The popular discipline program, 1-2-3 Magic, is based on the basic behavioral principles of reinforcing positive behavior and reducing negative. Simple, right? Not necessarily, especially if you are parenting a child with a difficult temperament or developmental delays. The difficulty lies not in the conceptual understanding of the program, but in the execution. With practice and guidance it can be done and is well worth the effort.
The two most common pitfalls are 1) inconsistency in counting and following through with time-out and 2) unintentional reinforcement during time-out (e.g., talking and expressing emotion). Every parent will fall victim to one or the other at the beginning. The goal is to be aware of these traps, catch yourself when you are committing them, and work to avoid them next time.
Here is how to get started:
Step 1: Getting noncompliance and other negative behaviors under control. The idea is to consistently send the message to your child that these behaviors are not ok. How do we do that? We consistently set limits on what is not acceptable by using a counting system. This gives your child up to two opportunities to change their behavior before a consequence is handed down. When your child does not comply after number 2, immediately go to number 3 and that’s it. They will soon catch on that you are serious. There is a learning curve, and not without its emotional meltdowns along the way, but children learn very well if consistency is in place.
Step 2: Get more of the good behaviors. This is the fun part. Spend time with your child one-on-one, have fun with them, listen, and be a model for appropriate ways to cope with situations.
With practice, it becomes easier. Feel confident in your ability to create change in your home and enjoy the rewards!