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1-2-3 Magic for Christian Parents: Effective Discipline for Children 2-12by Thomas W. Phelan, Chris Webb
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You want kids who listen and children you can enjoy. You want to raise happy and competent youngsters who grow up to follow God. The Bible is full of parenting principles, but how do you apply them? How do you "Train up a child in the way he should go..." (Proverbs 22:6)? 1-2-3 Magic for Christian Parents is a proven biblical guide that addresses the difficult task of child discipline with clarity, honesty and wisdom.
1-2-3 Magic for Christian Parents simplifies the job of parenting into three straightforward steps: Step 1 Controlling Obnoxious Behavior: Learn one amazingly simple technique to get kids to Stop doing what you don't want them to do (whining, arguing, tantrums, sibling rivalry). Step 2 Encouraging Good Behavior: Learn several effective methods to get your kids to Start doing what you do want them to do (cleaning rooms, picking up, going to bed, homework). Step 3 Strengthening Your Relationship: Learn four powerful methods that reinforce the bond between you and your children.
1-2-3 Magic for Christian Parents is an essential resource for any Christian parent or children's minister who wants to see happy, well-behaved parents enjoying relationships with happy, well-behaved children.
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1-2-3 Magic for Christian Parents
By Thomas W. Phelan, Dan Farrell
ParentMagic, Inc.Copyright © 2011 ParentMagic, Inc.
All rights reserved.
Following God's Example
But you, Lord, are a compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness.
There's no way you know what parenting is like until you do it. Whatever thoughts you may have had about becoming a mom or a dad, bringing that first child home is a jolt — a big jolt. It's a lot like getting married. Maximum excitement and maximum stress.
But parenting is more than just a job, it is a calling. And the Bible should be the number one source you make use of to fulfill that calling. 1-2-3 Magic for Christian Parents is basically a training manual to help you apply, in a simple and practical way, the principles you find in scripture.
Your Basic Parenting Philosophy
The place to start is with your basic parenting philosophy — your overall orientation to the job. As with all things, the first place you should look is to God. As a Christian parent, you should model your philosophy after God's example. The two qualities of God that are most important to emulate in parenting are:
1. Mercy (Warm and Friendly)
2. Justice (Demanding and Firm)
The definition of mercy is unmerited favor. God is merciful towards us. In Romans 5:8 we find "But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us." Now that is unmerited favor — mercy. In the same way, parents should be merciful toward their children. Parents should love children unconditionally in the same way God loves us. Being a merciful parent includes being warm and friendly and taking care of kids' emotional and physical needs. It means feeding them, keeping them safe, well clothed and making sure they get enough sleep. Mercy also mean being sensitive to the children's feelings: sharing their joy over a new friend, comforting them when their ice cream falls on the ground, listening sympathetically when they're angry at their teacher, and enjoying their company. Mercy also includes liking — not just loving — your children.
The other important attribute of God that parents should imitate is Justice — being demanding and firm. While God does love us unconditionally, he still holds us accountable for our sin. In Romans 6:23 we find "For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord." In this verse we again see God's mercy in action, but also his Justice in holding all men accountable for their sins. How does this work out practically for parents? Well, good parents hold their kids accountable for their behavior. They expect good behavior in school, respect toward adults, hard work on academics, effort in sports and relationships with friends that include sharing and kindness. They expect their youngsters to follow the rules, to do things for other people and to sometimes confront issues that are hard or scary.
In other words, effective parents expect their children to rise to life's challenges (as you know, there are plenty!) and to respect the rules and limits that will be required for their behavior.
These two parental orientations, mercy (warm and friendly) and justice (firm and demanding), might at first seem contradictory. They are not. Some situations call for one, some for the other, and some situations require both. Megan slaps Jon, for example. Time for the demanding side of parenting. Megan feeds the dog without being asked? Time for the warm side.
What if it's time for bed? Both friendly and firm sides are necessary. The friendly side might mean snuggling up in bed with a child for fifteen minutes of story time before lights out. The demanding side, on the other hand, might mean requiring the kids to get ready for bed (teeth, bath or shower, pajamas, etc.) before story time can happen. And at 9 o'clock firm means lights out. No ifs, ands or buts.
The messages this parenting philosophy sends to children are:
1. Mercy (Warm/friendly): I love you unconditionally and I'll take care of you.
2. Justice (Demanding/firm): I expect something from you.
Why is the warm and demanding, friendly and firm attitude toward your children the best one? For three reasons. The first reason is that warm and demanding is the example set by God. The second reason is simple: fun! It would be nice if you could enjoy the children while they are growing up in your household. Kids are energetic, cute, exciting and entertaining, and you can have some great times with them you'll never forget.
