When my girls were younger, between 12 and 24 months or so, I employed the fine art of distraction and redirection, along with consequences-based “discipline” to manage behavior in our house. It was a full-time job, and I was anxious for “time out” to have meaning. I would test the time-out waters every few months, and eventually, when the girls were close to three, it seemed to sink in that time-out was a consequence they didn’t want to bear.
Yay! So…now what???
I emailed a handful of trusted mommy friends, and several people recommended 1-2-3 Magic: Effective Discipline for Children 2-12, which I promptly bought and began to follow.
The 1-2-3 Magic principles are used for “stop” behaviors, something your child is doing that you want her to stop. There are two “warnings” given on the counts of one and two, and when three is reached, the child earns a time-out.
Baby A, spied running through the house: “Baby A, no running. That’s ONE.”
Within a minute or so, Baby A, spied playing with the blinds: “Baby A, hands off the blinds. That’s TWO.”
Within a minute or so, Baby A, spied stepping on a toy: “Baby A, we are respectful of toys. That’s THREE. Time out.”
In this example, Baby A committed three separate indiscretions within a short period of time. (There is no determined “window” of time. It certainly wouldn’t carry over throughout the day, and I feel there is a much shorter window associated with younger children.) The scenario could have applied to repeated offense, like continuing to play with the blinds after I’d counted once / twice. And there is an option for such a severe breach of rules, like hitting a sibling, where a parent can go straight to THREE and time-out.
If a child knows she’s breaking a rule, you may simply say, “Baby A, that’s ONE,” with no further explanation.
What I Like
Our girls picked up this system within a couple of days. It requires discipline and consistency on the part of the parent, but my girls know I mean business when I count.
The system puts the onus on the child for her behavior. She is “earning” a number with each of her actions. Rules are rules, and if she breaks a rule, there are consequences. Yet with the counting system, the child has an opportunity to right her behavior and switch gears before she’s in real trouble.
Most of all, I love that this system helps keep my emotions in check. One of the most powerful things I’ve read as a parent is this: “…ninety-nine percent of the time that parents scream, hit and spank their children, the parent is simply having a temper tantrum. The tantrum is a sign that 1) the parent doesn’t know what to do, 2) the parent is so frustrated that he or she can’t see straight…”
Whoa. An adult temper tantrum. I could fall into this easily if I let myself…but the powerful image of an adult temper tantrum (think about it!) stops me from going there.
The 1-2-3 Magic system advocates that parents remain very calm when they count. This reinforces that it is the action of the child that is earning counts. With very few exceptions, the parent does not owe the child an explanation for counting. The book cites that when a parent gives lots and lots of reasons to a child, the message can become, “You don’t have to behave unless I can give you five or six good reasons why you should.”
What I’ve Changed
The 1-2-3 system worked really well for us from age three to age four-and-a-half. My girls just turned five, and it remains the framework for how we keep order at our house. What’s changed for me is the “time-out” portion of the equation.
Around age four-and-a-half, I found our girls to be much more emotional. There were many more reasons they were acting out…it wasn’t just that they got too excited to see the garbage truck and started playing with the blinds.
While I still use 1-2-3 Magic, with the increased emotion in play, I realized that the time-out wasn’t always addressing the behavior issue, but was oftentimes making it worse. I turned to “The Five Love Languages of Children” [review to come on Friday]. I’m trying to recognize when our girls need more than “standard” discipline.
To sum up 1-2-3 Magic, I’ll quote one last passage:
“We want your attitude and message to the children to be something like this: ‘You’re my child and I’m your parent. I love you, and it’s my job to train and discipline you. I don’t expect you to be perfect, and when you do do something wrong, this is what I will do.’”
I bought this book seeking a game plan, and that’s what it has helped me to develop and implement at our house.
Have you read 1-2-3 Magic? Have you incorporated elements from it at your house?
MandyE is mom to five-year old fraternal twin girls. She blogs about their adventures, and her journey through motherhood, at Twin Trials and Triumphs.