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1-2-3 Magic: Effective Discipline for Children 2-12

3.89  ·  Rating details ·  7,808 ratings  ·  969 reviews
Are you the parent of a strong-willed child? Is bedtime a nightly battle? Are you looking to get your kids to behave without yelling? Whether you have a toddler, preschooler, or school-aged child, this parenting book can help you create a calm, happy home.

Since kids don't come with a manual, 1-2-3 Magic is the next best thing. Dr. Thomas Phelan has developed the #1 selling
Kindle Edition, Revised, Fourth Edition
Published (first published January 28th 1995)
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Average rating 3.89  · 
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 ·  7,808 ratings  ·  969 reviews

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Aug 03, 2013 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Awful book. Their method is all about eliminating "problem" behavior. And yes, I suppose the method is good at stopping a behavior you don't like once the child starts doing it. But the child only stops the behavior because they're threatened with a punishment and they don't want the punishment. Not because they're being taught the correct way to behave instead. The book doesn't at all address teaching the child to have their own self-discipline when an adult isn't around to monitor their behavi ...more
Tanya W
Sep 23, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Great parenting book (but I have to admit, I think I have now had my fill for a while on parenting books). I have heard references to this book several times over the years and I finally decided on my sister's recommendation to read it. Unfortunately, we get a few parenting book recommendations... haha.

I know if I apply this consistently, it will be positive all around. I have started, but I know I need to be more consistent AND get Eric on board.

So here are my notes for me or anyone else who fe
May 23, 2009 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: nonfiction
I didn't finish this book. I got fed up with it after reading the phrase, "1-2-3-Magic is not magic, it just seems like it!" five times in the first thirty pages. It was also peppered with sarcastic remarks that were probably meant to be cute and funny but just got on my nerves and were borderline offensive. ("What if you have children who always respond to words and reasons? You are certainly lucky! Recent research has indicated that there are three such children in this country. If you have on ...more
This book was recommended to me by a friend who has 10 children. It was helpful in understanding what to do when you as a parent get frustrated with your children. I especially liked the authors explanation on little-adult syndrome. Children are not naturally logical like adults and I make that mistake all the time with my five year-old becuase he talks to me like he's an adult sometimes. To make the counting discipline effective you have to use silence. I've found it effective and it certainly ...more
Kevin Kirkhoff
Feb 07, 2009 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: societal
How in the world do you begin to discipline a young child? When they get older, it's easy: no TV, no dessert, no play time with friends. But what about when all they do is run around and torment the place? Enter "1-2-3 Magic". It has a simple premise. Tell the child to stop doing something. If he doesn't stop, "that's one". Give him until three, with about five seconds in between one and two. On three, he's off to his room or isolated in a chair for a minute or two. When the timeout is complete, ...more
Apr 12, 2018 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Thoughts on 1-2-3 Magic:

First note: My child is what’s called “2e”: gifted, with ADHD, SPD, and OCD…so we’re solidly in “differently wired” territory. (I’m also very likely a 2e person). This book was recommended to me for addressing some of the really challenging behavior issues we have at home. While I think there is some (maybe even quite a lot of) value in the structure provided by this kind of approach, a few things really, really bug me:

He says something along the lines of “unless you are
Feb 08, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I was a skeptic. There is no "magic" in childrearing, and while I was desperate enough to seek discipline help, I wasn't expecting to find it. They've made a convert out of me! This book really works.

In a nutshell, stop talking so much when you discipline your kids! We are very guilty of this transgression. Our curious kid wants to know about everything and is firmly entrenched in the "why?" phase. So it was natural for us to also explain why you can't put your feet on the table/hit someone/whin
Oct 03, 2013 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: No One
So glad I didn't waste my money and purchase this book. Very grateful to libraries for this very reason. This book is a recommended read by our local Children's Hospital. I do not have discipline issues with my children, and for the most part, it is because I don't use this nonsense. I can see where this method would create some huge discpline problems where there wasn't any before, or even compound and make things worse if there is a discipline problem.

