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1-2-3 Magic
Effective Discipline for Children 2-12

By Thomas W. Phelan


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Reviewer: Allison Martin

1-2-3 Magic is a truly life changing child discipline method that has helped many parents over the years. For the right situation it really is akin to magic, as Dr. Phelan's methods work where many other parenting approaches are quite ineffective. The techniques described in 123 Magic work even with children who have only a emerging understanding of cause and effect, thus they are helpful for children who have ADD/ADHD, high functioning autism, sensory integration dysfunction, mental retardation, emotional delays, or other special needs.

In his book, 123 Magic, Thomas Phelan provides a clear description of techniques, adaptations to various circumstances and plenty of real life examples, so it is easy to understand and modify to your family. The success of 123 Magic rests in part on discipline and consistency of the parent, and provides a simple to implement framework and response which you can apply even under trying circumstances. It is easiest to use at home or school environment but can even make visits to the grocery store, restaurant, or other outings smoother.

The underlying idea behind 123 Magic is simple. When your child misbehaves you count each infraction or the time till you get to 3, at 3 they receive a time-out or other consequence. Something about counting works marvelously at helping your child focus and regroup, giving them time to control themselves, once (and this is the important part) you establish that you are willing to consistently follow through.

In addition, to techniques for "stop" behavior (that is halting poor behavior like teasing, rudeness, hitting, whining, tantrums, and so on), Dr. Phelan also provides tools for "start" behaviors (that is increasing good behavior, like doing chores, homework, and practicing kindness). These techniques include charting, using timers, natural consequences, positive reinforcements and so on. He describes ways to handle common problems like bedtime, chores and waking up in the morning, as well as positive behaviors such as strengthening relationships and self esteem.

If you find your discipline getting harsher and/or feel helpless in getting the success you need in improving your child's behavior, then this is the book to get. It is fair and ultimately leads to increased self esteem. Used properly, it really can be "magic."

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