1-2-3 Magic: Effective Discipline for Children 2–12
About This Program
Target Population: Parents, grandparents, teachers, babysitters, and other caretakers working with children
For children/adolescents ages: 2 – 12
For parents/caregivers of children ages: 2 – 12
1-2-3 Magic is a group format discipline program for parents of children approximately 2-12 years of age. The program can be used with average or special needs children. 1-2-3 Magic divides the parenting responsibilities into three straightforward tasks: controlling negative behavior, encouraging good behavior, and strengthening the child-parent relationship. The program seeks to encourage gentle, but firm, discipline without arguing, yelling, or spanking.
The overall goals of 1-2-3 Magic: Effective Discipline for Children 2-12 are:
- Be able to use one simple tactic to manage obnoxious behavior without arguing, yelling, or spanking
- Be able to use six different tactics for encouraging routines for positive behavior
- Master four strategies for strengthening relationships with their children
- Understand how to recognize and manage the six kinds of testing and manipulation
- Learn appropriate expectations for children's behavior
The program representative did not provide information about a Logic Model for 1-2-3 Magic: Effective Discipline for Children 2–12.
The essential components of 1-2-3 Magic: Effective Discipline for Children 2-12 include:
- 1-2-3 Magic is typically taught in a group format.
- The program defines two basic kinds of problems that children present to adults; Stop Behavior and Start Behavior. When adults are frustrated with their youngsters, the kids are either:
- Doing something the adults want them to Stop
- Not doing something the adults would like them to Start
- Some Start behavior tactics (behavioral management techniques) include using: positive verbal feedback, a kitchen timer method, a docking system, natural consequences, and charting.
- 1-2-3 Magic has three simple steps:
- Control Obnoxious Behavior. Learn a simple technique to get your kids to Stop doing what you don't want them to do (whining, arguing, tantrums, sibling rivalry, etc.)
- Encourage Good Behavior. Learn several effective methods to get your kids to Start doing what you do want them to do (cleaning rooms, going to bed, homework, etc.)
- Strengthen Relationships, Learn powerful techniques that reinforce your bond with your children.
- 1-2-3 Magic utilizes a counting technique that is clearly understood by children so they know the consequences of their actions. The secret is not just in the counting, however. The real secret or "magic" comes from parents learning when to keep quiet.
- The 'Little Adult Assumption' explores the notion that children are not little adults and do not have the same reasoning capacity as an adult
- Parents also learn about managing the Six Kinds of Testing and Manipulation: badgering, intimidation, threats, martyrdom, butter-up, and physical.
- Relationship building strategies are also provided in this program
1-2-3 Magic: Effective Discipline for Children 2–12 directly provides services to children/adolescents and addresses the following:
- Arguing, whining, sibling rivalry, disrespect, bedtime issues, homework compliance, etc.
1-2-3 Magic: Effective Discipline for Children 2–12 directly provides services to parents/caregivers and addresses the following:
- Parents with children with behavior problems involving compliance and oppositional issues. By effectively addressing behavior problems, the program also attempts to improve the adult/child relationship.
One or two sessions per week
1.5 hours per session for 4-8 weeks
This program is typically conducted in a(n):
- Adoptive Home
- Birth Family Home
- Foster / Kinship Care
- Outpatient Clinic
- Community-based Agency / Organization / Provider
- Group or Residential Care
- School Setting (Including: Day Care, Day Treatment Programs, etc.)
1-2-3 Magic: Effective Discipline for Children 2–12 includes a homework component:
Homework assignments involve managing "Stop" behaviors (whining, arguing, tantrums, sibling rivalry, etc.) and encouraging "Start" behaviors (cleaning rooms, going to bed, homework, etc.) and relationship building strategies.
1-2-3 Magic: Effective Discipline for Children 2–12 has materials available in a language other than English:
For information on which materials are available in this language, please check on the program's website or contact the program representative (contact information is listed at the bottom of this page).
Resources Needed to Run Program
The typical resources for implementing the program are:
- Classroom set up
Manuals and Training
Prerequisite/Minimum Provider Qualifications
Mental health professionals or teachers
There is a manual that describes how to deliver this program.
There is training available for this program.
- Nancy Roe
phone: (630) 469-0484
Number of days/hours:
3 - 5 hours
There currently are additional qualified resources for training:
- Sig Taylor - Calgary, Canada (403) 237-7501
- Barbara Condrell - Buffalo, NY (716) 687-2311
There are no pre-implementation materials to measure organizational or provider readiness for 1-2-3 Magic: Effective Discipline for Children 2–12.
Formal Support for Implementation
There is formal support available for implementation of 1-2-3 Magic: Effective Discipline for Children 2–12 as listed below:
Dr. Thomas Phelan, author and originator of the 1-2-3 Magic program, is available by email, phone, and sometimes personal consultation.
There are no fidelity measures for 1-2-3 Magic: Effective Discipline for Children 2–12.
