Infants, Toddlers, and Preschoolers. Parents of young children find that most of the problems they encounter are PU problems, due to the child’s immaturity and lack of skills. Parents need to be careful not to do too much for young children (taking over responsibility for a problem). Parents of infants and toddlers mostly use the Prevention Toolbox (Step A) and PU Toolset (Step C2). The Child Problem Toolbox (Step B) helps parents show empathy, teach children appropriate ways to express their feelings, and guide children to their own solutions. Use the following “rule of thumb” with young children.

Let toddlers help solve problems, moving gradually from small challenges to more difficult ones. When young children are close to solving a problem on their own, let them try and try again, offering skills, encouragement, and empathy at every step. 

“Tweens,” elementary school-aged children and preteens. Parents of tweens experience a variety of problem situations and use every tool in this book. As children mature, they have more ideas, opinions, and values of their own. It is important that they have increasing opportunities to practice making decisions and resolving different types of problems. Use the following “rule of thumb” with tweens.

As children mature, we want to use tools that help them resolve their own problems and involve them in generating ideas for resolving problems that affect us. 

Teens. Parents of teens need to work primarily from the Child Problem Toolbox (Step B). When parents are concerned about SHARP RV issues, they need to use open-ended questions (Child Problem Toolbox) to help teens realize on their own the potential problems or parents’ concerns. If potential mistakes are not serious or dangerous, let teens experience these trials and errors. These events, rather than a parent’s moral lectures and rescuing, will prepare teens for adulthood. Use the Child Problem Toolbox to help teens process the lessons they learn from these mistakes. We can handle most of the problems our teens encounter as either C or C/P problems. Use the following “rule of thumb” with teens.


76                                                                                        The Parent’s Toolshop


Let teens resolve problems independently whenever possible. Teach decision-making skills while offering supportive guidance. When problems affect the parent, involve teens in two-party problem solving, which will result in win/win solutions teens are willing to follow. 


Quick fixes often have negative long-term results. The Universal Blueprint offers a simple, reliable process for planning effective responses to problems that not only work in the short-run, but help us reach our long-term parenting goals. The hardest parts of using it are stopping to think, using the tools appropriately, and following through consistently until we see results.

In every problem situation, ask first, “What type of problem is this?” The logical thinking may be difficult now, but it will get easier the more you practice it.

A Parent’s Story to Her Class. I had an interesting experience after learning the Universal Blueprint last week. My twelve-year-old daughter never confides anything to me. This week she came home, upset about a problem with her friends at school. I stopped to think about what type of problem it was. I could tell the problem was a Child problem and knew I didn’t want to do what I always did—tell her what to do about the problem. I didn’t know exactly what to do, so I just listened. I said, “umm-hmm” and “I can see why you’d be upset by that.” To my surprise, she shared more with me than she ever had before! Although I haven’t learned exactly what to do at each step, the Universal Blueprint worked anyway!

At this point in the book, just practice stopping to think before you respond. Use the PASRR formula as best you can with your current level of knowledge and skills. Figure out what you are already doing that is effective and what doesn’t work. As you learn to use the individual tools, use them to replace those you’ve discarded. By the time you’ve finished the book, you will have many tools at your disposal. Soon, you will move through the decision-making process in a split second.


Chapter 3: The Universal Blueprint                                                             77


(Note to Web Readers: Pages 77-79 contain a landscape flowchart and two-page table. The book is a standard 8.5” x 11” letter-size page, so those visual aids can’t be replicated in this narrow blog space. Please see the pdf e-book for these visual aids. If you want to translate it into your language, let us know. We’ll give you the background graphic for it. Once translated, we can make that available as a pdf to others who read/speak that language. Thanks for understanding. )


80                                                                                         The Parent’s Toolshop


(Note to Reader: These practice exercises are what you have received by email. If you want them translated, you can read them here. Please answer the questions yourself before reading the “possible answers” that follow them.)



A. Sample Situations. Here are some common situations. For each, ask three questions:

  • What type of problem is this? (Use the six symbols)



No problem



Child problem



Parent problem



Parent problem, Unintentional misbehavior



Parent problem, “On Purpose” misbehavior



Part Child problem, part Parent problem. If it involves problem behavior, add the appropriate symbol: C/PU or C/PO.

