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“Never let your kids do anything that makes you dislike them.”
– Jordan Peterson, “12 Rules for Life”

We live in a child-centric culture. When I ask couples how much “couple time’ do get away from the kids and work? Date nights, weekend get-aways? Most say, “almost none, it’s all about the kids.” 70% of couples experience a significant drop in relationship satisfaction after the birth of their first child. It’s understandable given the dramatic change that takes place with the addition of a new born baby. For the first 9 months they require total 24/7 care and nurturing. There’s not much time for love and romance so it’s normal for this to put a strain on relationships. It’s the child management issues that develop as the kids grow older that can cause serious marital conflict. Not only do parents often disagree about child discipline strategies but the child’s obnoxious behaviour causes conflict and stress. Managing your kid’s behaviour effectively is one of foundations for a happier marriage and an enjoyable family life. Well manned children are likeable and fun to be around. Most importantly they do better in life.

“The Little Adult Assumption”

If you’re experiencing child management issues you’re probably using a common and ineffective approach based on a false assumption about children. Dr. Thomas W. Phelan, creator of the 123 Magic child management system calls this the “little adult assumption.” It’s the unconscious belief that you can manage children’s behaviour by reasoning with them. As parents know, most kids don’t respond well to reasoning, especially when they’re wanting something or if they’re in the middle of a temper tantrum. How many times have you tried explaining over and over to your child why they should or shouldn’t do something and found yourself in the “talk-persuade-argue-yell-threaten” cycle? The more upset you get the worse the behaviour gets. Sound familiar?

123 Magic for Kids 2 – 12 yrs.

Here’s how it works. When you want your child to stop an inappropriate behaviour such as interrupting, temper tantrums, yelling, screaming, hitting, sibling rivalry, whining, etc. you ask them once to stop and wait 3 – 5 seconds. If they don’t stop, you hold up one finger and say, “that’s 1.” And wait 3 – 5 seconds. It’s audible and visual. DON’T SAY ANYTHING ELSE! Be silent and let the child decide whether they will stop or continue with the behaviour. If they don’t stop, you hold up 2 fingers and say, “that’s 2.” And wait 3 – 5 seconds. If they still don’t stop you hold up 3 fingers and say “that’s 3 take 5.” What that means is you’ve asked them to stop 3 times and they haven’t stopped. The consequence is that they have to go to their room by themselves (or another area) for a short time out (one minute of for each year of age. 5 yr. old get 5 minutes, 10 yr. old gets 10 minutes, etc.) After timeout you say nothing. Don’t lecture, don’t be mad at them, it’s over. If they continue the behaviour they get timed out again. It sounds simple and it is. But it isn’t easy, especially in the beginning. Most kids aren’t used to you taking charge of their behaviour assertively and most will test your resolve at first.

Many parents tell me they’ve tried “counting” but it doesn’t work. It’s almost always because they talk too much and get too emotional. Too much talking and emotion and the system will not work.You have to control your emotions and be consistent. Of course there’s much more to it and there many situations that require special approaches. I suggest you get a a copy of the book and/or watch the video, either at the library or purchase them online. Don’t take my word for it. Try it and see for yourself how well it works. For most parents it really does work like magic!

If you’d like to get started right away, I offer a special 2-session 123 Magic coaching program which includes a copy of the book and I’ll loan you a copy of the DVD. That way you’ll learn the system properly and we can address any special situations and challenges.

Happy parenting!

Sig Taylor, MSW
Marriage & Family Therapist

WARNING: If you think your child may have serious mental health issues (eg., severe separation anxiety, untreated/undiagnosed ADHD, etc.) don’t start the program until you’ve had them assessed by a competent children’s mental health professional.