The Testing Threes

January 28, 2016
by Dekalb Pediatrics

I was well aware and anticipating the “terrible twos” but no one mentioned the “testing threes”; not until I already had a 3 year old! Whining, public tantrums – where had my sweet baby gone? After an especially frustrating (let’s be honest embarrassing) plane ride, I decided that I’d had enough. I pulled the book “1-2-3 Magic” off my shelf and blew off the dust. I’ve recommended it to many patients but the last time I had read it was before having kids, while in residency at Emory. My husband and I formed our own book club, which consisted of me reading out loud while he watched football. It took 2 nights to finish the book and the following Saturday was the BIG DAY.

What is “1-2-3 Magic”?
A behavior modification or discipline book
What is the concept?
2 warnings are given for any behavior that you want to stop. The third offense results in a time out.
What are the key messages?
Don’t talk so much
Maintain your composure
Be consistent
Use for ages 2-12 years
No warnings for bigger transgressions, like hitting, which is an automatic time out
There are many tips for specific situations (for instance, if your toddler won’t stay in time out)
There is also a chapter on “start behaviors” for desired actions such as cleaning your room or doing your homework (perhaps more about this on another date).

Back to the BIG DAY. It seemed at first as though my 3 year old would spend his childhood in time out, but after a few hours something magical happened; he stopped whining! A few months later, I continue to use the “1-2-3 Magic” approach. It has become natural and I use it without thinking about it. I feel more composed and happy around my kids. My 1 year old even seems to be catching on!

Now that life is calm I am happy to be able to share this book with you – based on my personal experience it’s not one that should be collecting dust on a shelf!
“1-2-3 Magic Effective Discipline for Children 2-12” By Thomas W. Phelan, Ph.D.

So goodbye “testing threes” – we’re moving on to “angelic fours”, right?


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