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1-2-3 Magic: Effective Discipline for Children 2-12 Paperback – February 1, 2004

4.5 out of 5 stars 288 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

About the Author

Thomas W. Phelan, Ph.D., is a clinical psychologist with more than 25 years of experience working with children and families. He is the author of All About Attention Deficit Disorder, Surviving Your Adolescents, Self-Esteem Revolutions in Children, Adults with Attention Deficit Disorder, and "I Never Get Anything," the winner of the 2002 NAPPA Parenting Resources Gold Award. He lives in Glen Ellyn, Illinois.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 224 pages
  • Publisher: ParentMagic, Inc.; 3rd edition (February 1, 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1889140163
  • ISBN-13: 978-1889140162
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.4 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (288 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #107,623 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Dennis Littrell HALL OF FAME on May 17, 2004
Format: Paperback
Part of what makes Phelan's now very well known system work is that, whether one is cooking rice or disciplining children, it's essential to have a method, the simpler the better. All effective methods rely first and foremost on how they guide us away from reactive and emotionally-based behaviors and keep us on the proper path. Note well that Phelan's method requires the parent to understand that "Too Much Talking" and "Too Much Emotion" by the parent will lead to failure. Understanding why this is so is the key to understanding why Phelan's method is so effective.
Usually parents get caught in the trap of explaining or justifying their prerogative. This can be done once: clearly I am the adult, and not only is it my responsibility to guide your development, but, because I have been where you are and understand your situation--mainly frustration at not getting what you want--it is I, not you, who are in a position to make the right decisions. Period. Indeed, this doesn't even have to be said once. Children understand, with or without realizing it, that Mom and Dad know better than they do.
So any sort of "talk" is not only superfluous but may obscure what has happened, namely that the child has done something wrong and the parent wants it stopped. Furthermore, if you talk, the child talks and the lesson is diluted.
Even worse is for the parent to get emotional about disciplining the child. It's your job, do it and don't get worked up about it because discipline is just a technique in the larger socialization process. If you allow yourself to become emotional, you muddy up the waters and detract from the business at hand.
Phelan's 1-2-3 Magic technique works and is easy to learn and implement.
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Format: Paperback
I was really excited about this book when I first read it. It worked really well - at first. After a couple of days, the behavior was better and we didn't even have all that many time-outs. After more than a year, though, the enthusiasm for this system of discipline and direction has waned on all sides. My kids weren't responding to the counting as well as they did at first, and, to be perfectly honest, my heart just wasn't in it anymore. I agree with the idea that you shouldn't try to talk with the child about what they're doing wrong while you're trying to stop the behavior. They need to understand that they should stop as soon as Mom or Dad says "stop". However, I also think that there needs to be some sort of discussion at some point about why you wanted them to stop, and this wasn't suggested anywhere in the book. Although we did incorporate this into our discipline routine ourselves, it is something that I think is seriously lacking in this book.

I have several friends who swear by this book, but it just didn't cut it for us. I would recommend trying it out for yourself to see whether it will work for you. If not, "Parenting with Love and Logic: Teaching Children Responsibility" by Foster Cline and Jim Fay is a great book that incorporates all the things we felt were lacking in this one.
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Format: Paperback
Tom Phelan presented a discipline program recently to my school district. He was sensible...and funny...so we bought his book.

His advice is practical and well tested. His book sites many specific examples of what our kids do and say and what WE can do differently to change THEIR behavior.

He addresses discipline regarding 2 types of behaviors... "STOP" behavior (like bad words, hitting, whining and disrespectful attitude)and "START" behavior ( like getting the kids to do their homework, chores, clean up, use manners etc.)

He emphasizes that "the Magic" it is not so much the counting of...1, 2, 3 but rather how you choose to say it...in a calm yet athoritative manner so that the child knows the parent means business. He also talked about the importance of discussion outside the heat of the moment with the child either in a one-on-one discussion or a family meeting.

Our 2-way communication with our children now involves more listening to one another and less lecturing. I realized that I had been doing the count all wrong expecting the magic to happen...threatening and screaming the numbers at the top of my lungs finding myself reaching 2 and 3/4...2 and 7/8 and feeling my kids were in total control and that I was a failure with the technique that was working so well for my neighbor.

Listening to Dr. Phelan and reading his book has taught me how to use this method correctly and to my surprise it is actually now working with my 6 and 8 year old. If you have a toddler or preschooler like me, I found many more age appropriate positive discipline strategies in another complementary A-Z guide for parents of 2's, 3's, 4's and 5's...called "The Pocket Parent".
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Format: Paperback
I really hesitated to write a review about this book because I have such mixed feelings about it. This book was recommended by a very respected friend, who is an excellent and effective parent. So much of what the book says makes sense. I really like that that the author focuses on approaching discipline calmly. He does not condone yelling and spanking. He explains how yelling and spanking in anger will make your child's behavior worse. Also cajoling, begging and arguing with your child is completely ineffective. I agree with all of this completely. He suggests that when you discipline your child you should remain as calm as possible. I have applied this to disciplining my own child and I can attest to the effectiveness of it. I also like that he makes a distinction between stopping undesirable behavior and promoting desirable behavior.

Now for the not so good...This book has a really condescending tone that so many parenting books adopt and it drives me crazy! I think children understand a lot more than people realize. I don't think it's appropriate to never discuss their behavior with them as the book suggests. And frankly, I find counting every single offense to be unrealistic. I understand the concept behind it, but for us it just really doesn't work. Instead we make the request once and when she doesn't comply we will determine appropriate discipline. Sometimes time out is the best answer, but sometimes it isn't. You have to pick your battles.

I think the actual magic of this book is explaining to frustrated parents that they really just need to calm down a bit and use a cool and level head when they are disciplining children. Additionally, the section on rewarding and encouraging good behavior is good. Positive reinforcement is one of the most important components of good discipline and one that is often neglected. For these reasons, I think it's a worthy book. And the counting technique is fine, but it's not the only way.
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