  • Why? (How did you answer Questions 1 & 2 to identify the type of problem?)
  • What toolbox or toolsets can you use? Use the summary sheets in this chapter, the color poster, or the house diagram on the last page of the book to help you select the toolboxes and toolsets that are most appropriate. You don’t have to include specific tools or responses, since we haven’t learned them yet. After you give your answers, read the detailed answer key. It offers some specific suggestions and shows how some problems can be more than one type of problem, depending on the individual answers people might give to the three problem-identification questions (SHARP RV, PU or PO, etc.).
  1. Your daughter, 2, is grabbing another child’s toy, but won’t to share her toy.
  2. You are at a restaurant with your son, 4, waiting for your food. Your son is being loud and climbing around. It’s starting to bother the people around you.
  3. Your son, 7, delays getting ready in the morning.
  4. Your daughter, 8, says she feels left out at school.
  5. Surprise! An old childhood friend just called. He’s in town for the day and would like to drop in and visit. The house is a bit cluttered and you have a half hour to clean it up. Your children, ages 4, 9, and 13 are outside playing.
  6. Your daughter, 10, doesn’t want to set the table because she’s in the middle of a video game.
  7. Your daughter, 13, brought home a note from her teacher, saying she is missing three homework assignments. This is unusual, since she normally completes her work on time.
  8. Your son, 16, peels out of the driveway, squealing the car tires and speeding down the street.

B . Personal Application. List several problems you have experienced. Identify the problem type for each. Decide what toolbox or toolsets you could use next time. Notice if answering these questions offers insight to the real cause of the problem or a more effective way to respond.

C. Practice for Home. As problems arise at home or work, practice identifying the type of problem it is before responding. You can also observe others and how they handle problem situations. It’s easier to stay objective when you aren’t emotionally involved. When you see others experiencing a problem, decide what type of problem it is and which toolbox or toolsets you would use. Don’t judge others or interfere. It is their problem and they are probably responding the best they can with the knowledge and skills they have. (The only exception is if you witness child abuse, which you should immediately report.) Practice the PASRR steps in your mind in case you ever have to respond to a similar situation.


Chapter 3: The Universal Blueprint                                                             81


Detailed Answers

Look at the poster, flow chart, or two-page table to see the logic in the following answers. As we go through the individual toolsets, you will learn about the tools that are mentioned in the answers.

1. Your daughter, 2, is grabbing another child’s toy, but won’t to share her toy.

Type of Problem: C/PU

Why? Your daughter wants something she can’t have and doesn’t want to share or trade her toy (the Child part of the problem). Several SHARP RV issues are present (the Parent part of the problem): Grabbing is inappropriate behavior that violates the other child’s rights and family rules or values. Since the child is immature, she doesn’t understand or have the skills to share properly (PU). Although this behavior is considered “normal” for children this age, it should not be excused.

What toolbox or toolsets can you use?

          StepaA:  Prevent the problem by closely supervising and guiding young children. Allow them to have some toys they don’t have to share. Let them put away these toys before playing with other children. Encourage young children to “parallel play,” playing independently near each other. Teach sharing skills, such as asking permission to borrow toys, trading toys for ones she wants, and taking turns. Don’t expect young children to make progress quickly. It takes time for their skills and maturity to develop. When property disputes arise, continue the PASRR process.
          Stepa Acknowledge the child’s desire to play with the other child’s toy.
          StepaC1:  Set limits and express your rule or value about sharing, while taking the next step.
          StepaC2:  Redirect the behavior by teaching the skills and exact words she can say, “If you want that toy, you need to say ‘May I please have . . .’ or ‘Can we trade toys?’”
          StepaC3:  Reveal the outcome of grabbing or not sharing toys: one or both children will be upset and have hurt feelings. If she can’t share, she may need to play elsewhere.
2. You are at a restaurant with your son, 4, waiting for your food. Your son is being loud and climbing around. It’s starting to bother the people around you.

Type of Problem: C/PU or C/PO

Why?   Your son is bored and hungry (C). His inappropriate behavior is interfering with other people’s rights (P). At four, children often fall apart when hungry or still lack good manners (PU). If he can usually handle being hungry and bored, but is trying to get attention, it is intentional misbehavior (PO).

What toolbox or toolsets can you use?

          StepaA: Prevent or respond to this problem by using the Cooperation Toolset. Tell children what they can do while they wait, offering choices within limits. Use the Independence Toolset to teach manners, public behavior skills, and how to entertain oneself. Do activities with them, instead of reading a paper and ignoring them. If there aren’t any activities, flip over the paper placemat and take turns drawing pictures, letters or words and guessing what they are. Play tic-tac-toe or connect the dots.
          Step  B:  Acknowledge the child’s boredom or hunger. Recognize the difficulty in keeping quiet and still for a long time. (You can take this step first, if you choose.)
          StepaC1:  If you do these first two steps and the problem continues, quickly Set limits, “When we are in a restaurant, we need to be quiet so other people can enjoy their dinner.”
          StepaC2:  Decide whether the behavior is intentional and use the appropriate toolset to Redirect the negative behavior. Take a walk, look at paintings on the wall, or trees outside as a distraction.


