • Am I shifting gears to listening, allowing my child the chance to express feelings? (Remain emotionally detached and respectful, not defensive. You can acknowledge children’s feelings about the discipline, without agreeing or changing the discipline.)


If we really want to eliminate problem behavior, not just simply respond to it, we need to have a plan that uses tools at every step. To help you remember the steps, use the “Decision-Making Worksheet” that follows the summary sheet. Use it to plan a solution to any type of problem. If we plan what we want to say and do, it helps us keep our cool and respond consistently and effectively. Refer to the detailed blueprint (house diagram) at the end of the book for individual tools or hints for using the different toolsets. It is the entire book summarized on one page.

In the practice exercises that follow the summary sheet and Decision-Making Worksheet, we will follow the Universal PASRR steps outlined on the worksheet. Feel free to make extra copies of the worksheet, so you don’t have to write in your book.


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  • Discipline helps children learn from mistakes, not suffer for them. Focus on solutions, not blame or shame.
  • Children are responsible for controlling their own behavior. Parents are responsible for providing appropriate behavior choices and holding children accountable for their poor behavior choices.
  • Discipline is respectfully revealed, whenever possible, as a choice. “If you choose to (misbehavior) I’ll know you’ve decided to (discipline).”
  • Discipline is logically related to the misbehavior. If it’s not obvious, state the logical connection.
  • Discipline is reasonable. The time and extent should be the least restrictive, giving children a chance to change or try again soon.



  • Show children how to make amends. ☆☆☆☆
  • Offer choices. ☆☆☆☆
Alter the focus of the choices as issues shift.
  • Take action. ☆☆☆☆

Decide what you will do, not what you will make children do. Respectfully follow through, with or without words, with reasonable, related actions.

  • Allow natural consequences. ☆☆☆☆

They happen if parents do nothing to rescue. Only use if they are quick and safe. Ask, “What did you learn?”

  • Apply Restrictions that are logically related to an abuse of a privilege or right.
Don’t restrict responsibilities or privileges children already earned.
  • Use Problem Solving to prevent, reveal, or decide discipline. ☆☆☆☆

“I am concerned about (misbehavior). What can we do to make sure this doesn’t happen again?”

  • Reveal Logical Consequences that meet the Four R’s. Use them sparingly.
  • Use Self-control Time-outs that teach anger and stress management.

►    Choose the location based on the child’s internal/external recharge style.

    Allow children to do calming activities (verbal/physical anger energy).

    Time-outs are over when children have calmed down. No timers!

    When a time-out is over, it’s over, unless problem solving is needed.


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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SITUATION/PROBLEM:  __________________________________________




(Any SHARP RV issues? No = C, Yes = P. Is misbehavior PU or PO? Has child consistently shown mastery of the skill? No = PU, Yes = PO? Is this a combination problem?)


IF PO, WHAT IS THE GOAL? (Attention, Power, Revenge, Giving up?) _________


STEP A: PREVENT THE PROBLEM from starting or worsening (Prevention Toolbox: Foundation-Building, Self-Esteem, Cooperation, and/or Independence Toolsets)






STEP B: ACKNOWLEDGE FEELINGS (Child Problem Toolbox: Step B1: Focus on feelings, Step B2: Ask helpful questions, Step B3: X-amine possible options)



STEP C1: SET LIMITS and/or express concerns (Clear Communication Toolset)



STEP C2: REDIRECT BEHAVIOR (If PU, what skill do you teach? If PO, break the cycle.)



STEP C3: REVEAL DISCIPLINE (Must be Related, Respectful, and Reasonable. Use problem solving to decide?)




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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Since discipline is usually the final step in responding to a problem, consider other alternatives first in the following situations. For each situation, apply the Universal Blueprint steps as outlined in the Decision-Making Worksheet:

Identify the type of Parent problem (P, PU, PO, or C/P, C/PU, C/PO). Apply the PASRR formula.

Step A:    Prevent the problem from starting or worsening (Prevention Toolbox: Self-Esteem, Cooperation, and/or Independence Toolsets).

Step B:    Acknowledge feelings with the F-A-X Listening Toolset. Step C1: Set limits using the Clear Communication Toolset.

Step C2:    Redirect the behavior with either the PU or PO Toolsets. (If it is PO, identify the goal and break the cycle.)

Step C3:    Then Reveal an appropriate discipline.

Try to move through all the steps in a total of two or three sentences. (Detailed possible answers are at the end of the chapter.)

