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A Magical Interview

It’s four o’clock in the afternoon, my oldest son is angry, my middle daughter is whining, the baby is crying and I can feel the grey hairs sprouting from my scalp, as I usher everyone into the house. Next thing I know, the TV is on full blast, the refrigerator door is left open, and it’s a free-for-all in my little nest which had always been so care free. I just can’t take it anymore … this has to change. My free-spirited style has created a hole of chaos, maybe we need a little more structure in our lives, before I become even more invested in Nice ‘n Easy hair color.

We interviewed Dr. Thomas Phelan, clinical psychologist and behavior expert. His popular book 1-2-3 Magic has sold close to 2 million copies and many schools use Dr. Phelan’s behavior strategy in the classroom.

123 magicDr. Phelan says a consistent routine is one of the keys to promoting good behavior. He recommends having a regimen for every crucial part of your child’s day. One example is evening, that time between getting home from work and dinner. Start with a scheduled mealtime, “Now it’s time for dinner.” This establishes a routine. Then continue with, “What do we need to do to get ready for dinner?” Reestablishing a process to stick to that routine. Routine is not only comforting to children, but Phelan believes it is essential to a child’s success.

Dr. Phelan list two important behavior types, “start” and “stop” behaviors. Positive or “start” behaviors are the actions you want from your child, such as, make the bed or brush your teeth. He identifies obnoxious behavior as “stop” behaviors. These include, fighting, teasing, arguing and whining. These are the behaviors which make us want to yell STOP! But, we all know, yelling is not always a best practice when it comes to parenting.

He suggests, alerting your child about their unacceptable behavior and warn them to stop, by counting. If your child is participating in a stop behavior, hold up one finger and say, “that’s one.” If the behavior continues, hold up 2 fingers and give a second warning. If you get to three and has not stopped, tell the child to “take 5.” This should signal to them that they need to take a break by sitting on the stairs or a chair. If they continue acting challenging send them to their room.

Consistency from you is important here, Dr. Phelan says, “Sometimes it can take a week to make believers out of them and get the new routine down.”

He also includes some advice to help us get though consistency in parenting. The first is to talk less. Talking too much is less effective in discipline. When you are at the dinner table and your child is not eating, simply say, “Johnny eat” and make eye contact, so they know you’re serious. This is not the time to go into nutritional values and the time you took to make the dinner. Just tell them what you expect of them.

Second, don’t let your kids get you to react. You are the parent. It is your responsibility to stay calm. They get their cues from you, so to de-escalate a situation and as hard as it seems “be sure to stay calm.”

His third suggestion is to bond with your child. Bonding helps in discipline because, if you are bonding there is less arguing and more understanding.

Last, be a sympathetic listener. If your child complains, “This family is so boring.” Your response is, “I’ve never heard you talk like that before what’s going on?” Listen closely when your child makes bold statements and investigate, there my be something more they want to talk about.

The 1-2-3 Magic is a preventive program for negative behaviors for younger children and many pediatricians have used it in their practice to help parents with tantrums, bedtime struggles and consistency.

Adapting these techniques in my everyday parenting style has been a learning process for me, but I do see a difference in my children’s behavior. Gone are the days of disorder when we get home for the day and this has even given me the much-needed time to touch up my roots.

If you would like to learn from Dr. Thomas Phelan, we are giving away a copy of 1-2-3 Magic and we are also giving away a copy of his book designed for parents of teenagers called 1-2-3 Magic Teen. All you have to do is leave a comment on this post, tag either 1-2-3 Magic or 1-2-3 Magic Teen, depending on your interest, and anyone else you think could benefit from Dr. Phelan’s discipline system. Visit Dr. Phelan’s website for more information. To be eligible, submit your interest by Saturday, May 6, 2017 and winners will be notified online on Sunday, May 7, 2017.

Click below to listen to Andi’s interview with Dr. Phelan.


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