Parenting Review: 1-2-3 Magic

I know, this isn’t exactly the type of non-fiction book review you’d expect to see on a book review blog. But I really enjoyed reading it, and it has changed my parenting game, so I wanted to leave a brief review here. Our pediatrician recommended this book a few years ago, and I filed it away one my mental to-be-read shelf. A few months ago, another pediatrician friend raved about it, and that sealed the deal. (When she said this book was required reading for her entire residency class, I knew I had to read it too.) “1-2-3 Magic” is simple and effecting, and really reduces stress for parents and kids.

The premise of the method is simple. So simple you might think you’re already doing it. Count stop behaviors.

That’s it.

I mean, there’s more. But the basic idea is to only count stop behaviors. (Things you want your child to stop doing.)

If you have kids, I’m almost positive you’ve used the, “If you don’t do XYZ by the time I get to three . . . one . . . two . . . two and a half . . . three!” And then . . . nothing happens most of the time. The kid doesn’t do what you want or stop what you want them to stop, and most of us don’t really have a great follow through. I’ve had several friends without kids catch me doing that, and when they ask if counting to three really works, I always had to say, “No, not really.” “1-2-3 Magic” plays on that counting theme, and it actually works.

When your child is doing something you want them to STOP, say, “That’s one.” If they continue, you say, “That’s two.” If they stop, great! Move on! If they don’t, it’s, “That’s three, go take five,” and they go take a five-minute break in their room or wherever you choose, or they give up whatever it is they’ve been misusing. And that’s it. Really.

There are no long explanations of why what they’re doing is wrong, why you don’t appreciate it, the history of all children everywhere, etc. That’s my downfall; I always want to over explain things to my kids, and all they hear is, “blah, blah, blah.” The most you really have to say is, “We don’t do that, that’s three, go take five.”

The first couple of weeks were a little rough as my kids got used to the new counting method, but now I rarely get past two before they stop. They know what to expect, I have a follow-through plan, and we are all way less stressed out. I don’t get frustrated when they’re misbehaving, because a simple plan is already in place, and if they actually make it to the third count, their anger at getting a time out (and it’s not really a time out) is short-lived because they know at the end of the five or ten minutes, the whole thing is finished and they’re not going to get a long speech from me about the golden rule.

It. Is. Magic.

There are a ton of great ideas in this book, including some about using positive reinforcement for start behavior (things you DO want your child to do, such as getting ready for school in a timely fashion), but the modified counting method is the main event.

You can definitely read this book in a few days, even just one day if you have the time. I read the e-book and then bought the paperback version, and I would recommend just buying or borrowing the paperback. The e-book version seemed to leave out quite a bit, and it’s nice to be able to flip back and forth in the real version.

Do you have any parenting books you love? Let me know!