One Two Three Magic is a disciplinary technique developed by Thomas Phelan. It is designed to help you keep control of the situation by simply counting up to three. It is one of the most common ways to teach your child right from wrong and to help control their emotions when things are getting out of hand. But does it work?
One Two Three Magic Demystified
The first thing you need to do when starting the One Two Three Magic technique is to explain to your child what this is and how it works. Normally a child will be able to understand One Two Three Magic by the time they are two or three years old. How it works is relatively simple. When your child is getting out of hand or misbehaving, you use a calm and controlling voice to say “one, two, three.” The goal is for your child to calm down by the time you reach “three” but this often doesn’t happen.
If your child is still carrying on, then put them in a time out. The theory behind One Two Three Magic is to put your child into a time out in their room for however old they are. For example, if your child is three, then they will be put into the time out for three minutes. During this time, do not respond to your child, regardless of how they react. Let them kick, scream and destroy the room. If your child does try to escape the time out, then add another minute for each time they try to get out.
The theory is that in time your child will learn to recognise what it means when you start counting and that they will start to control their anger and their emotions. The theory suggests that if they do not want to go into the time out, then they will learn to control their behaviour before this punishment happens. Under this mode of discipline, the time out is seen as a punishment rather than a way to compose and calm down.
There is a popular book explaining the theory behind One Two Three Magic written by Thomas Phelan. There is also One Two Three Magic parenting courses available.
Will It Work for You?
One of the good things about One Two Three Magic is that it’s simplicity may actually work with your child. You can also use it when you are out and about. After all, counting to three in a supermarket is definitely a lot easier than trying to find a corner to leave your child for a time out.
On the other hand, One Two Three Magic is almost too simple to actually work. It takes consistency and patience and it leaves little room for parents to calm down. You need to stay firm and grounded and you can’t let your own anger and frustration show which can definitely be difficult. However, in time, it can eliminate the fights, the tears and the public meltdowns and hopefully help your child control his emotions rather than expressing them through disobedient behaviour.