10 Simple Parenting Tips Every Loving Parent Should Know


James Lehman was a genius, in my opinion.

Formerly a homeless, drug-taking ex-con, he transformed his life and became a social worker working with troubled youth in residential treatment centers.

He developed the Total Transformation Program and despite wearing a shirt and tie in many of his DVD’s, his face couldn’t lose the hallmarks of his early years.

He talked the talk and he’d certainly walked the walk.

I often quote him, and have written about his program in the past.

When I was in the depths of despair over my son’s extreme behavior, I would walk over to my fridge where I’d posted his wisdom.

I would review the points, considering that I may have handled this latest situation poorly, but I had hope with this list that I would do better next time.

I’d forgotten about these words – James Lehman is that good I don’t need it anymore – but I came across the list when I was cleaning out some drawers.

I think 1-2-3-Magic is great for little kids but for older ones a different approach is often necessary. James Lehman worked with young kids all the way through teenagers. My kids responded well to his approach at age 8 so I thought I’d share the list with you.

You will notice that several points end with walking away. I can’t tell you what an eye-opener that was to me. Don’t engage, disconnect, walk away. Miracles occurred when I did that.

James Lehman called them ‘One Minute Transformations’ but I call them –

Child Behavior

10 Parenting Tips Every Parent Should Know

1. Assume control. Directions are not requests. Use a frank, business-like tone. And walk away. “Where are you supposed to be going? Go there.” What are you supposed to be doing? Do it.”

2. Disconnect. Stop the show – walk away, hang up the phone, stop the car, leave the store. “Don’t talk to me that way, I don’t like it.”

3. Script it for next time. Use your bad experience to inform your next experience. Remind them what will happen the next time you get in a similar situation. Plan it out. “We are going to go to the store, it will take ten minutes  and we will calmly and patiently gather our groceries and pay for them, then leave.”

4. No speeches. When a consequence for poor behavior is dished out, be like a cop stopping a driver for a traffic offence. No explanations, rationalizations, etc.

5. Focus on the behavior. State the behavior you want changing. “I want you to stop hitting your brother.”

6. Halt overstimulation. Remove stimulation when handling poor behavior. Send siblings to their own room. Send friends home. Don’t argue in front of a crowd. Turn off TV/games. Timeouts are to remove stimulation and calm the situation down, they are not a punishment on their own.

7. Use strategic recognition and affection. “You did a good job with completing your homework. Now let’s talk about pushing.” When a child is doing an activity, leave him to it. Check back occasionally. Ask if you can get them anything. Walk away.

8. Disclose the responsibility for her behavior to your child. ‘I can’t help you when you’re blaming me.” It’s impossible to talk to you when you’re being rude to me.” This clarifies to your child whose problem it is and shows that the parent isn’t responsible for fixing the problem.

9. Be composed. Parents should role model handling anger. Take time for everyone to calm down before handling the situation. “You need to calm down and then we’ll talk about it.

10. Accept bad days and bad moods. “You seem to be in a bad mood. Let’s take 10 minutes and talk about it then. Or “You seem to be having a hard time right now. Let’s start over in ten minutes.” But still (and these may be my words ;-)) “I know you had a hard day but don’t take it out on me.”

Child Behavior

Do you have parenting tips to quickly deal with a bad situation? Let us know in the comments!

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{ 15 comments… read them below or add one }

March 7, 2012 at 4:21 am

These are wonderful common sense tips Alison. I was usually able to do this with my son while he was growing up. Every once in a while I’d let my pride or emotions get the better of me but after all, I’m just human.
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Alison Golden March 7, 2012 at 12:25 pm

Thanks, Glynis. I would despair when I first got this list because I couldn’t seem to so what it was saying. But I kept at it, got better (with some bypasses along the way,) the kids got better (because these things work) and it all worked out in the end. We all have our moments. I know I do. 🙂
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Mary E. Ulrich
March 7, 2012 at 5:52 am

I can see why these tips are helpful. They are staightforward and do make you feel in control.

One of the strategies for parents of kids with autism is called “social stories” by Carol Gray. Check it out I think you will like it, http://thegraycenter.org/social-stories

Thanks Alison, these tips could help a lot of people.
ps. Do they also work with husbands?
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March 7, 2012 at 7:29 am

As I was reading, I was thinking this sounds like how I have “interacted” with my husband! So, Mary, I say “yes! it works with husbands, as well.”