This technique only provides children the
Apr 25, 2009 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: parenting
I knew this was going to be a terrible book. It was recommended to me by a terrible speech therapist who was a behavioral therapist wanna-be, and a bad one at that. Thankfully she got fired because apparently no one else liked her approach either, which was based on this book. I read the book though, because hey, I'm open minded. You wont see me say this often, but I lost some brain cells by reading that book. I would not be so unkind as to recommend this book to anyone. Now, usually I can take ...more
Jun 09, 2015 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Honestly, this book has a lot of sound advice and good ideas. I would highly recommend it for anyone who was having trouble with discipline in their home. The low rating comes mostly from three things: 1) I felt like a good chunk of the advice was pretty intuitive (maybe this just means I had GREAT parents myself, and so not much of the "method" here is revelatory to me, because it's what they did and so very similar to what I've naturally done); 2) I dislike the author's tone pretty frequently ...more
Aug 10, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book works because it is simple, straightforward, and hits at the heart of parents dilemma:

"I love my children, now if I could just like them as well."

I have 4 children under age 8. I get it. I love them, I just wish I spent more time playing games and chatting and really teaching and helping my kids rather than lecturing and scolding and correcting and reminding and stopping them all day.

- "But it's our duty to teach our kids responsibility, and to get along, and to be nice, and to play
Nov 07, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I picked up Phelan's 1-2-3 Magic after having it recommended by my son's paediatrician. I was not entirely sure what to expect, as many people have told me that parenting, even discipline, is not rocket science. Truth be told, it had become a daunting and somewhat overwhelming task for me and I thought that if anything could help, I'd give it a try. Phelan chooses to break the book (and the system) down into three digestible portions: dealing with obnoxious behaviour, creating and sticking with ...more
Tyler Hooper
It is always hard to fully implement the parenting techniques given in any book, because your situation never seems to quite fit the mold. We have had some success using 1-2-3 magic, but there was certainly no "magic" to it. I am sure the author would accuse us of not following it as exact as we should, but trust me, you cannot always send your child to "take 5" or give them another equally as impacting discipline when you are supposed to. Further, our child tested this method (i.e., let us get ...more
Natalie Fetzer
5 stars because it really has worked with managing the boys’ behavior.

When I became a parent I had internalized the idea that counting at kids trained them to disobey. This is not true; counting gives them a chance to regulate their own behavior and make good choices. My oldest hates getting counted to 3, so he stops on the first count most of the time. Before we would argue and haggle and pitch fits at each other, now that’s a lot less likely to happen.

The book spends a lot of time talking abo
Apr 16, 2008 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Offers some good guidance but view of children a bit brow-raising.

I appreciated the insights about the necessity of being calm and consistent (following through on what you have said) when it comes to setting standards and consequences for children.

However, I was a bit uncomfortable with the author's view of children. Perhaps the author is attempting levity in order to diffuse parental frustration, but for me, his portrayal of children made me squirm in my chair. In a nutshell, Phelan bases his
Jan 19, 2012 rated it really liked it
I have a love/hate relationship with parenting books. I love the ideas in (most of) them but actually instigating the changes rarely happens. They also tend to be hard for me to get through because they go into such depths of explanations, etc, etc. I guess I have parenting ADD :(

Not the case with this super quick read "1-2-3 Magic". It is a quick read and, because they only focus on three things, it's a quick implement. I admit to being skeptical - I have always mocked the parents who count, "1
Feb 20, 2009 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Parents of kids, baby sitters, primary teachers, and grandparents even.
My wife used to always watch the show Super-Nanny trying get tips for raising our kids. I couldn't stand it. It was 1% information to that load of drama and crazy kids. Bleh.

This book on the other hand is Excellent. Its a short book that really gives you a framework to:

1) Stop your kids obnoxious behavior,
2) Get your kids to Start doing stuff (chores, getting ready for bed, etc.) and
3) Helping you set aside time to build healthy friendships with your kids.

