Josh and I recently bought the book 1-2-3 Magic: Effective Discipline for Children 2-12 by Thomas Phelan, and have been implementing what it teaches. We have been counting our girls wrongful deeds or tantrums and putting them in time-outs. And it has helped SO much. Having two two-year-olds could be a real nightmare, but it is mostly a joy.
1-2-3 Counting Tactic
Counting is very simple. If a child misbehaves or whines or tries to manipulate you or anything that is a “stop behavior” you count them, saying “That’s one.” And wait 5 seconds if they don’t stop and say “That’s two.” And after another five seconds it’s “That’s three. Time-out.”
Our time-out areas are either their bedroom or the landing of our split level stairs. If they come out/down, then we set them back in their until their time-out is over (which for 2-year olds is 2 minutes).
The purpose of the time-out is so they can calm down, something very helpful when they are throwing a fit, as well as teach them that their behavior needs to stop/change. It’s punishment to have to stop doing what they were doing and do something else.
While counting a child and putting them in time-out is super easy, it’s not that simple. The real trick to the method is NO emotion and NO talking. That means staying calm! It means no yelling at them, trying to reason, pleading, begging, or whining from YOU the adult! And if a child comes out of time-out before the timer’s up, it means not talking when you put them back in it.
1-2-3 Magic Time Out Results
Since using the counting method, we have had great results. They often stop the behavior before three (which is what you want!), and sometimes even count themselves, their sister, or their stuffed animals. They also say “corner” when the other is in a time-out, and try to be the time-out police (which isn’t exactly what I want). But, they are happier and know what we expect of them.
We don’t always count when they are doing something we wish they weren’t. If they are fighting over a toy, we still often just take the toy away so neither can play with it. No time-outs, just a punishment. If they make a mess, we just have them help clean it up. Sometimes we only implement a time-out for a few seconds, really only to let them know a behavior was inappropriate, and when they are ready to fix it, they can come out before the two minutes are up.
One thing that is talked about a lot is “The Little Adult Assumption.” And boy, is that all too common sometimes. Basically, this assumption is when you think your child can reason, can see things from your perspective or the perspective of another; it assumes that a child can simple hear a good reason/explanation for something, and then whole-heartily agree and accept it, point blank. But, kids don’t really reason, and don’t really understand why things are/should be such a way. They’re kids! I often seem to have to remind myself of that.
I really love this style of discipline. It just makes sense to me. The parent is a parent and stays in control of their house. The child obeys the rules or is disciplined. There are rules. There are punishments for disobeying those rules. There are clear expectations and routines. All of these things are exactly what young children need. It just seems so very Christ-like. No one is physically hurt in the process.
Using this method helps the parents remain calm and less frustrated! I am yelling far, far less than I have in the past. I know what to do when they misbehave. I am more patient and relaxed when something unexpected happens. And so I can actually enjoy the time I do spend with my children, the big premise of this book – the less time you have to spend disciplining, the more time you have to spend enjoying the time you have with your child(ren). And isn’t that wonderful?
I strongly recommend anyone with children read this book. It’s awesome and gives tons of real-life practical examples and how to implement its methods in those moments.
Have you ever read 1-2-3 Magic or implemented its practices? Did it work for you and your family?