  1. Derek, 2, screams and refuses to cooperate when you try to buckle him into his car seat.
  2. Elizabeth, 3, has written her name and drawn on her bedroom wall with a crayon and ballpoint pen.
  3. Nicole, 6, and Kristin, 3, have made a game out of bedtime. They take forever getting ready and make up lame excuses to stay up longer. To keep them moving, their mother can spend nearly an hour reminding them.
  4. Margie, 5, is a picky eater. She eats very little and is unwilling to try new foods. She expects her mother to fix her something special for every meal and refuses to eat if her mother doesn’t comply. When she does eat, it takes her hours!
  5. Gene, 8, was playing with a stick, hitting the branches of a neighbor’s tree. There are branches all over the ground when the neighbor comes to Gene’s father to complain.
  6. Patrick, 7, takes so long getting ready in the morning that he frequently misses the school bus.
  7. Ethan, 10, got a phone call from a girl, but wouldn’t tell his mother who it was or what she wanted. He asked if he could take a walk. When his father came home, he said he saw Ethan walking with a girl on the other side of a dangerous four-lane street. Ethan did not have permission to go beyond his neighborhood boundaries. When Ethan returned and was confronted, he said the girl asked him to help her sell candy (which was true). Although he had never been willing to do door-to-door sales himself, he wanted to help this girl friend.
  8. Dustin, 14, went to the state fair with his parents. He wanted to explore on his own and agreed to meet his parents at a certain time. He didn’t keep his agreement. After his parents searched for more than an hour, he showed up.
  9. Susan, 14, was caught with drugs at school. She is a straight-A student who has never been in trouble. Susan said: A boy walked past her locker, stuffed a bag of marijuana in her purse, and said, “Just keep this until next period and Joey will get it from you” as he walked away. She was shocked and dumbfounded. She didn’t know what to do. The school bell rang and she was afraid to be late to class. She was debating what to do throughout that class period. Another student saw the bag in her purse and reported her. The boy admits giving her the bag and someone else admits he was going to buy it. They both confirm that Susan was simply an innocent victim. Nevertheless, the school policy says she must be referred to Juvenile Court. What should Susan’s mother do or say?


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Detailed Answers

  1. Derek, 2, screams and refuses to cooperate when his parent tries to buckle him into his  car seat.

Type of problem: PU and PO. Derek doesn’t understand the purpose or importance of a car seat (PU). He is also exerting his power(PO), because he doesn’t like being confined. Safety is more important than comfort.

Prevent the problem: The parent can demonstrate, during a “no problem” time, with a doll or egg and a toy vehicle, what happens when there is an accident and someone isn’t using a seat belt or car seat. Ask “What happened? What would have happened if the doll/egg had on a seat belt?”

Acknowledge feelings, Set limits, and Redirect behavior: Acknowledge Derek’s feelings about being strapped in the car seat, “I know you hate being stuck in that car seat, but it will keep you safe if we ever have an accident. You can climb in on your own or I can put you in the car seat. You decide.” Brainstorm ways Derek can have power in the situation. He can learn to buckle himself and can select some special toys to play with.

Reveal discipline: If Derek resists, say, “I can see you want me to put you in the car seat this time. Next time, you can climb in yourself.” Use gentle force to get him in the car seat. Keep a friendly, matter-of-fact tone of voice. Offer toys or songs as a distraction. Briefly acknowledge his wails, but don’t give them extra attention. Parents can sing a song to themselves or turn on the radio to help them keep their cool. 

  1. Elizabeth, 3, has written her name and drawn on her bedroom wall with a crayon and ballpoint pen.

Type of problem: PU. It is age-appropriate for children to want to draw anywhere and with anything, even though they’ve been told “a million times.”

Prevent the problem: Try to keep all drawing materials out of reach, although this will be difficult. Make sure she knows what she is allowed to color with and on. You may need to repeat quite often, Pens are for paper,” and “Keep the crayons on paper.” For some kids this is enough to prevent further problems.

Acknowledge feelings, Set limits, and Redirect behavior: “I know you really enjoy drawing, but crayons and pens ruin walls. It’s going to be very hard to get this off your wall.”

Reveal discipline: “I can see you aren’t ready to keep your pens and crayons on paper. We’ll need to put them up until this mess is cleaned—and I’ll need your help.” Allow her to do as much as she is capable of doing. She might be able to spray the cleanser and use a sponge by herself. Have her work on it a little longer than she wants to. Work together; when she stops, you stop. If you have cleaned all you can and it won’t come off (hint: use “white out” on the pen), she will have to live with messy walls until you can paint again. By the time you have the time and money to repaint the room, the child will probably be older. Say, “I bet you are tired of looking at the writing on these walls. If I paint your walls, will you keep them nice and clean?” If the child has had to live with the effects of her actions for a while, she’ll most likely remember and follow through.