82                                                                                        The Parent’s Toolshop


          StepaC3: When misbehavior is severe or previous attempts fail, it’s time for action (Reveal discipline). Temporarily leave the room or restaurant. Go to the parking lot or car. (There are several ways this action could escalate the situation, so there are step-by-step guidelines in Chapter 13, “Discipline Toolset.”) If you leave completely, you are violating your right to occasionally eat out. If it comes to this, as it might, go alone next time. 

3. Your son, 7, delays getting ready in the morning.

Type of Problem: NO, PU, or PO, depending on your answers.

Why? It is a NO problem if you don’t need to go somewhere or have a flexible schedule. It is a PU problem if you need to go somewhere, but the child is still learning the skills to perform his morning routine. It is a PO problem if you are in a rush and your child is skilled and mature enough to understand and perform his morning routine, but is purposefully delaying.

What toolbox or toolsets can you use?

If it is a NO problem:

StepaA:  Use only the Prevention Toolbox. Allow more time in the morning, plan the night before, offer choices, or make requests in positive words. Teach skills and offer encouragement for his efforts. 

 If it is a PU problem: 

StepaA:  Prevent the problem with the Prevention Toolbox (same as above). Step B: Acknowledge the difficulty of doing so many tasks in a short time. Step C1: If necessary, Set time limits and state your concerns.


Acknowledge the difficulty of doing so many tasks in a short time.


If necessary, Set time limits and state your concerns.

StepaC2:  Redirect the behavior by teaching skills and/or structure the environment, such as rearranging the order of the routine.

If it is a PO problem:

StepaA:  Use the Prevention Toolbox first.
StepaB:  Acknowledge that the child doesn’t want to wear particular clothes. Step C1: If necessary, Set limits and describe your expectations and feelings.
StepaC2: If the child resists, use the PO Toolset to identify the purpose. It could be attention, to keep you involved or power, to exert independence and control in the situation. Redirect the misbehavior by helping him accomplish this goal in a positive way.
StepaC3: If this is not enough, Reveal the natural consequences that will occur. (Children can go hungry, but not naked!)

4. Your daughter, 8, says she feels left out at school.

Type of Problem: C

Why?  Although you certainly care about what your child experiences at school, it doesn’t involve any SHARP RV issues. (She isn’t violating anyone’s rights). If others are violating her rights, this is a problem for her (a Child problem). It’s important for children to learn how to handle such situations on their own and work through their feelings of rejection. If you solve these problems for  children or offer solutions, they might not feel understood or capable of solving the problem.

What toolbox or toolsets can you use?

          StepaB:  Acknowledge your daughter’s feelings of rejection and hurt. Use F-A-X Listening and problem solving (the Child Problem Toolbox) to empathize and explore options for how she can prevent or deal with the problem at school. At any point in the conversation, you can offer encouragement and teach skills (Step A: Prevent the problem from starting or worsening.)
5. Surprise! An old childhood friend just called. He’s in town for the day and is visiting in a half an hour. The house is a bit cluttered and your children, ages 4, 9, and 13 are outside playing.


Chapter 3: The Universal Blueprint                                                             83


Type of Problem: NO or P, depending on your values.

Why? If you don’t care whether your house is cluttered when company visits, this is a NO problem. Go fix some iced tea. If you want the house to be clean, that’s your issue. Since you were not already planning to clean, you could choose, in this situation, not to ask your children for help. Normally, household duties are the family’s responsibility and it violates your rights to do all the work. If you choose to ask for help, plan a helpful way to gain their cooperation, which will prevent a power struggle.

What toolbox or toolsets can you use?

          StepaB: Acknowledge their needs and perspective up front. “I see you are all having a lot of fun.”
          StepaC1: Explain the problem and own your issues. “An old friend will be here in a half hour. We should have cleaned the house already and some of the messes aren’t mine, so I’d like everyone to pitch in.”
          Step A: Add one last sentence (from the Cooperation Toolset) to prevent resistance. “If we all work together we could get it done in 20 minutes. You can go right back to playing when we are done.”

If they still resist or complain, they have a problem (C/P).

          StepaB: Shift back to the Child Problem Toolbox, “I know, it really isn’t fair that I’m asking you to do this on such short notice. I feel bad interrupting you when you’re having so much fun.”
          StepaC1:  “It also isn’t fair if I clean up other people’s messes.”
          Step A: Don’t get stuck in a back and forth negotiation; the clock is ticking. Use your creativity and the Prevention Toolbox to move forward. “We don’t have to dust, mop, or vacuum. All you need to do is pick up stuff and put it in your rooms. Let’s play music and see how much we can get done.”

