If you’re looking for effective child discipline methods, you’ve certainly got a few to choose from. By now, you already know that some methods work exquisitely well with certain children and fail miserably with others. You may even wonder how one or more of your children could possibly have been born from you!
With that in mind, the first crucial consideration in choosing a discipline method is how likely the child in question is to test your boundaries. One child will obey your every parental ruling with a quiet whimper while another will seize each opportunity anew to see just how serious you are. With no special shutdown maneuvers of your own, be prepared to endure such a child’s full arsenal of ankle-biting and tantrum-throwing before submitting to the inevitable.
But isn’t there a way to short-circuit the crying and screaming before it ever starts, you ask? Ahh, good question, because it turns out that there’s a highly effective child discipline method designed to do exactly that.
It’s called the 1-2-3 method, and it’s described in the bestselling book, 1-2-3 Magic: Effective Discipline for Children 2-12. It’s deceptively simple considering that it’s usually very effective.
The concept is to count obnoxious behavior aloud as it happens, after having an initial five- to ten-minute family meeting briefing your kids about your newest parenting tool (don’t expect much buy-in or any gratitude from them!). After that, whenever your child does something you don’t want, you count it aloud. So if your little son hits his kid sister, you hold up one finger and say calmly, “That’s 1.” If your child then does it again or does something else objectionable like calling her names, you hold up two fingers and say, “That’s 2.” Finally, if your child crosses the line once more, you say, “That’s 3, go take five.”
This means that they’ve struck out and need to go take a timeout in a specially designated place for however long you tell them. The book authors suggest one minute for each year of life as a rough guideline, so five minutes would be for a child five years old. And when the child comes out, you don’t mention anything about the behavior unless your child wants to talk about it. Your job is to give him or her a blank slate, though you are entirely entitled to count more brash behavior as it occurs. Get the idea? See, we told you it was simple.
Of course, it won’t always work. Nothing does. Sometimes your children might be especially testy or maybe your significant other isn’t quite as consistent in counting the kids’ bad behavior as you are. These are things that can be smoothed out with time with a little work.
On the other end of the spectrum, some children have temperaments that make it much harder for them to be flexible and to overcome frustration, so they can explode with rage almost regardless of what you do. While these kids are more rare cases, that’s obviously irrelevant if you’ve got such a child in your house. It’ll pay to have boundless compassion, since these children often do understand what the right things are to do in various circumstances. They are simply unable to process the energies of their frustrations and flexibly adapt to the situations at hand, which can frustrate them even more. These are tricky cases indeed, and that’s why we recommend you read The Explosive Child: A New Approach for Understanding and Parenting Easily Frustrated, Chronically Inflexible Children, which explores precisely these issues and potential solutions in-depth.
Whether you’ve a kid like that or not, let’s all be thankful that resources now exist to help them. And if your child is only in need of some good old-fashioned boundaries, you might just be 1-2-3 steps away from your new favorite and incredibly effective discipline method for children.