Implementation Guides or Manuals
There are implementation guides or manuals for 1-2-3 Magic: Effective Discipline for Children 2–12 as listed below:
Leader Guides, participant booklets training guidelines, DVDs, book, workbook and orientation book for the children. They are available at www.123magic.com.
Research on How to Implement the Program
Research has not been conducted on how to implement 1-2-3 Magic: Effective Discipline for Children 2–12.
Relevant Published, Peer-Reviewed Research
Child Welfare Outcome: Child/Family Well-Being
Bradley, S. J., Jadaa, D. A., Brody, J., Landy, S., Tallett, S. E., Watson, W.,...Stephens, D. (2003). Brief psychoeducational parenting program: An evaluation and 1-year follow-up. Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, 42(10), 1171-1178. doi:10.1097/00004583-200310000-00007
Type of Study:
Randomized controlled trial
Number of Participants: 222
- Age — 3-4 years
- Race/Ethnicity — Majority White
- Gender — Experimental group: 58.4% Male and 41.6% Female, Control group: 63.3% Male and 36.7% Female
- Status — Participants were volunteers recruited through community ads.
Location/Institution: Toronto, Canada
(To include basic study design, measures, results, and notable limitations)
Families were randomly assigned to 1-2-3 Magic [now called 1-2-3 Magic: Effective Discipline for Children 2-12] or a wait-list control group. Measures were taken at baseline and one month after the intervention for all participants. They were also taken at one-year postintervention for a subgroup of 70 intervention group participants. Measures included the Parenting Scale (PS), the Preschool Behavior Questionnaire (PBQ), the Preschool Characteristics Questionnaire (PCQ), and the Brief Symptom Inventory (BSI). All subscales of the PS, PBQ, and PCQ improved for the 1-2-3 Magic group versus the control group pretest to posttest. Hostility improved on the BSI. At one-year follow-up, the 1-2-3 Magic subgroup maintained improved results on the PS and the PBQ, but PCQ difficult behavior score improvements were not maintained. Also, when examined more closely this subgroup did not exhibit the pretest-posttest gains on the PBQ Hyperactive/Distractible and the BSI Hostility score shown by the total 1-2-3 Magic group. Limitations include the lack of a control group at the post-intervention follow-up and concerns about generalizability of the results, due to the largely white, middle-class, and educated sample.
Length of postintervention follow-up: 1 year (intervention subgroup only).
The following studies were not included in rating 1-2-3 Magic: Effective Discipline for Children 2–12 on the Scientific Rating Scale...
Flaherty , R., & Cooper, R. (2010). Piloting a parenting skills program in an Australian rural child protection setting. Children Australia, 35(3), 18-24. doi:10.1017/S1035077200001139
Note: This article was not used in rating 1-2-3 Magic: Effective Discipline for Children 2-12 since it was a modified version of the program. The aim of this randomized controlled trial was to investigate the effectiveness of a three-session version of the 1-2-3 Magic on parenting satisfaction and reduce levels of anxiety, depression, stress and dysfunctional parenting style in parents or caregivers of children who have experienced abuse. Participants were randomly assigned to an immediate intervention group or a 3-month waitlist control group. Measures utilized include the Eyberg Child Behavior Inventory (ECBI), the Parenting Scale (PS), the Depression Anxiety and Stress Scales (DASS), and the Parenting Satisfaction Scale. Results indicate caregivers who received the intervention reported significant improvements in their mental health and discipline practices, and a significant reduction in child problem behavior compared to the waitlist control group. Limitations include the small sample size, reliability on self-reported measures, and length of follow-up.
Porzig-Drummond, R., Stevenson, R. J., & Stevenson, C. (2014). The 1-2-3 Magic parenting program and its effect on child problem behaviors and dysfunctional parenting: A randomized controlled trial. Behaviour Research and Therapy, 58, 52-64. doi:10.1016/j.brat.2014.05.004
Note: This article was not used in rating 1-2-3 Magic: Effective Discipline for Children 2-12 since it was a modified version of the program. This randomized controlled trial investigated the effectiveness of the 1-2-3 Magic parenting program when delivered to large groups of caregivers. The effectiveness of two versions of the programs (1-2-3 Magic: Effective Discipline for Children 2-12 and 1-2-3 Magic & Emotion Coaching) in reducing child problem behaviors and dysfunctional parenting, and the effect on emotion-related parenting style, were examined. Participants were randomly allocated to one of three groups: (1) the DVD group, based on the 1-2-3-Magic: Effective Discipline for Children program; (2) the Emotion Coaching (EC group), based on the 1-2-3-Magic & Emotion Coaching program; or (3) the Waitlist-control group (Control). Measures utilized include the Eyberg Child Behavior Inventory (ECBI), the Parent Stress Index Short Form (PSI-SF), the Depression Anxiety and Stress Scales (DASS-21), and the Emotion-Related Parenting Styles Self-Test (ERPS-ST). Results indicate that both intervention groups reported significantly decreased child problem behaviors, dysfunctional parenting, parental depression, and parental stress at the end of the intervention as compared to the control group. Additionally, the 1-2-3-Magic: Effective Discipline for Children group reported decreased parental anxiety, and the EC group reported a decrease in emotion-dismissing parenting style. Emotion-coaching parenting style remained unchanged for all groups at postintervention. The waitlist control group received 1-2-3 Magic when the 1-2-3-Magic: Effective Discipline for Children and EC groups completed the intervention. The results for the EC and 1-2-3-Magic: Effective Discipline for Children groups were maintained after three months. After two years, all within group effects were maintained for the 1-2-3-Magic: Effective Discipline for Children group. For the EC group, within group effects were maintained on the main outcome variables. Limitations include the lack of a control group at the 3-month and 2-year postintervention follow-ups and the small sample size for a study involving three groups.
