Tag Archives: discipline

How to discipline your child with 1, 2, 3 Magic

When my son was 3-years-old, I had problems managing his behaviour as he was quite a strong-willed child. So after discussion with a psychologist friend, I started using a method called ‘1,2,3 Magic’. This is a method where you give your child three warnings for bad behaviour and if they continue, you give them a consequence such a timeout or taking away a toy.

So how does it work exactly?

Well the first time your child does something you don’t want them to do, you say ‘That’s 1’, the second time you say ‘That’s 2’ giving them time to stop their bad behaviour but if they continue you say ‘That’s 3’ and follow it with a consequence. By having a three-step system, it allows the child time to try to change their behaviour.

When I first started using the 1,2,3 Magic method, I did use  far too many words. For example, I would say ‘Stop throwing your food on the floor’ to my son, then if he continued, I would say ‘If you don’t stop throwing your food, you will go into timeout’ and then if he still didn’t stop throwing his food I would say ‘Now you are going into 3 minutes of timeout for throwing your food’.

I realised that I was using too many words and started just saying ‘That’s 1, 2 or 3’, so that my authority carried more weight. It also gave my son less room for argument. By the time my son was four, his behaviour has markedly improved.

What type of parent are you? Take the Quiz

Find out what type of parent you are by taking the quiz.

  1. You go to parents’ evening and the teacher complains about your child’s behaviour. What do you do?

a) You ask the teacher what they’re doing wrong.

b) As soon as you get home, you shout at your child and take away TV privileges for a month

c) When you get home, you talk to your child about their behaviour, plan with them how to change it and take away TV privileges for the weekend.




2. The living room is a mess after your child has had their friend round. What do you do?

a) Tidy up yourself.

b) Shout at them and make them tidy up.

c) Ask them to tidy up with you helping.




3. Your child hits another child in the playground. What do you do?

a) Ignore it and let them sort it out themselves.

b) Shout at your child and drag them home immediately.

c) Make your child say sorry and take away a privilege when you get home.


4. You go to the toy shop to buy a birthday present for a friend’s child and your child says that they want one too. What would you do?

a) Buy it to keep the peace.

b) Lecture them about not expecting things every time you go shopping.

c) Tell them no but say that can save up for the toy with their pocket money or say they can put it on their birthday or Christmas list.




5. The main job of a parent is to do what?

a) Make your child feel happy.

b) Teach them to have manners and behave well.

c) Teach them to manage their emotions and make good choices.


If you chose mainly As, then you are a permissive parent.

If you chose mainly Bs, then you are an authoritarian parent.

If you chose mainly Cs, then you are an authoritative parent.


There are three main parenting styles: authoritarian, authoritative and permissive.


Authoritarian parents expect their instructions and orders to be obeyed without question. They are more likely to punish their children for misdemeanours than other parents and offer fewer explanations. Children whose parents adopt an authoritarian approach are more likely to rebel or distance themselves from their parents as they grow older (Thomson et al. 2003).


Authoritative parents set clear boundaries for their children but are less likely to use punishment as a form of discipline. They are also more likely to use praise and rewards. They are responsive to their children but also have high expectations for behaviour. This type of parenting is related to children feeling a sense of responsibility for their actions and the children are less likely to rebel when they are older (Baumrind, 1971).


Permissive parents find it difficult to say no to their children and do not reprimand their children for inappropriate behaviour. Children of permissive parents are more likely to engage in risky behaviours that put themselves in danger and are more likely to take illegal drugs or drink heavily and behave badly a school (Lamborn et al., 1991). Therefore, it is important to strike a balance between being understanding and kind and setting clear boundaries.


The key characteristics of an effective parent are: warmth and involvement, clear communication of expectations, reasoning, allowing your child to voice their opinion and general pleasantness (Robinson et al., 1995). Some parents can be too controlling, critical, restrictive or punitive. At the other extreme, parents can be too relaxed and ignore their child’s misbehaviour (Robinson et al. 1995).


Research suggests that taking the middle ground in terms of discipline is best.


Want to get a free parenting ebook? Sign up now.


Want your child to read more? Read the Fortress, a fantasy adventure story aimed at 7-10 year olds.