Hello wonderful parents of Prince William County,

In this time families are experiencing huge changes in their day to day routine. It is important in this time to give parents resources and strategies to adapt. So today, I will be discussing the idea of positive discipline and a specific technique that can be used to reduce problem behaviors in the home called 1-2-3 magic.

Positive discipline is a mentality for approaching disciplinary situations. The idea is to focus on the behavior of a child as opposed to the child, "There are no bad kids, there are only bad behaviors.”


  • Is Kind and Firm at the same time. (Respectful and encouraging)
  • It helps children feel a sense of Belonging and Significance. (Connection)
  • Is Effective Long-Term. (Punishment works short term but can have negative long-term results.)
  • It Teaches valuable Social and Life Skills for good character. (Respect, concern for others, problem-solving, accountability, contribution, cooperation)
  • It invites children to discover how capable they are and to use their personal power in constructive ways.

With this information, we can now discuss 1-2-3 Magic. 1-2-3 Magic is a strategy created by Dr.Phelan. Below is the outline of 1-2-3 Magic:  

  1. Children are not “Mini Adults” and do not benefit from a lot of talking or reasoning. 1-2-3 magic focuses on reducing  “stop behaviors” (negative behaviors) and increasing “start behaviors”(positive behaviors).
    • Stop Behavior examples- whining, disrespect, yelling, teasing, arguing
    • Start Behaviors examples- listening, doing chores, polite language, completing homework
  2. When a child exhibits a "Stop behavior" 
    • You hold up a finger and calmly say “That’s 1" and give time for the student to correct the behavior.
    • If the behavior or a similar behavior occurs after this time hold up two fingers and calmly say “That’s 2” Give time to correct behavior.
    • If the behavior or a similar behavior persist, hold up three fingers and say “ That’s 3; Take 5”
      • Take 5 means that they are moved to a designated time out area. Set the timer for 3 to 5 minutes
        • During this time-out do not talk or lecture the child.
        • During this time-out, it’s ok for the child to see you but do not make eye contact.
        • After the timer goes off the child can rejoin activity If the child does not appear ready to join the timeout can be extended.
        • When you see “Start behaviors” make sure to reinforce their effort. This can include verbal praise and small incentives.

      This intervention hinges on being firm and kind and not adding in additional reasoning. This strategy requires time for your child to adapt to, as with any new routine or rule. So be patient with yourself and your child.

      For more information on this technique, please refer to the links present in this page, feel free to email me with questions at onleyme@pwcs.edu or refer to the sites below.

      1-2-3 Magic: www.123magic.com

      1-2-3 Magic Video Example: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xDmAsO-uDfg&t=216s

      1-2-3 Magic YouTube Channel: https://www.youtube.com/user/123MagicParenting

      1-2-3 MagicParenting Positive Discipline: https://www.positivediscipline.com/about-positive-discipline