  1. Nicole, 6, and Kristin, 3, make a game out of  bedtime.

Type of problem: PO and PU. Nicole understands the rules (PO), but Kristin is probably imitating Nicole (PU). Nicole makes excuses to keep the parent involved (attention) and/or to delay bedtime (power).

Prevent the problem: Make bedtime a positive experience. The routine should allow time to unwind and talk. (See “Bedtime Routines” in Chapter 5, “Cooperation Toolset.”)

Acknowledge feelings, Set limits, and Redirect behavior: Use any one of these responses to acknowledge feelings: “I know you don’t want to go to bed.” “I know you don’t feel tired.” or “It’s hard to have to go to bed when you don’t want to.” Now, set limits, “I know you want to have fun at bedtime, but I don’t think either of us has much fun when I’m reminding and nagging you to get ready.”


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Reveal discipline: “I am willing to spend a half-hour for bedtime. This includes the time it takes you to get ready. You can spend all this time getting ready or you can get ready quickly and have time to play a special game. You decide.” Mother can be available during that time, but not remind or nag. Everyone can also brainstorm ideas to make the bedtime routine go smoother.

If children make lame excuses, try putting a limit on how many times they can get up. You can put three ribbons on the doorknob or three balls in a bowl. Each time the child comes out, she delivers one item to the parent. When the items are gone, the parent ignores the child as though she is in bed.

With both of the above plans, the parent can reveal one final discipline—however late the child goes to bed, that’s how much earlier she has to go to bed the following night. It is important to reveal this plan in advance. Otherwise, it will turn into a power struggle.

  1. Margie, 5, is a picky, slow eater.

Type of problem: PO. This mealtime battle is not about hunger. If Margie’s mother caters to her, she feels important (attention). Eating (or not eating) is also a way children can feel in control (power).

Prevent the problem: Many mealtime battles are preventable. We’ve already learned many ideas for making mealtimes smoother. (See suggestions in Chapters 5, 6, and 11, the Cooperation, Independence, and PU Toolsets.)

Acknowledge feelings, Set limits, and Redirect behavior: If, despite preventive measures, children still complain and resist, parents can remain firm to their bottom-line limits. They could say any of the following: “I know this is not your favorite food, but I expect you to try at least one small bite.” “This is what we are having tonight. I’m unwilling to fix separate meals. You can decide whether you want to eat.” “I’m willing to prepare some things you like to eat, if you’re willing to help me plan menus.” “You don’t have to like what I fix, but I don’t want to hear criticism.”

Reveal discipline: Make it clear that there will be no more food until the next meal. Snacks areonly allowed for those who eat healthy meals. If she refuses to eat, allow her to experience the natural effect of hunger.

Decide if slow eaters are simply taking their time (which is healthy) or are getting distracted. Allow children a reasonable amount of time (no longer than an hour) if they concentrate on eating. Once the reasonable, tangible time limit is up, put away the food. Do all these disciplines in a matter-of-fact, friendly way. If parents become abusive and domineering about food, eating disorders can develop.

  1. Gene, 8, was playing with a stick, hitting the branches of a neighbor’s tree. There are branches all over the ground when the neighbor comes to Gene’s father to complain.

Type of problem: PU. Gene meant to hit the tree, but he was just playing. He probably didn’t realize he would damage the tree. Once more than a few branches were knocked off, he realized he was hurting the tree and stopped. He probably didn’t think about picking up the branches or confessing his wrong. Only if Gene hated the neighbor and was getting revenge would you consider this to be intentional (PO) behavior.

Prevent the problem: Teach children in a NO-problem time that they are to treat all people and things with respect. They should think about the effects of their actions and make amends for their mistakes. These rules are for life, not just for any particular incident. If children are taught these lessons, it will reduce intentionally destructive behavior. You may not, however, be able to prevent unintentional mistakes like Gene’s.

Acknowledge feelings, Set limits, and Redirect behavior: “I know how much you enjoy playing with sticks, but you need to be thinking about what you are hitting. You need to keep your stick away from people or things that could get hurt.”


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Reveal discipline: This incident seems to have risen unexpectedly, with no chance to reveal discipline ahead of time. Nevertheless, some discipline is indicated. Say, “You’ll need to take responsibility for the damage to Mr. X’s tree.” Then have Gene pick up the branches and apologize to his neighbor. For the time being, Gene should not play in that neighbor’s yard, until he can show he can play with sticks responsibly.