My wife read the book and was so exc
Jan 30, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I have not read a parenting book in about twelve years (not because I think I have it all figured out, because I'm too busy parenting). :) This book is awesomeness. I feel like I have really good kids (at least they work for me) and this took their goodness to a new level. Taking the emotion out of discipline is exactly what I needed. I want to be able to save all emotion for the good parts of parenting and skip on it for the frustrating parts. I truly believe that anyone who follows this idea, ...more
Feb 12, 2016 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
I can't decide if this book had a poor philosophy or just isn't my parenting style, at all. I had seen quite a few people recommend this book over the years, and thought I'd give it a shot. Honestly, it was the most mundane, typical parenting advice. They spend the first 30 pages repetitively stating that you'll be saying "1-2-3 Magic!" after you read the book, you'll be so amazed. Then the climax is literally them telling you to count, put your kid in time out when you get to 3, and then don't ...more
Mat Davis
Jul 12, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
We implemented some of the tactics and ideas in this book and found it to be very helpful. It doesn’t solve all of the issues, but it’s a tool in the toolbox that has increased our parenting effectiveness.
Mar 03, 2020 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Within the first few pages, it became clear this book isn't for me. Phelan opens with an example of a mother raising 3 boys who tries 1-2-3 magic. At the end of the program, she said she experienced for the first time liking her kids and missing them when they went to school. This book really seems geared at the kinds of parents who want their kids to do exactly what they want them to do and if they don't, they don't enjoy their kids.

Second, the book lists reasons to trust this method with the
Sep 15, 2019 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
There were some good take-aways from this book, but a few of the ideas made me cringe a bit. It has a somewhat disrespectful view of children, in my opinion. I also don't like how it said, over and over again, "control your child's annoying behavior." I don't believe that controlling a child so that they act in a way that doesn't annoy me is my job as a parent. ...more
M. Langlinais
Jan 17, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This was “assigned reading” by our pediatrician. While the counting technique seems like a good one, my kids are all older, so I’m not sure how well it applies. Without getting into personal issues, I’ll say this is probably a great book for people with younger children. It doesn’t entirely fit my/our situation however.
Apr 18, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
One of the most common sense parenting books I have read. It could have been written by a friend. It seems doable in every day life and applicable to most situations...not just textbook ones.
Katie Konow
Nov 12, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
We 1,2,3 our toddler to great effect. I don't think I've gotten past two in weeks. A very helpful book. ...more
Ty Bullinger
Jan 10, 2021 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Dnf. A dated fear based system of discipline. “Do what I say or else” type of parenting. Just a step above spanking. Interesting to see the advice earlier generations of parents were given, but advice that is no longer any good.
Jan 04, 2021 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Hits on good points with trying to stop behaviors. Start behaviors are harder to understand but most make sense.
Amanda Allen
Presents clear format for discipline style. Helpful use of anecdotes but too much promotion of probable success with program. Some good take aways.
Paul Smolen
Jul 21, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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 ...more
Becca McCulloch
Feb 25, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Easy to implement technique. My son responded well. Book predicted child behaviors well.
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Mansfield Public ...: 1-2-3 Magic Review by Britney Lima 1 8 Aug 16, 2013 07:48AM  

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26 likes · 11 comments
“It is critical to your family’s well being and to your kids’ self-esteem that you like (not just love) your youngsters. What does “like” mean? Here’s an example. It’s a Saturday and you’re home by yourself for a few hours—a rare occurrence! Everyone has gone out. You’re listening to some music and just puttering around. You hear a noise outside and look out to see a car pulling up in the driveway. One of your kids gets out and heads for the front door. How do you feel in your gut right at that moment? If it’s “Oh no, the fun’s over!” that may not be like. If it’s “Oh good, I’ve got some company!” that’s more like like. Liking your children and having a good relationship with them is important for lots of reasons. The most important reason, though, may be that it’s simply more fun. Kids are naturally cute and enjoyable a lot of the time, and you want to take advantage of that valuable quality. And they only grow up with you once.” 1 likes
“First, see if you can make three positive comments for every negative one (and, by the way, a count is one negative comment).” 0 likes
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