How to Use '1-2-3 Magic' Discipline

1-2-3 Magic can help you to gain control in emotionally tense discipline situations.

1-2-3 Magic is a discipline technique that is intended for use with typical or special needs children. It focuses on managing "stop behavior" -- behaviors you want your child to stop doing -- and "start behavior" -- those actions you want to encourage in your child. This discipline plan uses gentle but firm guidelines and discourages the use of arguing, yelling or spanking, according to California child welfare staff who have evaluated the technique.

Read thoroughly the parenting book "1-2-3 Magic." You may also wish to watch the DVDs, which follow the book's main objectives. This program also has a group format, for those who wish to learn more in a group setting. These classes take place in public settings, such as hospitals and schools.

Control obnoxious behavior by utilizing the counting method of discipline, according to the California Evidence-Based Clearinghouse for Child Welfare (CEBC). If your child does not stop the undesirable behavior by the count of 3, you give out a consequence, such as a timeout, according to the "1-2-3 Magic" website.

Avoid the parental traps of talking too much or showing too much emotion while disciplining, according to KidsMatter. These reactions will only dilute your message to the child.

Learn to manage the "Six Kinds of Testing and Manipulation: badgering, intimidation, threats, martyrdom, butter-up, and physical," according to the "1-2-3 Magic" website. Each of these is a technique or behavior that children use to gain control in the parent-child relationship. They use these verbal and non-verbal tactics to get their way with parents. By learning to recognize and ignore these behaviors, you can teach your child that manipulation will not be rewarded.

Encourage good behavior when you see it. You can foster good self-esteem and appropriate behavior in your child when you recognize their positive choices, according to the "1-2-3 Magic" site. This encouragement leads to independence and autonomy in the child.

Choose activities that strengthen your relationship with your child, according to the CEBC. A closer bond between parents and children means better communication and more cooperation from the child. Getting positive attention from you means the child will act out less, because they won't seek negative attention.


Do not expect children to have the same reasoning skills as adults. They have yet to develop the mental capacity to think through the cause and effect of their actions, according to the CEBC.