1-2-3 Magic – A Book Review

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Categories Behavior, Book Review Theme Week, Discipline, Emotion, Parenting, Preschoolers

2When 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.

123 MagicThe 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.

For example:

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.

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MandyE

MandyE is the mother of 4 ½-year old fraternal twin girls, Baby A and Baby B. (And yes, their names actually start with the letters A and B!) She worked in the marketing field for nine years before her girls were born, but these days she’s relishing the opportunity to be a SAHM, which she plans to continue until the girls start kindergarten. MandyE has been blogging at Twin Trials and Triumphs since her girls were a year old. Between her blog and her local Mothers of Multiples group, she considers the multiples community a huge part of her support system.

3 thoughts on “1-2-3 Magic – A Book Review”

  1. Thanks for sharing how you have applied 1-2-3 Magic into your household routine. When my husband and I first thought about having kids, we actually said, “We aren’t going to be those parents who count,” because up until that time we had only ever seen parents screaming 1-10 in the malls and never actually following through on their counting “threat.” :) Then we had kids and learned of this actual useful concept and you give a great explanation of it in an easy to understand way. We have used this in our home as well and we got into it when our then 2.5 year old was beginning to do what any child does and test the waters to see what mom and dad do or do not like. :) It’s sometimes hard to follow through, but with determination you can keep up with the concept or adapt it to fit your particular kids. I’m not saying I’m perfect and I do waiver, but it’s a great concept to keep in your mind and try and try again as you get the knack for disciplining your child in a fair way. I don’t have a lot of time to read books, so my husband and I actually went out to a workshop on 1-2-3 Magic and it was very helpful. I also follow their Facebook page, which sends me regular tips on managing my kids ups and downs (and mine too.) Thanks!

  2. I do think it was really helpful to use during age two to three, but my kids are starting to react to things more emotionally and intellectually as they near age four, so I haven’t had to do nearly as many time outs. I do think using time outs and this method, and being reminded of the adult tantrum and staying calm, helped in getting us to this point.

    1. For us, there are still times when the girls are doing classic “stop” behavior. There are other times when their behavior is driving at something else, usually a need for attention. When I can recognize that and respond to it in a different way (hence my Five Love Languages reference), I think it’s a good combination.

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