Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Magic?... Is it really now.

First of all I appreciate your comments you have made to my other posts.  I love to hear what is working in your home.  Thank you for your insights and knowlege!

123-Magic by Dr. Phelan is simple but I have found that it works wonders with my kids.  When we first started using counting we were astounded that it actually worked and sometimes so easily that my husband and I would look at each other and smile and thought, "Wow, that was great it's got to be magic =)!"
So what is counting?
Counting is used when your child is doing something obnoxious that you don't want him to do. Examples could be, teasing siblings, whining for something, throwing a tantrum, or arguing.  If you child does none of these things, count yourself blessed and then get a reality check.  I don't know one parent who doesn't deal with these behaviors on a daily, hourly, and often times minute basis. 
Lets give you an example so you can see how it can work.  My daughter is begging for an orange roll at 11:15 am.  I am in the middle of washing dishes and simply and calmly tell her we will be eating lunch very soon and after lunch she can have a roll (11:30 am).  She starts to whine and carry on and I say calmly yet sternly, "That's 1 Samantha."  She continues to cry and ask for an orange roll, after I wait for about 5 seconds from the first count I say "That's 2 Samantha." Where upon she continues to cry so I say after 5 seconds, "Samantha that 3 take 2 minutes of timeout in your room."  Because she is only two years old she will rarely go on her own accord to her room.  Depending on how upset she is I will lead her to her room, or pick her up and take her their.  I then set a timer or just look at a clock for the two minutes.  Once the time out is done, I go tell her that time out is over and usually she is a happy camper ready to play.   
Now this does not always happen like this.  Sometimes I only have to say "That's 1" and she will stop.   The reason I say take 2 minutes is because she is two years old.  The timeout should equal the age of the child.  This is a time out in a safe place.  When timer goes off the child comes out, nothing more is said about the incident, life goes on.  This is very important to not nag the child with lectures, or discussions.  It is important for you to let it go, and carry on unless the child does something else or the same thing that is countable then the counting starts over.  'If the child behaves, praise him, and enjoy his company.(pg 27)'
Now there are behaviors that you don't want them to have three chances to do it.  Behaviors like, hitting you or someone else, or saying a swear word.  In these cases in your opinion the behavior is bad enough to begin with you simply say, "That's 3, take their age and add 15 more for the seriousness of the offense." pg 28
The hard part for me at first was the no lecturing and nagging, especially because I have a child who loves to argue with everything I say.  Here is an example from the book of a parent talking too much and getting too excited while attempting to count the child's behavior.
"That's 1...Come on now, I'm getting a little tiered of this.  Why can't you do one little thing for us--LOOK AT ME WHEN I'M TALKING TO YOU, YOUNG MAN! OK, that's 2.  One more and you're going to your room, do you hear me?  I'm sick and tired of you whining and fussing over every little thing you can't have.  One more and that's it.  YOUR SISTER NEVER BEHAVES THIS WAY...YOUR FATHER'S COMING HOME IN HALF AND HOUR! OK, ENOUGH! THAT'S 3 TAKE 5.  BEAT IT! OUT OF MY SIGHT!" pg 29
Wow that was a parent tantrum.  Who won here?  The child did because he got his mom all worked up, most kids like to know they can have that much control over their world.  'Talk too much and you take your child's focus off the need for good behavior.  Instead, you switch your child's focus onto the possibility of an energetic and perhaps enjoyable argument.' pg 29.
When you count obnoxious behavior you want your children to 1.  learn to think and 2. take responsibility for their own behavior.  
So what if your child will not go to time out.  You can do a time out alternative in this case.  I have had to do this with my eight year old.  Some ideas for time out alternative is 15 minutes early to bed, loss of a privilege or toy for a period of time, money taken from their allowance.  For me when I first starting using 1-2-3 magic the first day was the learning process for my kids to see how it worked and I really meant business.  Then it worked for a week.  After a week my oldest really started trying me and saying he wouldn't go to time out.  Luckily I was prepared for this and we gave him a time out alternative.  Your child doesn't choose this, the parent does because you know what privileges will help your childs behavior change.  I've been using counting now for about 6 months and my hardest child rarely gets to a three and when he does, he would rather have the timeout.  It was worth sticking to it.  
I have really liked this method because I am so much more calm.  Yes I still lose my cool at times but odds are better with counting.  Let me give you another example that happened yesterday. My kids were over at the neighbors house with me visiting.  They were playing with their friends having a great time.  When I could tell it was almost time to go I prepared my kids by telling we only had a few more minutes we could play their.  Then when it was time to go I called them all by name and told them it was time to go.  They didn't come.  I then said Traeden, Conrad that's 1."  Immediately they starting walking home with me.  It was awesome!
That example was not a Stop behavior, it was a start behavior.  You usually only count stop behavior (something you want stopped).  But if their is something that needs to be done which takes two minutes or less to do.  Other examples would be, hanging up a coat, feeding the dog.  
This is really just the basics of what 1-2-3 magic.  Phelan goes into almost every problem a parent encounters in his book and answers many questions because he has seen a lot of parents and children in his counseling center.   If you have a specific question about it I will try my best to answer it with comments before the next post.  
Next post I will discuss the Kickoff Conversation you have before you start using this with your kids.  Plus how to use this in public, in the car, and when your on the phone.   For those of you who have used counting before I would love to hear your success stories and your challenges.  


  1. I used to count to five and then the time out would happen. I now give my kids warnings. They have 1 warning before the consequence. Ex: We are at the table and Luke gets down from the table without being finished to play with a toy. Thats when I say "warning 1" He gets back up to the table and if he gets down again his food goes to the garbage with no questions asked. My kids have learned that they need to stay and have no toys at the table. I guess it could be like counting but I only give them one chance. I remember counting to five but I thought.. you know they should be doing it right away not just when I get close to five. Hence why I only give them one warning. I too do the whole time out the same amount of their age. We set the timer on the microwave and they have to shut it off when their time is up. I laughed at the example of the nagging parent. I have to admit I've probably done that before ha ha.

  2. I want you to know that hearing this song, "The Greatest Love of All", has inspired me to be a better parent, child, and human being. Thank you so much for having the courage to play this inspiring song of angelic proportions.

    My question is: Where do you muster the strength to continue day after day with the courage of a lioness?

    Yours truely,
    Scott Titensor

  3. Sandra-it sounds like you have made your own counting magic =) I really think having a warning is a good idea because it reminds the child of something they already know without you going into a long lecture. I think as long as you are consistent it will work.
    I think it is awesome you are eating as a family. I would like to do something about meal time in a later post because I think it's so important.
    So I have to ask how often do you have to throw food away for your kids? I would have a hard time with throwing food away. What do you do when later they complain that they are hungry?
    We just put a lid on their food and put it in the fridge and when they complain they are hungry we get it out. But it's a rarity if they will actually eat it later so I'm wondering if throwing it out would work? I'll have to think on that.
    Our rule is no snacks or dessert unless they ate all their dinner. Man--How come meal time is such a hard thing for a family?

  4. Scott- You are a crack up! The strength to continue like the courage of a lioness... it all came from my early childhood days of watching the Wizard of Oz on our Green and black TV. Truly inspiring! =)


I appreciate your comments!