You’ve probably figured out by now that there are a gazillion problems that can pop up when you’re parenting. Isn’t it overwhelming to think that you must be prepared for any possible challenge, since you never know what kids are going to do? 

Plus, the pressure increases when you realize that if you don’t handle the situation well, then it won’t get solved, will probably happen again, or could even get worse!

To make matters even more confusing, when you finally feel like you’ve figured things out, your child leaps to another developmental stage. What you used to do might no longer work!

Some people believe that they have to parent each child differently, because each child is unique. Some people think they have to use different tools, based on the age or personality of the child. With either approach, you have to keep track of each individual plan, which would be inconsistent from child to child! That’s a lot of work!

Other people think there is one universal solution to each parenting problem. For example, “If a child is throwing a tantrum, just ignore it.” Ever tried that? It rarely works! In fact, ignoring it often makes it worse! (Read an article about tantrums that explains why — because there are four types of tantrums — and what to do to respond helpfully to each type.)

Is it any wonder you are feeling overwhelmed, confused, and insecure about whether you are doing the right thing?

Well here’s the good news. None of the above beliefs are true.

First, while it’s true that each child is unique, and you do want to choose a response based on your child’s age, needs, etc., you can actually use the same parenting style and tools and plan for all children — which are all part of The Universal Blueprint® Formula for Parenting Success.

Just follow a consistent plan that uses a Balanced style, answering three simple questions and choosing the best tools (there are 150) for that child or situation.  Voila! You get a custom-designed solution that fits your needs perfectly.

Today you’re going to learn the three key questions to ask yourself and tomorrow you’ll learn a formula for planning an effective response to any parenting challenge.

By having a plan you can trust, you will:

  • Know three questions to ask yourself to know what type of problem you are facing, which helps you choose the most effective tool for the job, which gets the best results possible.
  • Know five steps to take for an effective parenting response.
  • See the “path” you want to be on and your options at each step along that path.
  • Know which steps to take in your response and what order to take the steps, so you get maximum results from the tools.
  • Have dozens of effective tools at your disposal, so you’ll be more patient and get less frustrated.
  • Stay level-headed and organized, instead of randomly and frantically trying tools, because you have a reliable, step-by-step plan for choosing the most helpful response to any situation.
  • Know what you can do to reach a positive solution.

The Three Questions to Ask and Know How to Answer

While there might be a gazillion individual situations or possible misbehaviors, each situation will actually fit within one of 8* problem “types” or categories.

Now, do you think you can learn how to identify and solve eight types of problems? Of course you can. Feel the pressure easing already?

Remember the mission you committed to in Lesson 3?

Whenever there is a problem, you will:

STOP and THINK for 1-10 seconds,

PLAN an effective response and

DELIVER it effectively

In the first step of this mission, use those 1-10 seconds to ask yourself up to three questions to figure out the cause of the problem. That, in turn, helps you plan the most effective response.

Question 1. When problems arise, break them into their smallest parts. For each part, ask, “Is this a Child problem or a Parent problem?”

  • “Parent” problems will involve at least one of the following issues: Safety, Health, Appropriate behavior, Rights, Property, Rules or Values, which we’ll call “SHARP RV issues.”
  • “Child” problems” don’t involve any of the SHARP RV issues and usually involve at least one of the following: Peers, Emotions, Siblings or School, which we’ll call “PESS issues.”

Question 2. If there is Problem behavior, ask “Is it Unintentional or On purpose?” We’ll call Problem behavior that’s Unintentional “PU problems,” because they result from an accident or a child’s lack of skills. The child may not have learned or mastered skills due to his or her age, developmental stage, personality, or a medical or psychological condition.

If the child’s behavior is not a result of any of these factors and the child has consistently shown mastery of appropriate behavior skills, but deliberately misbehaves, it is Problem behavior that’s On purpose misbehavior, which we call “PO problems.”

Remember the difference between PU and PO with these simple analogies.

