123 Magic; The Best Parenting Program?

The 123 Magic parenting program aims for positive outcomes and effective discipline for problem behaviours. Let’s unpack exactly what 123 Magic is all about.

Introduction – 123 Magic

Have you ever sat and thought about the discipline approach you are using and thought, “This isn’t working? I need a positive change with effective outcomes.” That is where 1 2 3 parenting comes into play. This life-changing program uses positive parenting techniques and deliberate, conscious discipline, while still focusing on strengthening relationships.

If you are looking to calm the chaos, enhance family relationships, and put an end to physical discipline and yelling, then this program, with several effective methods, could be exactly what you need.

The 1 2 3 Magic Parenting program is geared towards children aged 2-12, but creates skills for life. The program helps both parents, caregivers and teachers manage behaviours with a positive, yet firm approach, while offering praise and encouragement all along the way. Parents can take control without violence and intimidation, but instead with love, affection and consistency.

What is 123 Magic?

1 2 3 Magic is a book written by Thomas W. Phelan, a registered clinical psychologist who has been working with children and families for more than 35 years. The book approaches positive child-adult interactions regarding discipline and behavior management.

These strategic steps are done without yelling or physical discipline and with deliberate and conscious parenting. This program is structured to help not only parents but childcare providers and teachers and is targeted primarily at children ages 2-12 years old.

There are three different steps to 1 2 3 magic. These steps are each outlined with examples and guidelines to help implement the process and address problems you may encounter along the way with children who may be challenging or testing.

If you have a strong-willed child, escalating sibling rivalry, misbehaving children, obnoxious behavior, and struggle with a consistent strategy, you might be interested to learn powerful techniques that may deliver significant improvements.

“The 1-2-3 Magic program keeps parents in charge and is proven to be effective, produces results quickly, and is the only parenting program based on the fact that parents talk too much!”

Dr Thomas W Phelan – 123 Magic

What is the 123 Magic Book all about?

1 2 3 Magic is the winner of the National Parenting Publications Gold Award and has sold over 875,000 copies. The book itself offers a step-by-step guide for both parents and caregivers to effectively implement steps to curb obnoxious behaviors and help the positive behaviours grow and thrive in a positive parenting environment. 

The 1 2 3 Magic Book is about approaching children’s behaviour to either start or stop a specific behaviour. These results are accomplished with automatic parenting that models appropriate behaviours and expectations. The book focuses on counting obnoxious behaviours and encouraging positive behavior as well as strengthening your relationship.

123 Magic

What is the 1 2 3 magic technique?

The 1 2 3 parenting technique uses a warm and friendly approach to effective discipline while remaining firm to provide clear guidelines and expectations for children. There are three main steps to remember when it comes to the 1 2 3 parenting framework:

Step 1 is Counting Obnoxious Behaviors.

Step one is when we want children to think about what they are doing and to take responsibility for their own behaviour. For instance, if a child is having a meltdown because you told them ‘no’ about something and why, then first you count to 1 with no emotion, wait five seconds for them to calm down, if it is not helping then count to 2, again with no emotion. If the tantrum continues, count to 3 and say take a timeout, or select an alternative “timeout.”

The key is to stay calm and show no emotion but to remain firm and unwavering. Aside from showing no emotion, there is no talking in this step following the behaviour, there is only facing the consequences.

For children with more extreme and defiant behaviours there is another approach called the Major/Minor system. This is a system where you will have a list of offenses and what the consequences will be ahead of time.

123 Magic
The 123 Magic program can help to get on top of defiant, challenging behaviours

Step 2 is Encouraging Good Behavior

Step 2 is about encouraging good behaviours and keeping them going. Firstly, to help support this process, it is a good idea to have a daily routine in place for daily tasks. Children catch on quickly to routines and they can quickly become automatic.

You can use these 7 steps to start desired behaviours during the routines: 

1.   Praise & Positive Reinforcement

Positive reinforcement goes a long way in life no matter how old you are. The more praise that comes from your mouth as a parent or caregiver the better, so that we help our children to hear more positive than negative and scolding. If children feel like they are a nuisance, they can very easily become withdrawn or have more behaviourial issues. Make a point of praising your children daily when they are exhibiting good behaviours, and praise in front of others is extra effective.

2.   Simple Requests

Simple requests are easier for children to follow and comprehend. The tone of voice used is to be kept in mind so that your message is clear but not necessarily harsh. Schedules and set tasks or routines come into play here, so children are not bombarded by spontaneous requests. Pay close attention to phrasing your requests appropriately.

