The Parents Toolshop® Guidebook:
5 Easy Steps To Effectively Respond to Any Parenting Challenge

The Misbehavior Toolbox

  • The PU Toolset
    Chapter 24: Just Because You’ve Told Them A Million Times, It Doesn’t Mean They Know Better
  • The PO Toolset
    Chapter 25: Why Kids Misbehave and How to Prevent and Stop It
    Chapter 26: Practice Redircting Misbehavior
  •  The Discipline Toolset
    Chapter 27: How to Have Self-Disciplined Children Without Being the Bad Guy
    Chapter 28: The Myths of Timeouts and Why They Aren’t Even a Discipline Tool


The Prevention Toolbox, Child Problems Toolbox, and Parent Problems Toolbox chapters covered the first three steps of the PASRR formula:

        Preventing problems from starting or worsening, using the Prevention Toolbox.

       Acknowledge the child’s feelings, using the Child Problem Toolbox.

       Set limits and/or express concerns, using the Parent Problem Toolbox:   Keep Your Cool and Clear Communication Toolsets.

In The Misbehavior Toolbox chapters you will learn how to respond to misbehavior by taking the next step in the “PASRR” formula:

       Redirect misbehavior.

 If you recall the three questions you learned to identify problem “types” from the Foundation Building Toolbox chapters, you’ll remember there are two types of misbehavior. This lesson and the next look at each type of misbehavior and how to effectively respond to each. 

Since all misbehavior is an issue of “Appropriateness” (the “A” in the SHARP RV issues), all misbehavior is a Parent problem, so you have already answered Question #1, “Is this problem a Child problem or Parent problem?”

To answer Question #2, “If there is Problem behavior, is it ‘Unintentional’ or ‘On purpose,’” answer the following question:

If you answer “No,” because any one of the following issues is preventing the child from mastering the skills, you are seeing Unintentional misbehavior (PU = Problem behavior that’s Unintentional).

1.    The behavior is the result of the child’s immaturity or developmental stage. (Get a free excerpt from The Parent’s Toolshop® book if you aren’t familiar with what behavior to expect at different developmental stages.)

  • Style of Development: Children can learn skills all-at-once or one-at-a-time. They can be trial-and-error or wait-and-do learners. Respect your child’s learning style.
  • Rate of Development: Children develop at their own pace. Avoid comparisons to other children. Look at age ranges to determine if your child is on track.
  • Developmental delays: Chronologic age determines physiological expectations (i.e., when puberty will likely start). If a child’s “functional” age, as in “he functions at a four-year-old level,” is different from the child’s chronological age, the child’s abilities or skill mastery determines the behavior you can realistically expect.

 Some examples would be two-year-olds not sharing (because they don’t understand ownership yet), a school-age child picking up inappropriate language at school, or a teen who wants to dress or do their hair in a very unique way (because they are individuating).

2.    The behavior is part of the child’s personality or temperament.

This is how children’s brains are “wired,” so it can take longer for the child to master a skill that “doesn’t come naturally.” You can help your children use their temperament in positive ways and learn skills for managing any difficulties the temperament presents.

Some examples are children who are energetic, determined, easily overwhelmed, easily distracted, have difficulty making transitions, have irregular body rhythms, need to move, or analytical and serious. 

3.    There is a medical condition influencing the child’s self-control.

Teach children skills to compensate for any difficulties their medical condition poses. Have realistic expectations that it will likely take them longer to learn and master new skills. Depending on the condition, they might never be able to learn or master certain skills. You will still want to use all the proven-effective parenting tools in The Parent’s Toolshop® plan and get information about additional tools that are particularly helpful for that medical condition. Usually, those skills will be compatible with those you learn here.

Examples can be something as mild being cranky due to  teething or an earache to clinically diagnosed disorders (with a variety of initials such as ADD, ADHD, OCD, RAD) that have behavioral symptoms.

4.    It is an accident. Use simple terms to explain how to prevent the problem in the future. Hold the child accountable for fixing the problem, if appropriate.

5.    The child lacks the information to know better or has not mastered the skills, but there is no barrier (like the previous four reasons) affecting the child’s ability to learn. The child just needs more information or practice.  