  • PU reminds us of something stinky, like a dirty diaper. Situations, such as toilet training accidents, are frustrating, but a normal part of development. They are Problem behavior but are Unintentional.
  • PO problems involve Problem behavior that seems to be On purpose. When children misbehave deliberately, how do you feel? P.O.’d. (That’s Peeved Off, if you want to stay G-rated!)

Question 3. If the Problem behavior is “On purpose,” ask “what is the purpose?” This is a multiple-choice question with four possible answers. Children want:

  1. Attention,
  2. Power,
  3. Revenge, or they are
  4. Giving up


You’ll get guidelines for answering this third question in the Misbehavior Toolbox lessons. For now, figure out what the child gets from the behavior, then show him/her how to get that through appropriate behavior.

It’s important to answer these three questions based on that child at that second in time. You might answer the questions differently for different children. One minute, it could be one type of problem, the next minute it could change — the most common time this happens is when parents react to PU misbehavior, giving it an unintentional payoff, so the child repeats the behavior on purpose (PO).

To remember the 3 questions, watch a video (3:51 min) that will teach you hand signals. By building on what you just read with a video you see, hear and can move with, it will ingrain these in your brain in a fun, memorable way.

The Eight Problem Types

Here’s a quick summary of the symbols and names we’ll use for these eight problem “types”:

Symbol Type of problem & Description
1 NO No problem: There is No problem or a problem could develop.
2 C Child problem: The Child has a problem.
3 P Parent problem: The Parent has a problem that does not involve misbehavior.
4 PU The Parent problem involves Problem behavior that is Unintentional
5 PO for Attention The Parent problem involves Problem behavior that seems to be “On purpose,” for the goal of Attention
6 PO for Power The Parent problem involves Problem behavior that seems to be “On purpose,” for the goal of Power.
7 PO for Revenge The Parent problem involves Problem behavior that seems to be “On purpose,” for the goal of Revenge.
8 PO for Giving Up The Parent problem involves Problem behavior that seems to be “On purpose,” for the goal of Giving Up.

While not a separate problem type, you can also experience more than one problem type at a time, so we’ll call these C/P Combination problems: part Child problem and part Parent problem

Symbol Type of problem & Description
C/P A Child problem and Parent problem that does not involve misbehavior.
C/PU A Child problem and Parent problem involving Problem behavior that’s Unintentional.
C/PO A Child problem and Parent problem involving Problem behavior that’s On purpose, either Attention, Power, Revenge or Giving up.

When a problem arises, ask these 3 questions to reveal the root cause of the problem. That gets you on the right path to plan a helpful response, which you’ll learn how to do tomorrow.


 1.  Observe your child and other children. When conflicts or problems arise, stop for 1-10 seconds and ask the three questions:

a.  Is this a Child problem or a Parent problem?

b.  If there’s Problem behavior, is it Unintentional or On purpose?

c.  If the Problem behavior is “On purpose,” what is the purpose?


See if identifying the problem “type” helps you get on the path that leads to a helpful response. Feel free to email your insights and experiences to us at And if you get stumped by a situation, unsure what type of problem it is, definitely post to that forum or participate in a Gold Member group coaching call. I can give you some quick tips and support until identifying problems becomes second nature and it takes literally split seconds to do.

 2.  If you haven’t already done so, go read Chapter 1 of The Parents Toolshop: The Universal Blueprint for Building a Healthy Family.  It will give you an overview of the Universal Blueprint®. If you don’t have your own copy of the book, you can still read this chapter for free by clicking that link.

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

  • Read an article about tantrums that explains why and what to do instead.
  • Read Chapter 1 of The Parents Toolshop for an overview of the Universal Blueprint®.
  • To remember the 3 questions, watch the video (3:51 min) that will teach you hand signals.


*If you have read The Parent’s Toolshop® book, it says there are 6 problem types: NO, C, P, PU, PO and C/P. Then in the PO section it explains the 4 goals of PO misbehavior. Everything in that book is still accurate; I am just counting them differently here, to include the 4 goals of PO behavior and not counting combo problems since they are not unique problem types.