1-2-3 Magic Toddler Discipline Strategy Review

Any 1-2-3 Magic Fans out there?  I discovered this great book as I saw it recommended over and over through my Mother of Twins Club discussion board.  As my twin tots are now two and have entered the “Please give us some structured discipline!” phase of life, I am currently reading the book and have started applying some of the (simple) strategies.  So far, we have only worked through the “Stop Behaviors,” but we are definitely seeing progress!  I journaled a bit of our experience below.

(If your are unfamiliar with the 1-2-3 Magic strategy, the “nuts and bolts” is that you “stop” unwanted behavior by slowly counting to 3.  If the parent reaches 3 before the child stops the behavior, the child gets a time out.  If the child stops the behavior first, then time out is avoided.  But, I highly suggest reading the book as this leaves out a good bit of simple, but critical, information for successfully implementing the process.)

Stop Behavior Goals:

Little Brother – We are hoping to reduce or shorten tantrums.  We are particularly going to work on this while getting dressed in AM, with sharing, and during meal time.

Big Brother –  We are hoping to reduce his “badgering” for wants.  “Mommy up, mommy up, mommy up…no daddy, no daddy, no daddy.”  We are particularly going to focus on this behavior around meal time and when he is seeking attention (when not appropriate time).

Both Boys – We are hoping we will see a reduction in their fighting over toys and an improvement in turn taking (which is more of a start behavior, admittedly).

Observations over the first 10 Days:  

We started our “boot camp” on a Friday morning.  My mom, Nana, was here over the weekend, and she was on board with our plan.  There was no honeymoon period, we hit 3 every time.  Lots of couch time.  (Aka…”Time Out” time.)  Side note:  Our boys were already familiar with the concept of “Time Out” at this point, it was really just the counting and allowing them the opportunity to correct or “stop” the behavior that was new to them.  

On Saturday morning, I posted a “Help, we are starting 1-2-3 Magic” status on FB.  By noon, I had lots of “Stick with it, it works!” comments and other encouraging words from fellow moms.

On Sunday morning, I purposely stayed upstairs and let Dad handle morning.  There was a bit of drama.  But, it was a good experience and opportunity for Dad to take control.  (Oh, so Dad is on this plan too, huh?  I thought it only worked when Mom was around.)

On Monday, we saw our first big victory.  Big Brother stopped a major badger session cold turkey on count 2 and ra away to go play happily.  I looked around to see if anyone else saw this small miracle, but of course, it was only me and Little Brother around to celebrate.

On Tuesday, Little brother put himself in “time out” to calm down from a meltdown.  On count “2,” he said to us, “Need time out, okay?” and pouted himself over to the couch.  Okay!

On Wednesday morning, I tried this in public for the first time. I definitely felt all eyes watching (whether or not they really were watching, who knows).  Verdict:  Mom decided that she needs more confidence and practice before trying again in public. 😉

On Thursday and Friday, we continued to observe progress.  We were still making it to count 3 on occasion and they were serving their time outs, but many times, the behaviors would stop on count 1 or 2.  It was definitely  working.

Over the following Saturday and Sunday, our other set of grandparents came to visit.  Big Brother, who usually morphs into extra-super-clingy mode with Grammie did significantly better.  (No worries, he still got lots of snuggle and cuddles from Grammie, just wasn’t quite as whinny and demanding about it.)  Also, we went out to lunch with two strangely polite toddlers – our own toddlers, I mean.  It was a thing of beauty.  Worth the cost of the book right there in that one delightful lunch outing.

After first 10 days:

Success!  From our observations during the first 10 days, we will definitely continue with the strategies from 1-2-3 Magic.  While our children are still 2, and we still have time outs and behavior concerns, we definitely see improvement.  Little Brother is doing much better about stopping tantrums and asking for help before getting frustrated.  We often make it to the breakfast table in the morning without a tantrum, which is a HUGE improvement from the 1/2 hour of screaming we often endured pre-1-2-3 Magic.  Also, Big Brother has shown a significant reduction in his “badgering” behavior, which also means he is often less clingy and generally happier.

Parent Self Assessment:

We (mom and dad) both realize how much of the success of this depends on our consistency and calm approach.  (Which, side note, is perhaps my favorite part about 1-2-3 Magic…the calm approach.)  We noticed that we often wait too long to start counting, and that, in general, I have a quicker trigger.  But, we when we do count, we often see the behaviors corrected by count two.  It is so wonderful to see our kids making the decision to stop the negative behavior.  So, from here, we will work as a team to keep our expectations, response and reactions consistent.  Looking forward to trying the “Start Behaviors” soon!

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