The Toolbox

1, 2, 3 Transition

Transitions are difficult for some children. This tool helps children make difficult transitions and maintain a sense of control which reduces conflict. Determine what needs to be done and make the child aware of it. Tell them what they may control in the situation if they cooperate with you by the time you count to 3. Tell them what you will do specifically if they do not cooperate. Then count to 3 slowly, allowing your child time to cooperate. If they wait until you get to 3 that’s fine, this is not a punishment. As they mature you will find yourself receiving faster cooperation. Example: Many parents have difficulty gaining cooperation with a toddler at diaper changing time and this turns into a power struggle. I told my toddler that if he would lay down by the time I got to 3 then he could decide *where* we would do our diaper change. It didn’t matter to me where he chose, as long as it was safe. If he couldn’t cooperate by the time I got to 3, however, I would choose where we did the diaper change. On the rare occasion he lacked the self control to stop himself and choose a place I would simply pick him up, lay him down, and change his diaper. He might still struggle but this was more out of his inability to stop himself than anything else. If he had the ability to stop at that time he would have. More than anything this tool got us working together so that the struggles were cut down to the bare minimum.

5 Minute Warnings

This is another tool for transitions and helps prepare children for upcoming changes. You might offer this warning 5 minutes before it’s time to clean up, leave the park or sit down to dinner. Simply announce, “Five minutes until . . . ” If transitions are especially difficult for your child you may wish to offer 3 and 1 minute warnings also. When I give this warning I hold up my hand with five fingers up and eventually I can get my children’s attention across a crowded playground, show them my hand, and they nod to me and say, “Five minutes.”

The following tools were created or adapted by Joanne Davidson whose discipline site is on my links page:


When your child is having very big feelings this is a great, physical, way to help her express her feelings. Angry dances, happy dances, sad dances . . . these can all be done in the home or the car as well as anywhere you may find yourself. What better way to turn around a tearful leaving of the park then for the entire family to bop down the road doing an angry dance.



Art is not only a medium for expressing feelings but it is the precursor to language. Help your child express his feelings by asking him to draw his anger or show you his happiness. Feelings can be conveyed by color, shape, and tone. This can be especially helpful for children who have difficulty finding the perfect words to express their feelings.