6. Patrick, 7, takes so long getting ready in the morning that he frequently misses the school bus. Type of problem: PO, Attention or Power. If a child is old enough to go to school, he is old enough to be responsible for getting ready. Younger children will need more time and pre-planning. They should still, however, be held accountable for getting ready and the results of being late. 

Prevent the problem: Give children an alarm clock and show them how to set it. Have them make their lunch, check their backpacks, and choose clothes the night before. Have children get dressed first and eat last.

Acknowledge feelings, Set limits, and Redirect behavior: “Getting ready in the morning is tough! There are a lot of things to do and remember.” “I’m willing to fix breakfast for you, but it’s up to you to get up on time, get dressed by yourself, and leave yourself time to eat.”

Reveal discipline: Avoid nagging, helping, and reminding. These prevent children from learning how to be responsible for themselves. If the child misses breakfast, allow the natural consequence of hunger. Remind him he’ll have another chance to get ready on time and eat breakfast tomorrow. Few children experience this consequence more than once! Another natural consequence is to leave in whatever shape they are in. They may have to tie their shoes or brush their hair on the way to school. Children may also experience consequences at school, such as receiving a tardy mark. Refuse to lie if you are required to write any excuses to the school.

If your children ride a bus, you probably live too far for them to walk to school safely. If children can run to another bus stop, go for this option. Driving a late child raises a dilemma for parents. If we repeatedly drive them, we are rewarding their lateness and are taking responsibility for getting them to school. If we must drive a late child to school, we can do so with certain restrictions or conditions. Children can pay parents a “taxi” fee, wait for the parent to get ready, or be ready that much sooner the next day. Parents can time how long it takes to drive children to school and require them to do a chore for that amount of time when they come home. 

  1. Ethan, 10,  lied so he could help a girl friend sell candy in an area beyond his boundaries.

Type of problem: PO. Ethan lied to protect his privacy; he didn’t want his parents to know he was helping a girl friend. Ethan knew how far he was allowed to travel on his own and intentionally defied a rule (power).

Prevent the problem: Ethan knew his boundaries, so the parents did what they could to prevent this situation. The fact that Ethan was helping someone else, however, should not go unnoticed. Express admiration for Ethan’s willingness to help a friend. Comment on his willingness to do something he is normally hesitant to do (sell door-to-door), but did it to help someone else.

Acknowledge feelings, Set limits, and Redirect behavior:“I understand your hesitancy to tell me you were going to see a girl. I know that can be an embarrassing thing to tell a parent, but you knew how far you were allowed to go. Had you asked me, I probably would have been willing to drive you to her neighborhood.” If Ethan says he should be allowed to cross the dangerous street, the parent can say, “I know you feel ready to cross that street. Since it’s a matter of life and death, I have to stand firm about the rule. You don’t have to like the rule, but I still expect you to follow it.”

Reveal discipline: The discipline for going beyond the neighborhood might have already been revealed. Use problem solving to decide discipline for the two issues, violating a rule and lying. Ethan can stay around the house or on his street for a few days. When his travel privileges are


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restored, he will need to tell his parents where he is and call home frequently. This last part relates to the parents’ ability to regain their trust. Ethan’s parents might check on him. If revealed ahead of time, this act is not a breach of privacy.

Do not allow Ethan’s poor judgement to overshadow his good deed. Finish by summarizing, “What you did for your friend was very kind. Next time, although it’s embarrassing for you, please tell me you want to go somewhere far. I promise not to tease you or ask you about anything I don’t need to know.”

  1. Dustin, 14, was more than an hour late to meet his parents at the state fair. (When I was at the state fair, I saw a father yelling at his son about being late. He smacked him across the head a few times. I could understand the father’s anger, but was appalled at the violence.)

Type of problem: Chances are this is a PU problem. Dustin might have forgotten the time or gotten stuck in a long ride. Maybe something really did happen to him. There was probably no way for Dustin to let them know he was running late. It is also possible that Dustin didn’t care enough to keep his commitment (PO). Either way, discipline is still indicated.

Prevent the problem: When you split up a group in a large public place, cover all the angles in the meeting plan. Most importantly, make the details and the importance of the agreement are clear. (I once waited for my parents for over an hour at an amusement park. They were angry, until they realized they were at the wrong location. Now, I worry whenever I go places with my family or a large group and we split up.)

Acknowledge feelings, Set limits, and Redirect behavior: Dustin’s angry parents need take a sigh of relief and get in touch with their primary feelings—concern and worry—and give Dustin a big hug. Then they can ask, “Do you know what time it is? We were worried something happened to you! What happened?” Hopefully, Dustin will have a good reason for being so late. If he simply lost track of time, the parents can respectfully address their concerns after Dustin explains him-self. “It sounds like you were having a lot of fun and being on time wasn’t on your mind. I can understand that, but we were seriously worried.” Then they can problem solve.