Great tips Alison! My girls are 13 and 15 so the type of interaction has changed at our house. And boy, do those hormones come into play. I use the “it seems like you are having a bad day, go have some quiet time to yourself” line a lot lately.
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Alison Golden March 7, 2012 at 12:38 pm

Ooh, yes, I’m seeing that in the girls we’re around. Fortunately, it hasn’t happened yet in our house. I’m enjoying it while I can. 🙂
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Alison Golden March 7, 2012 at 12:35 pm

This is why our kids go to the school they go to, because they do that story process. It is far better than how I was taught at school and teaches so much more besides writing. And yes, husbands, difficult people. Works. 😉
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Karen Howes March 7, 2012 at 6:32 am

I remember your telling me about these many moons ago and I found (modified versions of) them incredibly helpful. Modeling the behavior you want from the children was incredibly empowering and particularly useful for me. Like writing a novel — show rather than tell if possible!


Alison Golden March 7, 2012 at 12:36 pm

I am so glad I’m not telling you about them anymore. So glad. 🙂
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March 8, 2012 at 7:30 am

Love #4 Alison! I can’t stress how important the message to be brief, thorough, and calm (however hard it may be when parenting). Studies show that when we’re engaged in arguments, we only take in a few words b/c we’re overly emotional and not in a rational place.

Also, kids respond to actions rather than words when it comes to discipline. Don’t keep hammering her about the importance of social skills around adults and family members–you can’t “reason” her into changing. Now remove the mobile next time she’s rude to granddad, and I bet she’ll find her manners…
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Alison Golden March 8, 2012 at 6:02 pm

I know you’re very experienced with this, Linda. I love the brief thing and the walking away thing because when I’m angry, I’m completely incoherent. I can’t get a word out. Not like me at all. 😉


Denise March 20, 2012 at 7:52 pm

I would stress the actual use of his vistiation or lack of. If the courts allow the 2nd night I would request to have it phased in since the 1 night has not been consistent over the time you have been seperated. You will basically have to prove why the additional night is unwarranted. You could stipulate that if he is consisent for “X” amount of visit he can then have a 2nd night every other week. You will have to think of possible senerios in case you need to negotiate with him and the courts. Good Luck!
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KerryB April 14, 2012 at 6:44 pm

Hi Alison As you know I’m a big fan. I would love to know the 123 for little ones. My twins are 3 and could use some great advice for keeping myself in control. They are picking up my VERY bad temper habits and I want it to stop. Thanks!
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Alison Golden April 23, 2012 at 5:52 pm

Hi Kerry: It’s called Magic 1-2-3. It’s so simple but it works. If you google it, you can get the essence but he also has a book, DVDs etc.


Vanessa November 19, 2012 at 12:00 pm

We have two sons, two very different experiences, but are blessed with both of our children. The oldest is like me, however, and that seems to make our battles ferocious. I know what he’s thinking and it really makes me mad. He argues like I do and is so offended by my lack of justice. The youngest is charming and funny and even when he’s being “bad” there are usually a couple of laughs in there. He ends up in the principals office quite a bit but they always smile when they tell me about it.

Back to the oldest – he has an eating problem in that he is not attracted to food and doesn’t seem to get clear hunger signals (I should be so lucky). It’s lifelong for him not a learned behavior – I mean, he’s not doing it just to be a pain. Now that he is nearly 14-years-old he can see that it helps to have us telling him, “it’s lunch time, come to the table,” and he’ll sometimes blame us if it’s been too many hours since he’s eaten. I have recently started giving him organic chololate to take to school with him to have just before 6th period when he is literally at his wit’s end. He is actually cooperating with me and his math teacher says things are much better now.

The hormones do factor in though and often he just seems to have no control, I just have to turn away so that he’s not spoiling my day along with his own. Growing up and breaking away is completely natural – but painful. I always joked that when we ended up with teenagers in the house I was going to join the peace corps. It may be time.


Melissa May 31, 2017 at 7:03 pm

I love love love James Lehman. I love this article and I enjoyed reading it. I agree he is GENIUS! He has helped me tremendously. I’m going to start putting his quotes on my fridge (i haven’t in a while)I’ve been reading empowering parents for a few years now, but just finally really learning how to “drop my end of the tug-o-war rope.” I envision myself dropping it whenever my daughter is inviting me to play tug-o-war with her. His advice and techniques are really transforming.


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