A few months ago, I read 1-2-3 Magic. It came recommended from my pediatrician when I asked her about discipline, and so I decided to give it a go. Her baby was just a few months older than my baby, so I loved that she had recently been through what I was going through and had read the book herself. She didn’t give it a glowing review, in fact, she said it was ok. My goal of reading this book was to find a way to get Lulu to stop looking me straight in the eye and dropping her food on the floor and then laughing. This started right around 12 months. Lulu was a great baby. She listened, she followed directions, but this one little thing, pre-walking, was driving me up the wall. I had to feed her 3-5 times a day and picking food up off the floor that many times a day was not my idea of fun. I would take away her food, and sometimes she wouldn’t be done, and I would get the sign for more. Sometimes she didn’t eat anything when this happened, and I would worry she would starve to death. I wanted her to sit and have a meal with us, family dinners were and still are a priority for me.
So I borrowed 1-2-3 Magic from the library and dove right in, I was reading an older edition, and not the newest one available. Quick disclaimer, I don’t own this book, and I no longer have it in my possession, so everything is from my memory. So, if I get a few things wrong I do apologize. Also, 1-2-3 Magic says it’s for 2-12-year olds, and as I’ve pointed out when Lulu and I went down this path, she was not 2 (she’s still not 2). So, as she gets older my opinions might change a little bit.
This is a short book, less than 200 pages. I figured with the way I read, I would be done with it in no time. This was going to be simple. In a few days’ time, I would have a clear solution on how to get Lulu to stop throwing her food on the floor. Boy was I wrong. I had to recheck this book out 5 times. For those counting, 1 check out is 3 weeks, so to recheck it out 5 additional times meant it took me 18 weeks to get through this book. It was painful, I couldn’t stay engaged. The writing style was repetitive and boring to me. It was a hard read. And I’m sure the repetition would be useful to make the process stick in the mind of the reader, but for me, it wasn’t working. This is not to say I found all the things about this book bad. There were things I loved – like identifying if this is a START behavior (brushing your teeth in the morning) or a STOP behavior (throwing food on the floor) and treating those activities differently. It made sense to me that you can’t reason with a baby or a toddler.
Lulu, the reason we don’t throw food on the floor is that mommy doesn’t like to pick it up. It’s gross and a mess, and we want to limit the number of messes we create in a day. Please stop throwing your food on the floor so we can have a nice enjoyable dinner as our little perfect family of 4.
She wouldn’t get it, I get that. But I’m not going to lie, sometimes I feel better explaining that to her. I’m not mean or evil. I’m not trying to ruin her fun. There is a reason behind why I want her to stop doing something. Maybe eventually she will understand, or she will understand bits and pieces. And the more words and phrases I introduce to her the better her vocabulary will be. With 1-2-3 Magic, you take the emotion out of discipline. You don’t yell (win), you don’t fight (win) you count and then you send the child to timeout. Of course, I’m simplifying, but you get the point.
But wait, my problem is I want a nice peaceful dinner with my family. If I have to take Lulu to time out and she’s no longer at dinner, even if for just a minute or 2, then didn’t I defeat my purpose? I have to get up from dinner twice, to take her to her room and retrieve her, where she will throw a fit (starting a 2nd bad behavior) and defeat the whole purpose of what I was trying to create a peaceful dinner with my family. What if we’re in a restaurant? Then what do I do? Leave? That really defeats my goal of teaching Lulut to behave at dinner. This was just one example on a 1-year-old, but I was finding flaws that I wasn’t willing to wait 5 years for Lulu to “get it”. And maybe my expectations are out of line, that’s a fair point, but at this point (when Lulu was 12 months) and even now 10 months later when Linc is 12 months and Lulu is 22 months, I’m still not ready to give up on my dinnertime expectations.
Back to 1-2-3 Magic, I didn’t want to “incentivize” bad behavior or turn Lulu’s room into a deprivation chamber. I do understand you’re removing the child from the situation that’s causing a problem (going to the timeout location) but what is that teaching? Do bad things and you get out of doing activities you don’t want to do? You get to go to bed with your binky? Or play with the toys we keep in your room? Do I have to take all of Lulu’s blankies, lovies, and binky’s out of her bed to make her “suffer” for two minutes? The book clearly says to not do this, but as a “punishment” you think about it.
I get it, sometimes it is necessary, for instance when fighting with a sibling, causing harm to another child, or a temper tantrum is ensuing. Space and a clear head can change a situation and give it a new perspective. And if one child is harming another one, the “victim” deserves a little space. I get it, sometimes adults just need to walk away from a problem and so do kids, but that’s not the answer to all problems, right?
Granted my babies are babies, they are young. But I do think discipline is important and consistency is key to ensure they understand the rules. It’s not fair when a kid doesn’t understand what’s wrong, why it’s wrong and why they need to stop, and more importantly, what will happen if they don’t stop. And if reasoning isn’t something they are capable of now, it’s still an important skill to learn.
So, what will I take away from reading this book? There are situations where I will apply 1-2-3 Magic, although I would say it’s far from magic. Right now, Lulu loves to climb on the furniture and she’s teaching Linc to do it too. And that’s something that calls for a timeout. But I’m fooling myself if I think that’s going to deter the behavior. I know as soon as her Alexa timer goes off and she’s out of time out, she’s going to go back to climbing on the living room furniture the next chance she gets. And she will grow out of this phase, but even as she gets older, a handful of timeouts aren’t going to ensure she always gets along with Linc or make her a master sharer of toys. It’s not going to make her kind or learn how to defend herself or explain her side of a story. I feel like the magic is missing and there must be a better solution out there. And one that doesn’t have an age limit. Babies need discipline and boundaries just as much as 13, 14, and 18-year olds do.
So I will keep exploring and learning. Next up, I’m reading No Drama Discipline. I did recently buy this book, and I’m on page 5. I’ll let you know how it goes. What discipline techniques do you deploy? Does it work? How does it make you feel? I hate putting Lulu in time out. I probably count to 2, seven times a day, to avoid putting her in timeout, never being able to commit to 3. It doesn’t make me feel good, and it’s focusing on punishment instead of learning and that’s not what I want. But my kids are also not free to do anything they please. They do need a set of rules and guidelines to live by. I guess we’ll learn about discipline together.