Welcome to chapter 21!

Here’s where we are in the Universal Blueprint® Problem-Solving System / PASRR Formula:

If you read The Prevention Toolbox and Child Problems Toolbox chapters of the Parents Toolshop® Guidebook,  you’ve already learned how to:

Prevent Problems from starting or worsening, with the Prevention Toolbox: Cooperation Toolset

Acknowledge the child’s feelings, with the Child Problem Toolbox: F-A-X Listening Toolset

in the Parent Problems toolset you will to learn how to:

Set limits and express concerns, with the Parent Problem Toolbox: Clear Communication Toolset 

Remember Deanice, the Reactive parent from chapter 3? She and her daughter, Taylor, often ended up in shouting matches, because her daughter would ignore her, defy her, or argue over every little issue. Deanice complained that before the class she had to repeat herself constantly — and usually got louder and angrier each time.

About halfway through the T.I.P.S. class, when Deanice learned how to keep her cool and communicate assertively, Taylor didn’t know how to react. She actually got more angry. Deanice would take a deep breath and count to 10. Then she’d tell Taylor calmly what her concern(s) were. If Taylor escalated, Deanice would say she was willing to listen when Taylor was willing to talk calmly. Then Deanice would sometimes leave the room to calm down.

Taylor later told her grief therapist she was angry because Deanice wouldn’t argue with her anymore. Taylor had a lot of anger and always took it out on her mom. Now her mom wasn’t reacting anymore. She admitted she liked the change in her mother, but didn’t know what to do instead.

Deanice and the therapist taught Taylor what to do with her anger and how to express her concerns calmly and assertively. Taylor and Deanice both worked on their skills and agreed to support each other. Within a week or so, they were no longer arguing.

 A month after the class ended (two months after they learned the skills), Deanice reported that she and Taylor were still not arguing. She said they had learned how to find win/win solutions through F-A-X Listening and the communication tools below.

 Have you ever heard the term “parent deafness”? Parents often claim their children have this affliction because they have to keep repeating themselves before children listen. If you’ve ever thought to yourself or even said to your child, “How many times have I told you….” you’ve likely experienced “parent deafness.”

“Parent deafness” often results when parents repeat themselves, tell children what they already know, or lecture on and on. Also, if parents threaten or blame, children stop listening and start thinking about how to defend themselves.

 If you want children to listen the first time you say something, use one or more of these tools:

(By the way, if you purchased the audio in yesterday’s lesson (Day 20), you’ll hear this information there. If you didn’t, you can get a free sample featuring just the Clear Communication section of the presentation.)

  1.  Adjust your attitude before opening your mouth. For any of the following tools to work, you must express them in ways that are both kind and firm. Watch your tone of voice and body language, so you don’t accidentally send hidden messages of criticism and blame.
  2.  Always acknowledge the child’s feelings or perspective first before sharing your feelings, opinions, or concerns. This opens the door to communication and reduces defensiveness. It reveals the true underlying issue. If we resolve this issue first, their behavior often changes, which might automatically resolve our concerns and feelings.
  3. Describe the behavior without blaming or judging. Avoid the word “you” if at all possible. For example, instead of saying, “When you write on the wall …” say “When I see writing on the wall …” By removing the finger-pointing, children don’t feel defensive and are actually more willing to look at their behavior or change it. It is also actually more accurate, because you’d probably have a concern no matter who did what they did.
  4. Own your feelings. Say, “I feel worried …” instead of “You make me worry …” Don’t give your personal power to others by saying they can make you feel something. No matter what another person does, we choose our interpretations and feelings about the event. Also avoid overusing “mad,” upset” or “angry.” Remember that anger is a secondary emotion. This means that before you felt angry, you felt a primary emotion, like frustration, concern, or pressure. Use that feeling word to get at the real issue and your true feelings.
  5. Avoid guilt trips. Avoid words like “embarrassed” and “disappointed”. Children interpret “You embarrassed me …” as “You are an embarrassment to me …” Saying “I’m disappointed in you …” is a guilt trip that damages self-esteem. If children change their behavior out of guilt, rather than learning the value of good behavior, the change may not last, but their feelings of being a “bad” person will.
  6. Use non-verbal signals. Children tend to respond well to facial expressions and hand gestures if they are respectful and we explain the codes ahead of time. These signals spare children the embarrassment of being corrected in front of others. Children are so grateful they reward our behavior by cooperating!
  7. Give information. Short explanations help children figure out how to avoid a problem in the future. For example, saying, “Milk spoils when it is left out” or, “Wet towels grow mold” are quick, effective ways to state your concerns that give information children can use later.
  8. Use one word. When a request is this short, children don’t have time to tune you out! For example, when a child repeatedly leaves the bathroom light on, just say, “Light!” instead of nagging. Never use the child’s name as the word; make sure it relates to the behavior you want to see.
  9. Devise Code Words. These are one-word reminders that a parent and child agree on privately before a problem arises. The word has special meaning to them, but means nothing to others. For example, “fuzzy pickle” can be a code word for “get your finger out of your nose.” Code words are quick, respectful reminders that prevent children from being embarrassed and prevent us from nagging, which causes parent deafness.
  10. Write a note. When you are too upset to speak, want to add some humor to your statements, or if you won’t be around when your child needs to get a message, write a note or draw a picture. For example, if a child forgets to feed the dog before watching TV, put a sign on the TV that has a picture of a dog and bowl, a crossed-out TV and the words “Feed me before TV!”

All of these techniques involve fewer words than lecturing — but using them involves planning your words. If you add up the time you could spend nagging, yelling, lecturing and correcting, you could invest that time in thinking of more effective things to say that will get better results faster.

Once you master these ten “tactful talking tool” you will:

  • Have children who don’t tune you out. They listen to and understand your feelings, perspective and concerns.
  • Have children who understand and abide by your rules and expectations, even if they disagree with them.
  • Avoid accidentally sending hidden or contradictory messages with your attitude, body language, tone of voice, words or actions.
  • Have children who express their opinions and concerns respectfully, without smart-aleck, sassy attitudes.
  • Become assertive and not be a doormat or bully. You will get what you want because you know how to communicate your needs in ways your children can hear.
  • Have fewer mis-communications and resulting conflicts
  • Get your point across with only one word — or none! You will see fewer rolling eyes and closed ears on children. Children are so happy you spare them a lecture they reinforce your behavior by listening!
  • Have children who seek win/win solutions — even to problems that only bother you!
  • Have the communication skills you need to improve any relationship, including spouses (or other partners), relatives, friends, colleagues, bosses, or employees.

If you have already taken the first two steps of the PASRR formula in the past (Prevention tools and Acknowledge feelings), you can take this step next. You aren’t skipping the other steps, simply picking up where you left off. Give only one or two reminders or you are still nagging — just with different words. If the problem continues, move to the next step, “Redirect misbehavior,” which you’ll learn in the next lesson.


  1.  What is something you lecture about or seem to have to give repeated reminders?
  2. Choose one or more of the skills above and plan how you will respond next time. Be sure to share your results in the comment section below!

Here is a list of the recommended resources in this lesson:


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