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1-2-3 Magic: Effective Discipline for Children 2–12 (123 Magic) [Kindle Edition]

Thomas W. Phelan PhD
4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (390 customer reviews)

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Book Description

This revised edition of the award-winning 1-2-3 Magic program addresses the difficult task of child discipline with humor, keen insight, and proven experience. The technique offers a foolproof method of disciplining children ages two through 12 without arguing, yelling, or spanking. By means of three easy-to-follow steps, parents learn to manage troublesome behavior, encourage good behavior, and strengthen the parent-child relationship—avoiding the "Talk-Persuade-Argue-Yell-Hit" syndrome which frustrates so many parents. Ten strategies for building a child’s self-esteem and the six types of testing and manipulation a parent can expect from the child are discussed, as well as tips on how to prevent homework arguments, make mealtimes more enjoyable, conduct effective family meetings, and encourage children to start doing their household chores. New advice about kids and technology and new illustrations bring this essential parenting companion completely up-to-date.

Editorial Reviews


"An excellent, workable, and supportive resource for parents and educators."  —Booklist

About the Author

Thomas W. Phelan, PhD, is a clinical psychologist and a nationally renowned expert on child discipline and attention deficit disorder. His books include 1-2-3 Magic for Teachers, All About Attention Deficit Disorder, and Surviving Your Adolescents. He lives in Glen Ellyn, Illinois.

Product Details

  • File Size: 3497 KB
  • Print Length: 224 pages
  • Publisher: Parentmagic, Inc.; 4 edition (October 1, 2010)
  • Sold by: Amazon Digital Services, Inc.
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B004GB1G2U
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Word Wise: Not Enabled
  • Lending: Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #10,005 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
347 of 361 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Changed my life! July 30, 2011
I have a really independent and strong willed little girl who is pretty sure she knows everything already and is in charge of the home. I also inherited a bad, bad temper from my own father, and a set of unproductive and rage-fueled methods for handling discipline in the home. I was terrified I would squelch my daughter's independence and irreparably damage our relationship, until I read this amazing book. It's a simple, incredibly effective technique that gives parents a rapid response to quietly and calmly shut down any obnoxious behaviour, along with encouragement to provide constant positive reinforcement and love. It has revolutionized my relationship with my daughter, who now knows exactly where the boundaries lie and what to expect when she violates them. I haven't slammed a door since I read the book, and I no longer fear that I'm perpetuating a cycle of anger and harsh punishment. Highly recommend it.
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99 of 120 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A MUST read for every parent April 5, 2011
Format:Kindle Edition
My son will be 12 in a couple of weeks and he still instantly responds whenever he sees a my index finger. I first read this book and put it into action when my son was probably between 4 and 5 years old.

My wife never read this book but saw the amazing results I was getting and I soon heard her saying "one... two...". Neither one of us has gotten to "three" since establishing the 'baseline' when we first started using this system.

Here's basically how we put it to work: When our boy misbehaved I held up one finger and said "one". He had a second chance "two" but at three he got an instant 5 minute time out.

My son found those 5 minutes excruciating and figured out VERY quickly that:

1. He received consistently INSTANT punishment at "three".

2. His punishment time was extended for "bad behavior" while in time out.

3. Most importantly, he figured out he had the ability to avoid any consequences by modifying his behavior.

Fast forward 8 or so years to the present. My son has never been spanked or otherwise punished physically. He just got another straight A report card - his usual since he started school. The comment I hear most often from his teachers is that he is a "joy" in the classroom. He's polite and kind and no pushover either: he just earned a second level karate black belt.

I could go on for an hour but needless to say he's turning out to be an amazing person.

I still use the system but nowadays it's usually discreet flash of a "one" or perhaps a "two" to let him know a course change is recommended. The only "three" he has seen in years is fair warning that his dad is about to pounce on him and tickle him until he begs for mercy.
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229 of 286 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Undertones of disrespect in an otherwise valuable system December 17, 2012
As a public school teacher and a mother (2 preschoolers and an infant), I struggled with this book. While I find some incredibly valuable principles in the 1-2-3 Magic system, there are several underlying assumptions (some of which are stressed repeatedly by the author) that don't sit well with me at all.