The third reason is a bit sad: You want your youngsters to grow up, leave home someday and make it on their own. Warm and demanding, therefore, also means encouraging and respecting your kids' growing independence. Friendly and firm means not hovering and not being overprotective. It means giving children a chance to do things more and more on their own as they get older. When our oldest walked five blocks to kindergarten the first day of school, I was sure he was never coming back. He came back just fine and I learned a lesson about independence and about his growing competence.
Automatic vs. Deliberate Parenting
You might say there are two kinds of parenting activities: automatic and deliberate. Automatic parenting includes the things you do spontaneously without really thinking (and with no real training), such as picking up and comforting a sobbing two-year-old who has just fallen down. Comforting an upset child is a positive example, but automatic parenting can also include actions that aren't so hot, such as screaming at a seven-year-old who keeps getting out of bed because she says she hears a noise in her closet.
Here's what you'll want to do with the 1-2-3 Magic program. First, hang on to your positive automatic parenting habits. You'll find that some of your beneficial parenting moves are already part of the program, such as being a good listener or praising your kids' efforts.
Next, identify your automatic parenting habits that are sinful, useless or upsetting. As you read through 1-2-3 Magic for Christian Parents, decide how you'll replace these negative actions with deliberate, respectful and more useful 1-2-3 Magic for Christian Parents strategies. You might, for example, replace yelling about whining with counting whining; you might also consider replacing nagging and arguing at 9 p.m. with the Basic Bedtime Method.
Finally, practice, practice, practice! Work hard and thoughtfully until the new methods become more or less automatic. Because 1-2-3 Magic for Christian Parents works so well, it tends to be self-reinforcing, which makes the deliberate-to-automatic conversion much easier.
Automatic parenting includes another critically important activity that you do all the time: modeling. Children are great imitators, and they learn a lot by just watching the way you behave. If you are respectful toward others, your kids will tend to be the same. If you scream in fury during fits of road-rage, on the other hand ... well, you get the idea.
The goal, therefore, is effective, automatic parenting. It takes some concentration and effort in the beginning, but in the end it's a whole lot less work. And you and your family are a whole lot better off!
1. Read Isaiah 53:6. How does this verse exemplify God's Mercy and Justice?
2. How would you describe your current parenting philosophy?
3. Do you lean more toward Mercy or Justice when it comes to your kids? Why?
4. What are some of your positive automatic parenting activities?
5. What are some of your negative parenting habits that need to be replaced?CHAPTER 2
Your Three Parenting Jobs
Remind the people to be subject to rulers and authorities, to be obedient and to be ready to whatever is good.
We have three separate parenting jobs, and these three jobs require different strategies. Each of the three parenting jobs is distinct, manageable and important. The three parenting steps are also interdependent; each depends to some extent on the others for its success. Ignore any of these tasks at your own risk! Do these three tasks well and you'll be a pretty good mom or dad. The first two parenting jobs involve discipline /behavior concerns, and the third job focuses on the parent/child relationship.
Parenting Job # 1 (Parts II and III in the book) involves controlling obnoxious behavior. Let's face it; children can be obnoxious. The writer of Proverbs understood this when he wrote, "Foolishness is bound up in the heart of a child ..." (Proverbs 22:15a NKJV). You will never like or get along well with your children if they are constantly irritating you with foolish, obnoxious behavior such as whining, arguing, teasing, badgering, tantrums, yelling and fighting. In 1-2-3 Magic for Christian Parents you will learn how to "count" obnoxious behavior, and you will be pleasantly surprised at how effective that simple technique is!
Job #2 (Part IV) involves encouraging good behavior. Again, in Proverbs we find that parents are to teach wise (good) behavior to their children. Encouraging good behavior, such as picking up after yourself, going to bed, being courteous and doing homework, takes more effort — for both parent and child — than controlling difficult (foolish) behavior. You will learn seven simple methods for encouraging positive actions in your kids.
Finally, in Part V you will learn some valuable and not-so-difficult ways of handling Parenting Job #3: strengthening your relationship with your children. Some parents merely need to be reminded of Parenting Job #3; other parents have to work hard at remembering to do it. Paying attention to the quality of your relationship with your children will help you with jobs 1 and 2, and vice versa.
How do our three parenting jobs relate to the warm/demanding parenting traits? As you may have guessed already, the tactic for Job #1, controlling obnoxious behavior, depends almost entirely on the demanding parent role. Not much warm or fuzzy about it! Job #3, however, strengthening relationships, will rely almost entirely on the warm side of the parenting equation. And finally, Job #2, encouraging good behavior, will employ both warm as well as demanding strategies.
Parenting Jobs #1 and #2: "Stop" vs. "Start" Behavior
When it comes to discipline, there are two basic problems children present to adults, and these two problems define the first two parenting tasks. When we are frustrated with our youngsters, the kids are either (1) doing something negative we want them to Stop (like whining), or (2) they are not doing something positive we would like them to Start (like getting dressed). In 1-2-3 Magic for Christian Parents, therefore, we call these two kinds of things "Stop" behavior and "Start" behavior. In the hustle and bustle of everyday existence, you may not have worried much about the difference between Start and Stop behaviors, but — as we'll soon see — the distinction is extremely important. This distinction is also about to make your life a lot easier!
