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1-2-3 Magic: Effective Discipline for Children 2–12 and over one million other books are available for Amazon Kindle. Learn more

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1-2-3 Magic: Effective Discipline for Children 2–12 Paperback – October 1, 2010

442 customer reviews

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1-2-3 Magic: Effective Discipline for Children 2-12
This title will be released on February 2, 2016.

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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.

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Product Details

  • Series: 123 Magic
  • Paperback: 224 pages
  • Publisher: Parentmagic, Inc.; 4th edition (October 1, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1889140430
  • ISBN-13: 978-1889140438
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.5 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (442 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #23,614 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

385 of 403 people found the following review helpful By Stephanie on July 30, 2011
Format: Paperback
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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108 of 129 people found the following review helpful By Jerry FLA on 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 a 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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262 of 323 people found the following review helpful By N V-meyer on December 17, 2012
Format: Paperback
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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93 of 121 people found the following review helpful By Keri on November 27, 2013
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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