-Dr. Phelan describes 3 major parenting jobs: 1. Controlling obnoxious behavior, 2. Encouraging good behavior, and 3. Strengthening the parent-child relationship. This feels backwards. It seems to me that these three jobs ought to be prioritized and implemented in reverse order, because a child who feels loved and secure will naturally exhibit less obnoxious behavior.
-Dr. Phelan repeatedly warns parents against thinking of children as "little adults" who will act cooperatively if they have the proper information and sound reasoning, but instead suggests visualizing ourselves as "wild animal trainers." (Are adults all predisposed to cooperation based simply on years??) I will readily admit that my home sometimes sounds like a zoo. However, my children (even at ages 2 and 4) demonstrate to me over and over again the depth and beauty of their spirits, and the complexity of their thoughts and emotions. I want to foster an environment in which my children know that their feelings matter to me, and in which respect grows out of love and trust rather than effective crowd control.
-In an attempt to keep things light and humorous, Dr. Phelan's directions to parents sometimes come across as condescending. For instance, he describes a scenario in which "dad asked the world's dumbest question, 'What's going on in here?'" Levity can be achieved without resorting to insults and sweeping generalizations.
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73 of 97 people found the following review helpful
By Keri
Format:Kindle Edition
123 magic is, straight up, a book that relies on threats of punishments and desire for praise to keep kids in line, and neither of those things are necessary when you have a connected relationship and effective positive discipline tools. If you use threats and rewards, by the time your kids are teens, they are going to do what they can get away with (get around punishment--teens are smart) AND do only what gets them something (rewards) rather than work hard because of intrinsic value. I'm not saying every teen respond this way, but many do. (I know I did!).

If you're looking for a book that is not reward and punishment based yet is extremely effective, give Dr. Laura Markham's book a try. Peaceful Parent, Happy Kids: How to Stop Yelling and Start Connecting has everything that 123 Magic doesn't, and it is in an easy to read format. She also is very empathetic towards the struggles of parents--she is on your side 100%. The audio version is particularly worth getting. Listening a little every day improved my parenting and relationship with my kids so much, and felt effortless since I just did 15 minutes here and there in the car each day.

I started out in some ways parenting as I was parented, but I want better for my kids, with better outcomes. I want them to be emotionally smart, not blind rule followers and/or rebellious. I don't at all believe kids need to go through a rebellious phase--when I used to teach high school in my 20's, I saw kids who didn't go through any negative phases, happy, centered kids, and the best of those kids had parents were amazing, kind and connected. They laughed with their kids, they clearly loved them. Heck, parent teacher conferences with "those types of parents" made ME feel loved!
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars You set clear guidelines and IF you follow through the good behavior...
I am a kindergarten/pre-K teacher and a mom-this discipline system works!! At school or home. You set clear guidelines and IF you follow through the good behavior will come. Read more
Published 6 days ago by Anna Twyman
5.0 out of 5 stars I recommend this book on a regular basis and use it ...
As a child therapist, I recommend this book on a regular basis and use it within my own home. This parenting program is effective and helpful!
Published 11 days ago by Clair M.
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
A classic - nice update.
Published 14 days ago by Satisfied Customer
4.0 out of 5 stars Great book. More difficult than it seems to do ...
Great book. More difficult than it seems to do consistently. Sometimes had trouble with counting without really letting child know the appropriate alternative behavior. Read more
Published 14 days ago by Chris Oliver
5.0 out of 5 stars This plan is so easy and makes perfect sense
This plan is so easy and makes perfect sense. I almost felt a bit ridiculous reading it...why didn't I think of it on my own? Read more
Published 24 days ago by Amazon Customer
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Recommended by my pediatrician.
Published 28 days ago by Amazon Customer
4.0 out of 5 stars consistency is the key
This is a great system to help with discipline issues, if you are consistent with it.
Published 28 days ago by JoAnne Dowd
5.0 out of 5 stars Transformational and easy approach to parenting
Wow! Transformational and easy approach to parenting!
Published 1 month ago by Christine Rizzolo
1.0 out of 5 stars There are better, less damaging ways
This book was recommened in a therapy group when one of my children was presenting challenging behavior. It came highly recommended and seemed like it might be a great way to go. Read more
Published 1 month ago by AV
4.0 out of 5 stars Four Stars
Good reading!
Published 1 month ago by Roxanne Soltis
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More About the Author

Thomas W. Phelan, Ph.D., is a clinical psychologist and the author of 1-2-3 Magic: Effective Discipline for Children, All About Attention Deficit Disorder, "I Never Get Anything!", Self-Esteem Revolutions in Children, and Adults with Attention Deficit Disorder. He lives in Glen Ellyn, Illinois.


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