1-2-3 Magic Book Summary - 1-2-3 Magic Book explained in key points
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1-2-3 Magic summary

Thomas W. Phelan

Effective Discipline for Children 2-12

3.9 (21 ratings)
17 mins
Table of Contents

    1-2-3 Magic
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    Children: Not Just Little Adults

    Picture this. Your seven-year-old daughter has spent the whole morning tormenting her five-year-old brother – hitting, name-calling, provoking, the whole lot. Of course this behavior is unacceptable, and it’s important that she realize this. So you sit her down and calmly explain why she shouldn’t do it: It’s not nice to hurt people, it makes mommy angry, and how would she like it if someone teased her?

    The seven-year-old, in a brilliant and mature flash of insight, realizes the error of her ways, and brightly declares: “Thanks, mom – I never thought of it that way!”

    Sounds ridiculous, right? Because that’s not how children work. They are selfish. They are unreasonable. They are, quite simply, crazy.

    The first thing you’re going to need to do is challenge this common assumption that kids are just small adults who can be reasoned with.

    This doesn't mean there’s no place for explanation – tell them once if you need to. But if you’re repeating yourself then it’s only going to be irritating for all involved, and this leads to the two biggest mistakes that parents make while disciplining: Too much talking, and too much emotion.

    For a kid, too many words can be distracting or confusing – and, as you just saw, they often don't work. But why is emotion bad? Kids – by design – are pretty powerless. So when they are able to get a strong emotional reaction from the big tough grown-up, they get back a little control over the world, and that’s immensely rewarding for them. You can see how this would interfere with their ability to learn something productive from the situation.

    This is hard for some parents to do; talking and expressing emotion are pretty fundamental parts of being human. But you’re going to have to keep it to a minimum if you want discipline to be effective.

    At the end of the day, you have three main jobs as a parent: Stop bad behavior, encourage good behavior, and strengthen your relationship with your child.

    So how can you discipline in a way that will help you do these jobs? Keeping in mind the principles just looked at, let’s address the first role of parents: stopping unwanted or obnoxious behavior.

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    What is 1-2-3 Magic about?

    1-2-3 Magic (1995) is a clear and thorough guide to one of the most difficult yet important aspects of parenting: discipline. By outlining essential parenting principles and demonstrating simple and immediately applicable techniques, it creates a roadmap for taking back control of your home and building a much more enjoyable relationship with your child. Whether your goal is to stop the bad behavior of a tantrum-prone toddler or encourage good behavior in your pre-teen, this revised sixth edition will give you the tools you need to discipline responsibly.

    Who should read 1-2-3 Magic?

    • Overwhelmed parents of younger children who need to adopt a new approach to discipline
    • Exhausted carers of pre-teens who want to have more control over bad behavior
    • Anyone who feels like they spend more time fighting than having fun with their child

    About the Author

    Thomas W. Phelan is a clinical psychologist and expert on child discipline and attention deficit disorder. He has written several successful books on these topics, including All About Attention Deficit Disorder, "I Never Get Anything!" and Self-Esteem Revolutions in Children.

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