Porzig-Drummond, R., Stevenson, R. J., & Stevenson, C. (2015). Preliminary evaluation of a self-directed video-based 1-2-3 Magic parenting program: A randomized controlled trial. Behaviour Research and Therapy, 66, 32-42. doi:10.1016/j.brat.2015.01.003
This article was not used in rating 1-2-3 Magic: Effective Discipline for Children 2-12 since it was a modified version of the program. This randomized controlled trialÂ examined the effectiveness of a self-directed video-based format of the 1-2-3 Magic parenting program in reducing dysfunctional parenting and child problem behaviors. Parents were randomly assigned to either the intervention group (1-2-3 Magic) or the waitlist control group (control). Intervention-group participants could choose to view the program's video material in DVD format (and receive two DVDs by post), or to access the video material online via a secure link (with continued access until completion of the study). Measures utilized include the Eyberg Child Behavior Inventory (ECBI), the Parent Stress Index Short Form (PSI-SF), the Depression Anxiety and Stress Scales (DASS-21), and the Therapy Attitude Inventory. Results indicate participants in the 1-2-3 Magic group reported significantly less problem behaviors for their children, and significantly less dysfunctional parenting, at the end of the intervention when compared to the control group. Limitations include the lack of a control group at the 6-month postintervention follow-up, small sample size, concerns about the generalizability to other populations due to the largely college educated, married, above average income sample and the use of self-referred families, who may be more willing to complete self-directed work than others.
Bailey , E. L., van der Zwan, R., Phelan, T. W., & Brooks, A. (2015). Keeping it going: Evidence of long-term improvements after implementation of the 1-2-3 Magic Parenting Program. Child & Family Behavior Therapy, 37(4), 303-320.
Note: This article was not used in rating 1-2-3 Magic: Effective Discipline for Children 2-12 since it was a modified version of the program. The aim of this randomized controlled trial was to investigate the effectiveness of a two session version of the 1-2-3 Magic on child and parent behavior for families with school-aged children. Parent participants completed a total of 6 hours (2 x 3 hour sessions held over 2 consecutive days). Families were randomly allocated to one of two groups: The first received immediate training of 1-2-3 Magic (n=5; immediate intervention group) and the second (control or delayed-intervention group; n=7) received training 8 weeks later. Measures utilized include the Eyberg Child Behavior Inventory (ECBI), the Parent Information Questionnaire (PIQ), and the Parenting Scale (PS). Results indicated only families who had received training reported significant improvement in child and parenting behavior. Limitations include small sample size, reliability of self-reported measures, and data from the 12-month follow-up assessment does not include any control data.
Porzig-Drummond, R., Stevenson, R. J., & Stevenson, C. (2015). A preliminary evaluation of the 1-2-3 Magic parenting program in an Australian community setting. Australian Social Work. Advance online publication. doi:10.1080/0312407X.2015.1086010
Note: This article was not used in rating 1-2-3 Magic: Effective Discipline for Children 2-12 since it was a modified version of the program. The aim of this one group pretest-posttest study was to investigate the effectiveness of a three session version of the 1-2-3 Magic & Emotion Coaching program on dysfunctional parenting styles, parental psychological adjustment and on children's disruptive behaviours. Measures utilized include the Eyberg Child Behavior Inventory (ECBI), the Parent Stress Index Short Form (PSI-SF), the Depression Anxiety and Stress Scales (DASS-21), and the Therapy Attitude Inventory. Results indicate a significant decrease in disruptive child behaviour, permissive parenting, and parental depression and stress. Limitations include the lack of a comparison group and small sample size.
Phelan, T. (2004). 1-2-3 Magic: Effective discipline for children 2-12. Parent Magic, Inc.: Glen Ellyn, IL.
Date Research Evidence Last Reviewed by CEBC: February 2020
Date Program Content Last Reviewed by Program Staff: November 2019
Date Program Originally Loaded onto CEBC: March 2006