Stop behavior includes frequent, minor, everyday issues, such as whining, disrespect, tantrums, arguing, teasing, fighting, pouting, yelling and so on. Stop behavior — in and of itself — ranges from mildly irritating to pretty obnoxious. Each of these difficult behaviors alone may not be so bad, but add them all up in one afternoon and by 5 p.m. you may feel like hitchhiking to South America.
Start behavior includes positive activities like cleaning rooms, doing homework, practicing the piano, getting up and out in the morning, going to bed, eating supper and being nice to other people. You have a Start behavior problem when your child is not doing something that would be a good thing to do. The reason for distinguishing between Stop and Start behavior is this: You will use different tactics for each kind of problem.
For Stop behavior, such as whining, arguing, screaming and teasing, you will use the 1-2-3, or "counting" procedure. Counting is simple, gentle and direct. For Start behavior problems, you will have a choice of seven tactics, which can be used either one at a time or in combination. These tactics include Praise, Simple Requests, Kitchen Timers, The Docking System, Natural Consequences, Charting and a Counting Variation. Start behavior strategies, as you can probably guess, require a little more thought and effort than counting does.
Why the difference in strategies? The answer lies in the issue of motivation. How long does it take a child — if she is motivated — to terminate an irritating (Stop) behavior like whining, arguing or teasing? The answer is about one second; it's really not a big project. Depending on how angry or oppositional a child is, ending an obnoxious behavior doesn't take tons of effort.
But now look at Start behavior. How long does it take a child to accomplish something constructive like eating dinner? Maybe twenty to twenty-five minutes. To pick up after himself? Perhaps fifteen minutes. To get ready for bed? Twenty to thirty minutes. Ready for school? Thirty minutes. Homework? Schoolwork might take anywhere from forty minutes to three hours. So it's obvious that with Start behavior, more motivation is required from the child. He has to begin the project, keep at it and then finish. And the project is often something the boy or girl is not thrilled about having to do in the first place.
In addition, if encouraging positive behavior in kids requires more motivation in the kids, it's also going to require more motivation from mom and dad. As you'll soon see, putting an end to Stop behavior using counting is relatively easy if you do it right. Start behavior is usually harder.
When managing a behavioral difficulty with one of your children, therefore, you will need to first determine if you have a Stop or a Start behavior problem. "Is the issue something I want the child to quit? Or is it something I want the youngster to get going on?" Since counting is so easy, parents sometimes make the mistake of using counting for Start behavior (for example, counting a child to get her to do her homework). As you will soon see, counting produces motivation that usually lasts only a short time (from a few seconds to a couple of minutes) in children. If you mix up your tactics (such as using counting for homework), you will not get optimum results.
But don't worry. This whole procedure is so simple, you'll be an expert in no time. Effective discipline will start to come naturally and — believe it or not — your kids will start listening to you.
Parenting Job #3
Your final parenting job is to work on strengthening your relationship with your kids. This means making sure that screen time does not replace face-to-face time, and — more importantly — strengthening relationships means that you value enjoying one another's company. It is critical to your family's well being and to your kids' self-esteem that you like (not just love) your youngsters.
What does "like" mean? Here's an example. It's a Saturday and you're home by yourself for a few hours — a rare occurrence! Everyone has gone out. You're listening to some music and just puttering around. You hear a noise outside and look out to see a car pulling up in the driveway. One of your kids gets out and heads for the front door.
How do you feel in your gut right at that moment? If it's "Oh no, the fun's over!" that may not be like. If it's "Oh good, I've got some company!" that's more like like.
Liking your children and having a good relationship with them is important for lots of reasons. The most important reason, though, may be that it's simply more fun. Kids are naturally cute and enjoyable a lot of the time, and you want to take advantage of that valuable quality. And they only grow up with you once.
Excerpted from 1-2-3 Magic for Christian Parents by Thomas W. Phelan, Dan Farrell. Copyright © 2011 ParentMagic, Inc.. Excerpted by permission of ParentMagic, Inc..
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Meet the Author
Dr. Thomas W. Phelan is an internationally renowned expert, author, and lecturer on child discipline and Attention Deficit Disorder. A registered Ph.D. clinical psychologist, he appears frequently on radio and TV. Dr. Phelan practices and works in the western suburbs of Chicago.
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I love the techniques presented, but this book has sooo many typos; as if they didn't even run a spell check on it. I love all the bible verses peppered throughout this edition too. A must read for any parents, especially those who grew up with spanking and don't want to repeat that but are at a loss for what to do instead.
My husband and I started using this method with our three children 14 years ago after I learned it as a preschool/daycare employee. It really, really works if you are consistent. Our kids are respectful, loving teenagers today.