1-2-3 Magic Book Summary - 1-2-3 Magic Book explained in key points
Listen to the Intro
00:00

1-2-3 Magic summary

Thomas W. Phelan

Effective Discipline for Children 2-12

3.8 (106 ratings)
17 mins

Brief summary

1-2-3 Magic by Thomas W. Phelan is a guidebook for parents on how to handle their child's misbehavior by using a simple and effective discipline technique. With this technique, parents can maintain their cool and help their children develop better habits.

Table of Contents

    1-2-3 Magic
    Summary of 5 key ideas

    Audio & text in the Blinkist app
    Key idea 1 of 5

    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.

    Want more?
    Read or listen to the key ideas
    from 7,000+ titles

    Key ideas in 1-2-3 Magic

    More knowledge in less time
    Read or listen
    Read or listen
    Get the key ideas from nonfiction bestsellers in minutes, not hours.
    Find your next read
    Find your next read
    Get book lists curated by experts and personalized recommendations.
    Shortcasts
    Shortcasts New
    We’ve teamed up with podcast creators to bring you key insights from podcasts.

    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.

    1-2-3 Magic Review

    1-2-3 Magic (2003) is a helpful parenting guide that offers effective strategies for managing behavior in children ages 2-12. Here's why this book is worth reading:

    • Packed with practical techniques and tools, it equips parents with a simple, step-by-step approach to discipline that produces positive results.
    • With its straightforward language and relatable examples, the book makes complex concepts easy to understand and apply in real-life situations.
    • The book's emphasis on maintaining a calm and respectful atmosphere sets it apart, helping parents to build strong relationships with their children while fostering self-control and responsibility.

    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.

    Categories with 1-2-3 Magic

    Book summaries like 1-2-3 Magic

    People ❤️ Blinkist 
    Sven O.

    It's highly addictive to get core insights on personally relevant topics without repetition or triviality. Added to that the apps ability to suggest kindred interests opens up a foundation of knowledge.

    Thi Viet Quynh N.

    Great app. Good selection of book summaries you can read or listen to while commuting. Instead of scrolling through your social media news feed, this is a much better way to spend your spare time in my opinion.

    Jonathan A.

    Life changing. The concept of being able to grasp a book's main point in such a short time truly opens multiple opportunities to grow every area of your life at a faster rate.

    Renee D.

    Great app. Addicting. Perfect for wait times, morning coffee, evening before bed. Extremely well written, thorough, easy to use.

    People also liked these summaries

    4.7 Stars
    Average ratings on iOS and Google Play
    31 Million
    Downloads on all platforms
    10+ years
    Experience igniting personal growth
    Powerful ideas from top nonfiction

    Try Blinkist to get the key ideas from 7,000+ bestselling nonfiction titles and podcasts. Listen or read in just 15 minutes.

    Start your free trial

    1-2-3 Magic FAQs 

    What is the main message of 1-2-3 Magic?

    The main message of 1-2-3 Magic is an effective discipline method for raising well-behaved children.

    How long does it take to read 1-2-3 Magic?

    The reading time for 1-2-3 Magic varies depending on the reader's speed, but it typically takes a few hours. The Blinkist summary can be read in just 15 minutes.

    Is 1-2-3 Magic a good book? Is it worth reading?

    1-2-3 Magic is definitely worth reading. It provides practical strategies and techniques for dealing with child behavior and fostering positive discipline.

    Who is the author of 1-2-3 Magic?

    The author of 1-2-3 Magic is Thomas W. Phelan.

    What to read after 1-2-3 Magic?

    If you're wondering what to read next after 1-2-3 Magic, here are some recommendations we suggest:
    • The Explosive Child by Ross W. Greene
    • The Daily Dad by Ryan Holiday
    • The Montessori Toddler by Simone Davies
    • How Children Succeed by Paul Tough
    • The Conscious Parent by Shefali Tsabary
    • The Parenting Map by Dr. Shefali
    • The Opposite of Spoiled by Ron Lieber
    • Deep Work by Cal Newport
    • The Next Millionaire Next Door by Thomas J. Stanley & Sarah Stanley Fallaw
    • Talking to Strangers by Malcolm Gladwell