Monday, May 14, 2012

Surprisingly, It Didn't Suck

People of the Internet! I just read a parenting book that not only didn't make my eyes bleed, I also actually liked it.  Will wonders never cease.

The book is 1-2-3 Magic and it's not made of sparkly rocket science unicorns or anything.  It is, however, a good reminder of how not to let your kids push your buttons.  It's written by a very sensible child psychologist, who thinks that parents have a responsibility to be loving, but also to be firm and to set good boundaries.  The basic premise is: three chances to correct their behavior, then a consequence.  No negotiation, no explaining, no one last chance.  Different consequences for different ages; if a teenager won't take a timeout, they can choose between a fine, a chore, or loss of a privilege.  If the 3-year-old won't take a timeout, you put them in their room.  Consistently ignore annoying behavior.  Don't explain and reason and argue with small children; they're doing whatever to get a rise out of you, and when you lose your temper, that's a kind of positive reinforcement.

Yes, I knew all of this, but sometimes it's good to be reminded.  Go read it and see.

The only thing I completely disagree with is that the author says "Don't make the child apologize, because they'll just be lying."  This is true, but apologies are most often a social construct having nothing to do with how one feels.  I am teaching him that when he hurts someone, he has to say sorry, whether he feels remorse or not.  It reminds me of what my mother always said about our teachers in school: "You don't have to have respect for them, but you do have to show respect for them."


  1. Anonymous10:47 AM

    Sounds reasonable, except for the not explaining part. Don't explain to a small child? Really? So you just take the child away from what he or she is doing without explaining why it's wrong? How is the child supposed to learn what is appropriate?

    1. Well, you've already said "No hitting, that's _" three times, or you said no hitting and then they hit and that's one. Or it's something they know they can't do (no stealing the baby's toys: I have already said this over a thousand times). Brief descriptions, not a five minute discourse on how the kid's been so naughty and naughty children get time outs andandand...

  2. Anonymous10:18 AM

    I loved that book and it really worked for us. Years later, all I have to do is start counting (this is a rare occurrence), and my kid listens.

    We did explain briefly why the punishment was given, but didn't lecture and tried to move one from the incident quickly.

  3. It sounds quite simple and sensible, aside from the apologizing part. It is currently waiting for me at the library. I liked "Nurtureshock" since it had lots of the latest scientific studies on kids, and contradicts a substantial amount of the irritating parenting books.
    Completely off topic, but I'm currently reading "Grow the Good Life: Why a vegetable garden will make you happy, healthy, wealthy, and wise." The claims are so fantastic, I had to read it. I'm loving it though, it's the book I would write if I were 50 and been gardening for 25 years. I might get my neighbor friend to read it... She told me she wants to build a raised bed for lettuce and tomatoes over Memorial Day weekend. Apparently I'm a good influence?

  4. i hear great things about this book all the time, from lots of smart, trustworthy people. i will have to actually read it one of these days.

    the thing i see around here that drives me nuts are the folks who start the count-to-3-times thing, except you and me and the kid and every vertebrate for 300 miles can tell they will never get to 3. it would be better just to do nothing.


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