Effective discipline for children 2-12

Effective discipline for children 2-12

I used the methods in the book '1-2-3 Magic: Effective Discipline for Children 2-12' by Thomas W.Phelan and it worked for me!


Learn the tricks for effective discipline for children

‘1-2-3 Magic: Effective Discipline for Children 2-12’ by Thomas W. Phelan is indeed a “magical” book for all parents who are concerned about methods to discipline their young children. As all parents would agree, parenting is one of the hardest professions we throw ourselves into without proper education and instruction. We all learn on-the-job, and each of our children are unique in their personalities and temperament. Ask any parent and they will tell you that no two children are alike, not even twins! Hence, it is difficult to pinpoint what discipline methods work with which children. Regardless, Phelan suggests a very practical and uncontroversial method to discipline the average child.

Phelan’s method for disciplining young children is very simple to adopt. The gist of his method is that each time your child misbehaves; you count from 1 to 3. When you get to 3 and your child still does not heed your words, he says it is time for them to experience a consequence for their actions, be it in the form of a time-out or any other consequence suitable for the said infraction. The key to success, for this method, is to apply it consistently and as the parent, you must be willing to see things through without faltering. This means that you practice the 1-2-3 method in the same manner anywhere you practice it, be it at home, in the playground, other people’s homes or at a shopping centre.

Before you begin using this method, it is only fair to your child that you explain in simple terms what you will be doing. Explain the ground rules of the 1-2-3 method and state clearly that if he or she continues to misbehave after you count to 3, there will be consequences which they will have to face. For younger children who are not able to comprehend this fully, Phelan suggests suitable variations of his method.

The book not only provides methods to stop bad behaviour such as temper tantrums, hitting, rudeness, and so on but Phelan also provides tools to start good behaviour in a child, such as doing chores, homework and practicing good social skills. Some of his techniques for starting good behaviour include charting, using timers and positive reinforcement.

I came across Phelan’s book by chance when I was at my wit’s end in trying to discipline my then 3-year-old son for throwing tantrums. I was surfing the Amazon website for books on discipline and found the reviews on Phelan’s book very encouraging. Needless to say, it didn’t take me too long to decide to purchase the book.

In the beginning, it was a difficult process for me, namely because my son was young and I couldn’t hold a family meeting to explain the ground rules to him. Secondly, it was hard for me to be consistent and stick to the time-out process as I often succumb to his cries. However, with practice and a lot of encouragement from my husband, both of us managed to practice the 1-2-3 method effectively.

Phelan recommends the length of the time-out period to be equivalent to the age of your child. Hence, 3 minutes for my 3-year-old son. At first, my son didn’t comprehend this and he would scream and kick and cry in his room. However, as time went by and we kept practicing the 1-2-3 method consistently, the concept became clear to him.

I am happy to say that at 5, my son’s temper tantrums have subsided completely. Now, I only need to count to 1 and be greeted with a sulky face of submission. I then leave him alone after explaining why I am unhappy with his behaviour. After about 5 to 10 minutes, I go to him, sit down and have a chat with him. More often than not, he is willing to listen and communicate his point of view. One of his favourite lines is “Mummy, you don’t understand me.” My reply to that is, “Can you explain to me what I don’t understand so that I can understand you?” I have to consciously tell myself to see things from a 5 year old’s perspective and not be judgmental. We always try to end the conversation with a hug and a kiss.

There are many books in the market that are informative, useful and holds effective disciplining for children. Phelan’s book has made an impact on my parenting style and my son’s behaviour. At the end of the day, no matter what approach you take to effect discipline on your children, the key factor is to ensure that you are always consistent, fair and clear with your reasons for choosing the consequences you determine. Be mindful not to harm your children’s self esteem when disciplining them. Always reinforce the fact that they are understood, cherished and loved. Remember, it is just the behaviour that you disapprove of, not them. Good luck!


Hope you found this article on effective discipline for children informative.

For some related articles, check these out:

Make homework time a “fun” time

How to use time-out effectively with your kid

Disciplining other people’s kids: When it is appropriate

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Written by

Jenny Toh

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