1, 2, 3 Magic!: A Simple Tool to Eliminate Misbehavior

1, 2, 3 Magic!: A Simple Tool to Eliminate Misbehavior

I am now 29 weeks into the amazing, life-transforming Chanoch LNaar parenting course with Dina Friedman. And while I have learned many incredible tools in the course that have improved my mothering life as well as my children’s lives immensely, I have just learned a powerful little trick that has proven to be so incredible and effective that I think it, on its own, justifies the cost and effort of the entire year-long course.

This tool is called “1, 2, 3, Magic!”

This is what you do:

The first time your child misbehaves you announce “One.” The second time “Two.” The third time “Three,” at which point the child gets a time out for the amount of minutes as his or her age.

So, for example, this is how I used 1, 2, 3 Magic one morning last week.

Yoel stepped on his baby sister’s head
“One,” I announced.
Yoel drew on the wall with a crayon.
“Two,” I announced.
Yoel tore a page out of a book.
“Three,” I announced, and then Yoel had to sit in his “Punishment Chair” for four minutes, a minute for every one of his 4 years. (You can also send the child to another room.)*

I’ve been using 1, 2, 3 Magic! now for about 2 weeks, and it’s already reduced Yoel’s by about 75%! And nowadays, the truth is, I almost never get to three. Yoel hates the “Punishment Chair” (just a regular chair facing the wall) and it’s been an incredibly effective deterrent. I think he’s feeling happier and calmer too, now that we’re using 1, 2, 3 Magic rather than my former approach which was called “1 Scream, 2 Scream Some More, 3 Scream Even Louder.”

Try it out JewishMOMS, and tell me if it works for you too.

Highly, highly recommended.

For kids five and under, you count all misbehaviors within a 20 minute period (meaning that after that 20 minute period you start counting from zero again). For kids over five, you count all misbehaviors within a longer period, for example: the morning, the afternoon, bedtime.

Photo courtesy of Flickr.com user Eva Peris


  1. wow, i love that my life with my kids seems normal…just today i thought i had the most abnormally misbehaving kids–like everything they could destroy or any way they could hurt eachother was all in one day- drawing on walls/books, wetting the sofa- then the floor, then the carpet…pushing a sister down the staircase (3 stairs-but still painful), pulling chunks of hair out of sisters head, jumpin jacks on the laptop, then on the blech, then on his brother…and i just couldnt hold back, i said- you guys are not NORMAL!!! go to your rooms until I figure out what to clean/fix/say first…by the way chana, these things take place as I am changing the babys diaper or preparing food (again and again) or using the bathroom and sometimes right before my eyes…i just feel like they dont care about consequences- because i do punish- time outs that are timed and take away favorite things for the day etc…so whats left?- 30 more days of this and who knows what i’ll say – i dont want to say the wrong thing…i already find myself muttering all kinds of stuff by the kitchen sink…

  2. love the photo BTW

  3. It has been my experience that the 1,2,3 magic method gives my kids the knowledge that they always get to misbehave two times!

  4. The 1-2-3 Magic! is program created by psychologist Dr. Thomas Phelan about 25 years ago. It would be most helpful for anyone trying to learn this method by actually reading his books. Your description of it is helpful, but there is so much more to learn! Also, he does have video lectures teaching much of the same information in the books. His methods really do help parents understand that parenting is a skill to be learned, and shouldn’t be just done by ‘instinct’ (and in turn, helps prevent child abuse). You can get his books/videos from many libraries (and don’t be surprised if there’s a waiting list!).

    • I want to say that although we need to learn techniques, Torah teaches us that we need to educate our children according to their individual soul. Blanket-parenting can cause a lot of frustration.

  5. I would just like to add what I learned in my parenting class – that along with the time-out or punishments, we must be putting positive input into our kids too. For every time we punish them , we have to say something nice to them at some point during the day. This may seem obvious, until I noticed that sometimes I didn’t say anything nice to my kids the whole day.
    I actually learned that we should aim for 4 times as many positive interactions as “negative” interactions (the “4 to 1 ratio” for anybody who is familliar with it). Some days I was only able to manage a 1:1 ratio!

  6. This method worked for me when the kids were very young and lack of discipline was more a result of immaturity and exuberance and not deliberately out of disrespect. I found that once my childrens disobedience became deliberate then these kinds of consequences didn’t work. Each child is so different as they grow that I found I have needed to tailor the type of consequences for each child: one responds to “threats”, another simply to disapproval, and yet another, to material loss. Since I find all this so unpalatable, just reading it make me cringe, I find myself instead working very hard to change my expectations, and reactions. Rabbi Brody wrote that anger is the outcome when results don’t match expectations. That was such a lightbulb moment for me!!!

  7. I only use time out for when i feel my kids need a time out. That thier misbehavior is a reaction to overstimulation. Otherwise it is a consequence system. If you draw on my wall you will clean it up, if by cleaning it up you miss out on something else you learn it was a bad choice. If Mommy has to pay someone to fix something or replace it you have a consequence appropriate to the cost and stress involved. If I have to go the store to get more milk you get to wash the dishes while I am out. I do also use time outs for my youngest children 1-2 ages to learn not to hit ect. they are to young to understand much else. After 3 I try to stick to consequence based actions. If you hit your sister you must play by yourself in your room not as a time out but since you are not playing with others nicely you lose the privilege of being in the public areas etc until you can behave appropriately.

  8. Sorry, I just have to add one more thing that came to me while thinking about my own crazy household and years-long attempt to ‘fix’ it: from a spiritual standpoint, we Jewish Moms need to remind ourselves that Hashem gives us children, not for correcting them and their faults: but to correct ourselves, and our own faults.

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