3.   Kitchen Timers

The utilization of timers is an effective way to start desired behaviours such as clean-up time, taking turns, and more. Timers can be on smartphones, kitchen clocks, egg timers. If the task is not finished by the time the timer goes off, this is an opportunity to use natural consequences.

4.   The Docking System

This strategy docks an allowance, funds, etc when a task is not completed within the expected time frame. If docking funds is not effective, other things such as TV time, computer time, tablet time, etc, can be docked.

5.   Natural Consequences

Natural consequences are a result of actions without interference. Some children learn well from experiencing natural consequences and learning from experience.

6.   Charting

Charting is used to track how well a child does with tasks, chores, and expectations. A chart is a visual checklist and reward system the child will be able to see daily and strive for a goal.

7.   Counting Variation: Brief Start Behaviour

Counting short start behaviours can be beneficial but is not recommended for longer “start” behaviours. This would be ideal for tasks such as putting away shoes, coat, backpack, brushing teeth and so on.

Step 3 is Strengthening Relationships

A strong parent-child relationship or caretaker-child relationship is very imperative in a child’s growth and development. It is important to boost children’s self-esteem and relationships with others.

The 1 2 3 program is not only about effective discipline, but also about strengthening the child’s self-esteem and relationships with others, themselves, and building character.

Keep these tips in mind to build positive relationships with the children in your care:

●    Don’t over-parent or be overbearing, focusing only on pointing out wrongs.

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●    Pour out the affection and praise!

●    Create 1-on-1 Fun! Family fun is great, but those one-on-one moments are extra special and memorable.

●    Practice Active Listening, engaging in conversation with open-ended questions and reflecting on what is being discussed.

What is emotion coaching?

Emotion coaching is all about being present, actively listening, and really tuning into what your child is thinking and feeling. Children need to know that it is ok to feel some sort of way about something without being reprimanded, but instead guided and coached through these thoughts and feelings. When children are positively reinforced and supported emotionally, it creates a strong and resilient child who can cope and navigate life’s challenges with a healthy approach. This is because they will feel supported, loved, valued and appreciated instead of feeling like a nuisance. 

“Researchers have found that even more than your IQ, your emotional awareness and your ability to handle feelings will determine your success and happiness in all walks of life, including family relationships”

John Gottman, Author of ‘Raising an emotionally intelligent child

How long is the 1 2 3 Magic DVD?

The 1 2 3 Magic Book also comes as a DVD for those who are auditory or visual learners. Reading the book and watching the DVD will help the information be absorbed even better. The DVD is 120 minutes long. The DVD version is also quite entertaining as Dr. Phelan presents the information with humour and lightheartedness.

What is Positive Discipline?

Positive discipline is an approach to parenting that does not encourage smacking, hitting or yelling. Positive discipline guides children in appropriate behaviours and expectations while respecting their thoughts, emotions and well-being. Positive parenting focuses on long-term goals and is based on a warm and loving disciplinary framework. Helping children learn to navigate their emotions positively and build problem-solving skills will lead to creating healthy, happy adults.

Does 1 2 3 Magic really work?

The great thing about 1 2 3 Magic is that it works! It creates a plan for conscious discipline and how to accomplish desired behaviours in children while nurturing their growth and relationships.

The 1 2 3 parenting approach can be difficult if both parents and caregivers are not on the same page. If one parent enforces these steps, but the other is coming from a completely opposite approach, the plan and the strategies may not be as effective. When all the steps are followed correctly this program works extremely well. If all contributing adults are on the same page, then the Magic can really work.


The 1 2 3 Magic course can be delivered online or you can look for a course at a location near you by visiting this link: Resourcing Parents. They also have some other courses, tools and parenting resources.

123 Magic
The 1 2 3 Magic course, and some emotion coaching could be a huge benefit to your family

123 Magic – Summary

If you have felt frustrated with tantrums, child problem behaviors and ineffective child discipline or behaviour management techniques, the 1 2 3 Magic course, and some emotion coaching could be a huge benefit to your family.

Like any new implementation of a program or plan, these steps take practice. It could take many attempts over the years to feel like you are successfully navigating the steps. The great thing about a program like this is that it’s made to grow with you and your children over the years. We all know that life can be unpredictable and messy, and that is simply human.

Many participants have given feedback, reporting the 1 2 3 Magic program has effective methods, reducing child problem behaviors, and the strategies have led to less arguing and significant improvements for the whole family.

Implementing 1 2 3 Magic can bring calmness and order to the chaos and lower stress, meaning happier families. You can read my article on Self Regulation here.

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Have you heard of the 1 2 3 Magic program, or have you tried it out for your family? What’s your evaluation? Did you see a significant improvement? Let me know in the comments, I would love to hear about it!

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