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123 Magic– 4th Edition
by, Thomas Phelan PhD
Doc Smo here. Welcome to another edition of my pediatric blog, DocSmo.com. With the help of one of my very capable interns, Angela Solis, we are going to introduce you to a great book on child discipline by a well known author, Dr. Thomas Phelan. The back cover of the book, 1,2,3 Magic asks, “Who’s in charge at your house?” If you can’t answer “You, the parent are” , then listen up as we review our latest read. I am sure that over the years you have read several books that describe the best way to discipline children. After several frustrating moments and graying hairs, you might have chosen to just pick and choose methods, trying to see what will finally have an effect. You and I know however, that the real issue is in the simplicity of the method, consistency, and sticking to it. Being persistent. That’s where 123 Magic shines and why we are pleased to recommend the book! This book is a simple book to read, understand, and later apply. Now in its fourth edition, it covers a wide range of issues, such as correcting obnoxious behavior, encouraging good behavior, dealing with more serious issues, and even providing assistance to teachers in their classrooms. The book begins by differentiating between stop and start behavior. Stop behavior includes the frequent but minor behavior such as arguing, screaming, and tantrums. Start behavior includes chores, homework, and sticking to a regular morning and evening routines.
The counting procedure that the book is named after, “1,2,3,” is used for stop behavior. The start behavior includes several different tactics outlined in the book such as using a kitchen timer or charts. For correcting both types of behavioral issues, Dr. Phelan emphasizes consistency and removing emotion from the discipline process. This system may be used not only by parents, but grandparents, teachers, and other caregivers after the children have been introduced to the method, for a period of time. We were surprised by how simple his system is to implement. It really is about counting and not yelling, begging, or hitting. Dr. Phelan forbids parents from injecting emotion into their discipline process. He says that children feed off of the emotions of their parents. He calls this the “NO TALK, NO EMOTION” rule. Many parents that open this book might think that their child will not respond to these methods but Dr. Phelan insists that with consistency and proper application of the counting method and using the tactics for start behavior, effective discipline can be implemented in any home. In this now fourth edition of 123 magic, Dr. Phelan has added a dynamite chapter on how parents can handle technology issues (email and internet time, texting boundaries).
No other book we have picked up has been able to so efficiently handle this subject. This book is very accessible, written in everyday language without heavy psychology jargon. The chapters are short and may be read in bursts. In fact, many of the paragraphs are simply responses to bold-faced questions in the text, which makes it easier to find an answer to your specific question. The examples of parent and children interactions are extremely practical and the ideas and suggestions for each behavior are doable. This does not require some kind of disciplining certification; it really is simple to adopt these practices immediately in your home. We really thought this discipline method showed respect to children by removing the often belittling lecturing, yelling, and insulting talk children often hear from their parents. One of the three big goals of the 123 method is to improve your relationship with your child, not to just get control. Now for the negatives: One downside to this book was that there seemed to be a lack of emphasis on setting a good example by the parents. He lists over and over again how important it is to avoid the parental tantrums, basically when parents lose control while trying to discipline, but he does not comment on what the children observe in the home. For example, the parents may be calm with their children but perhaps not with other adults. He also states that oppositional defiant disorder and conduct disorders may be created by poor parenting and frankly, we are not sure that is correct. Lastly, the book was poorly edited, in the eBook edition that we read. All in all, we agree that one of the goals of parenting is to improve your relationship with your children. This book certainly does that by providing a simple discipline method, useful to all parents, and respectful behavior towards both parties. This is especially great for parents with children between 2 and 5 years old who are looking to get off to the right start with boundaries and limits as well as encouraging good habits in the home. We give it 5 out of 5 stars. Go buy and read it.
We hope you found that book review helpful. For more reviews of pediatric books and literally hundreds of other discussions of pediatric topics, please visit my website at www.DocSmo.com and explore. Your comments are welcome so go ahead and leave one on iTunes, Facebook or my blog. This is Dr. Paul Smolen, hoping instead of a scream, your child will behave like a dream. until next time.