★   Did you notice we didn’t go PASRR this time? In this situation, we knew the children would probably resist, so we tried to prevent a power struggle by acknowledging their feelings first. Since we can use the Prevention Toolbox any time, this was the most flowing way to say what we wanted to say.

6. Your daughter, 10, doesn’t want to set the table because she’s in the middle of a video game.

Type of problem: C/PO 

Why?  The parent cares that the table needs to be set. There is not much time flexibility, and it would violate the parent’s rights to do all the work for a family dinner. The child’s problem (the smaller, but not less important part) is that she is still playing her game.

What toolbox or toolsets can you use?

          StepaA:  Prevent the problem by planning ahead.
          Step  B:  Use the Child Problem Toolbox to Acknowledge her perspective. “I see you’re in the middle of your game . . .”
          Step C1:  Use the Clear Communication Toolset (Parent Problem Toolbox) to Set limits and state your needs. “. . . but the table needs to be set in five minutes.”
          Step C2:  Use the PO Toolset (“On purpose” misbehavior) to Redirect a power struggle, offering choices within limits. “You can either pause the game or turn it off. It’s your choice.”
          StepaC3:  If she doesn’t come in five minutes, Reveal discipline. Either the child can turn off the computer or the parent can. The child’s behavior will show her choice. (Remember, don’t move to discipline, unless you present it as a choice. If you don’t, it will turn the discipline into a power play.)
7. Your daughter, 13, brought home a note from her teacher, saying she is missing three homework assignments. This is unusual, since she normally completes her work on time.

Type of Problem: C

Why? Homework is her responsibility and this problem is between her and the teacher (C/T?). Naturally, the parent will be concerned and want to discuss the problem with the child. Since


84                                                                                        The Parent’s Toolshop


this is a Child problem, the parent must keep the ball in her court and hold her accountable for the solution. If this were an ongoing problem, then it would violate rules or values (C/P).

What toolbox or toolsets can you use?

In Child problems, we only use the Prevention and Child Problem Toolboxes. Ask a few helpful questions, pausing between each, to listen respectfully to her answers. “What happened?” “How do you plan to make up this work?” (No blaming or criticizing!) Use problem solving to finalize the details of her plan. Express faith in her ability to handle this situation promptly.

8. Your son, 16, peels out of the driveway, squealing the car tires and speeding down the street.

Type of Problem: PO

Why? Who cares about speeding? Probably not the teen. Since the behavior endangers safety (SHARP RV), it is a Parent problem. Although taking risks is a common developmental behavior of teens, this teen is aware of the laws and rules regarding driving. (He did pass a driving exam to have the privilege of driving.) This makes the misbehavior intentional, “On purpose.”

What toolbox or toolsets can you use? 

          StepaA:  Prevent the problem from worsening or happening again by planning a helpful response. Express faith in the teen’s ability to be a safe driver and describe his past efforts.
          Step B:  Acknowledge the teen’s natural desire to experiment with the thrill of speeding (or wanting to impress his friends). Then listen carefully to the teen’s perspective; it will reveal the purpose of the misbehavior.
          StepaC1:  Set limits and state your concerns about the dangers of speeding and his agreement to abide by the driving laws. Focus on driving being a privilege. To have the privilege, one must show responsibility. Get agreements for the conditions of maintaining the privilege. Avoid lecturing. Be ready to shift gears between the Clear Communication Toolset (Step C1) and the Child Problem Toolbox (Step B).






Step C2: 

Redirect the behavior by identifying the purpose behind it. Is the child speeding to impress his friends (attention) or to prove he has power? If we listen effectively, he will give us the clues to know the difference. When problem solving, brainstorm more appropriate ways to meet this purpose.
          StepaC3:  Reveal the effects of violating the driving laws by building discipline into your agreements. If he chooses to speed or drive dangerously, he is showing he is not ready for the privilege of driving. He will be temporarily giving up his driving privileges or could be forced to give them up by getting a speeding ticket. Should it happen again, follow through, reminding the teen that his behavior and the resulting effects are his choice. 



Let the information from this chapter sink in for a week and then read the next chapter. Observe the world around you. Practice identifying problems and rehearsing the PASRR formula flow in your mind.

The rest of the book teaches us the tools we need to meet our third mission goal: DELIVER it [the response] effectively. Beginning with the next chapter, we will go through each step of the Universal Blueprint and explain exactly how to use each individual tool available at that step.

When you are ready to start learning about specific tools and how to use them, begin your tour of the toolsets with the next chapter, Chapter 4, “Self-Esteem Toolset.” We discuss unconditional love, seeing the positive side of every situation, comparisons and competition, internal and external motivation, and how to handle mistakes (ours and our children’s). We learn the special language of descriptive encouragement, which builds self-esteem without unintentionally pressuring or discouraging our children.