Reveal discipline: The family should not separate again for awhile and use the experience in setting up future agreements.“If you want to go somewhere different the rest of this trip, one of us needs to be with you.”

  1. Susan, 14, was caught with drugs at school. The boy who set her up admits she was an innocent victim. (This situation happened to a graduate’s daughter. Fortunately, the mother had taken my parenting class and she and Susan were participating in the “Parents and Teens—Together” class at the time.)

Type of problem: In this situation, it’s PU. (See the Chapter 12 answer key for information on PO drug use.) The mother had talked with her about such a hypothetical situation, but neither she nor Susan ever dreamed something like this would really happen. The particular circumstances happened so fast, Susan felt confused and she waited too long, instead of immediately going to the principal herself.

Prevent the problem: Susan’s mother can show Susan unconditional love and support. She can give Susan credit for staying “straight” and doing the best she can to stay out of trouble. (The boy got her in trouble more than she got herself into it.) Most importantly, since the boy admitted she was an innocent participant, Susan’s mother can reassure her that she trusts her and believes her story.

Acknowledge feelings, Set limits, and Redirect behavior:Susan’s mother needs to do a lot of F-A-X listening and problem solving with Susan. She can recognize the predicament Susan felt when she was handed the bag and her fears about being referred to court. It is very important, however, that Susan’s mother not make excuses for her or “bail her out” of the situation. This is Susan’s problem. Mother’s responsibility is to help Susan work through her feelings and help her learn an important lesson from the experience.


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Reveal discipline: The police and court system are setting the consequences. Susan’s mother doesn’t need to add any other discipline. She can point out, in a matter-of-fact, friendly way, that when Susan made the decision not to report the drugs to the principal, she was taking the risk of getting caught, which is what happened. Now she must experience the results of that choice.

The mother in this situation did all these things. She told the principal, police, and judge about the parenting class and teen group she and Susan were attending. The judge understood Susan’s predicament, but the law is the law and he had to sentence her. He took all the factors into consideration and put Susan on probation until she was 16. Rather than sentencing her to jail time, he ordered her to do community service. Susan learned a rather hard, but important, lesson. Her mother was extremely grateful she had learned these parenting skills, because, she says, she would not have handled the situation nearly as helpfully had it happened before she took the parenting class.



When we use all the tools in The Parent’s Toolshop, we prevent problems and redirect them before they reach the point of needing discipline. Therefore, we usually don’t use the discipline tools daily. If this approach is different from what you have done in the past, you might start to punish, catch yourself, and adjust your response accordingly. Practice planning responses and choosing appropriate discipline, so you can respond quickly and effectively in the heat of the moment.

We have finished our tour of the Parent Problem Toolbox. We now have all the tools we need to prevent and effectively respond to problems. The last section, “Step D: Maintenance Toolbox,” details the last step in the parenting process—maintaining progress. The first chapter in that section is Chapter 14, “Family Council Toolset.” It details several council formats and offers a review of the tools we use when planning and holding family councils. Once we learn the basics, we can decide within our individual family the format that works best for our needs.



  1. For more information about the long-term consequences of spanking and other forms of corporal punishment (Some are quite surprising!), read Plain Talk About Spanking, published by PTAVE: Parents and Teachers Against Violence in Education. You can read this book, and dozens of other free articles about corporal punishment, on the Internet at www.nospank.org. You can also order a free sample copy by writing P.O. Box 1033, Alamo, CA 94507-7033 or calling (925) 831-1661. A donation is requested for bulk copies. 
  2. American Medical Association’s Archives of Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine (8/15/97). Re-search/report by Murray A. Straus, University of New Hampshire.
  3. Positive Discipline, by Jane Nelsen (Ballantine, 1987; Revised Edition, 1996). The “Four R’s of Punishment” were originally the “Three R’s of Punishment.” The third had two points, so I split them and changed the title to “Four R’s,” with the permission of Ms. Nelsen.
  4. The “Four R’s of Discipline” is a different title for Jane Nelsen’s “Four R’s of Consequences.” Logical consequences are just one discipline tool, but the “Four R’s of Discipline” apply to all discipline tools. Consequently, Ms. Nelsen gave me permission to expand on her original idea.
  5. For more information about time-outs, read Time Out: Abuses and Effective Uses, by Jane Nelsen and H. Stephen Glenn (Empowering People, Inc., 1992).