Here are three important points about identifying PU misbehavior:

  1. When in doubt, assume it’s PU. Teach skillsstarstarstarstarstar. The child’s reaction to your response will show whether the behavior is deliberate or not.
  2. Even if you’ve “told them a million times,” it does not mean children “know better.” Until children master a skill, PU behavior can occur. We still need to address the behavior, not excuse it. Knowing it’s PU reminds you to teach skillsstarstarstarstarstar as part of your response.
  3. A particular misbehavior is either PU or PO. It can’t be both at the same time. The same behavior (cussing, for example) can be PU one minute and PO the next. If a parent rewards the PU behavior (with attention in this example, even negative attention), a child may repeat it later on purpose (PO). The first time this behavior occurred, it was PU. Then, because of the reaction it got, it “mutated” into PO behavior. 

Responding effectively to PU behavior early on
can prevent it from turning into PO behavior later.

 The PASRR Formula

 Here are some suggestions for applying the PASRR formula to PU behavior:

 Prevent the problem by teaching skills. “When people want ___, they (teach skillsstarstarstarstarstar). You can (offer choices).” Offer descriptive encouragement as they try to improve — even if they fall short of the mark at first.

 When PU behavior occurs:

Acknowledge children’s feelings or perspective. “I can see you want/feel ______.”

Set limits or express concerns. State concerns in positive simple words.

Redirect PU behavior.

    When appropriate and not dangerous, ignore the behavior. Simply not giving it undue attention can prevent it from changing into PO behavior.

    Offer an acceptable alternative they can use to get what they want.

    Distract by redirecting the child’s attention or by changing the focus or subject. This is a temporary solution, but in some situations, all you need is to “get through it.”

    Use Environmental Engineering to control situations, not the child. If we try to control the child, we can get into power struggles, which turn PU behavior into PO behavior. A classic example is childproofing a room.

    Target PU behaviors and plan a strategy. Young children often display many PU behaviors and can’t learn and master all the skills at once. Prioritize only a few behaviors to work on. As they gain mastery in those, then target a few more.

Once you master the tools in the PU Toolset, you will:

  • Know, within seconds, why a child is misbehaving and what to do, using skills you already daily.
  • Recognize when issues shift in the middle of a situation. You will follow the flow and maintain the most effective response, second-by-second.
  • Avoid reactions that give an accidental payoff and cause the misbehavior to repeat.
  • Prevent and stop:
    • Annoying, irritating attention-seeking behaviors.
    • Power struggles, defiance, testing limits, and manipulative mind games.
    • Destructive revenge cycles that can destroy relationships.
    • Children from giving up out of deep discouragement and feeling incapable.
    • Lying, sneaking, dishonesty.
  • Have children who:
    • Feel like important, contributing members of the family and society.
    • Assert their independence in positive ways and are not overly obsessed with controlling others.
    • Know how to heal hurt feelings and broken relationships — and prevent them in the first place!
    • Feel capable, self-motivated, willing to try and view mistakes as opportunities to learn.
  • Know how to use even “basic” tools in advanced ways to get maximum results.

With either PU or PO behavior, you may take the next step, Reveal Discipline, to hold the child accountable for their behavior. Let’s finish discussing this step, with the next lesson, then we’ll move on to Discipline. We’re almost there!


  1. Consider a problematic behavior your child has now or has shown in the past.
  2. Identify whether this behavior is PU or PO.
  3. If you think it is sometimes PU and sometimes PO, identify what seems to make the difference. Is the child getting a payoff for the PU behavior and repeating it deliberately?
  4. If or when the behavior is PU, plan an effective response that follows the PASRR formula. Think about what skill the child needs to learn/master. Incorporate teaching skills into your response. If/When it happens again, plan which of the above tools you want to use.
  5. Feel free to share your plans with others in the comment section below and get their ideas and feedback. Then be sure to share your results!

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

  • Read an excerpt from The Parent’s Toolshop book on what behavior to expect at different developmental stages.

 The next chapter will show you how to identify and effectively respond to PO behavior.