Ask Dr. Phelan: 1-2-3 Magic Vs. Positive Discipline

Ask Dr. Phelan: 1-2-3 Magic Vs. Positive Discipline

Today we have an interesting question from Amy.

Q: What are some differences between 1-2-3 Magic and Jane Nelson's positive discipline program?

First of all, there are a number of similarities between the two programs. Both focus on mutual respect. They focus on things like charting, being positive with the children, having family meetings, and doing active or sympathetic listening.

Difference #1: Dealing with obnoxious behavior

1-2-3 Magic is more assertive when it comes to dealing with obnoxious or difficult behavior.

Positive discipline will talk about “replacement behaviors.” That's fine, but it also talks about what “need” is being met by the child's misbehavior. (Is it for power? Is it for attention?)

If you ask parents to analyze what need is being met by a child's behavior, you're going to hopelessly confuse the situation. So what we say in 1-2-3 Magic is that when the child is frustrated because they're not getting a sucker and they’re tantruming, the need is for the sucker. The need is not for attention, or power, or anything like that.

Difference #2: Simplicity

I think 1-2-3 Magic is a lot simpler as a positive discipline. In one online document that we looked at for positive discipline, there were 17 different suggestions for tactics that parents could use. While that's fine, it is a little too complex.

In 1-2-3 Magic, we have simpler solutions to three basic parenting jobs:

  1. We have one tactic for managing obnoxious behavior
  2. We have about half a dozen tactics for encouraging positive behavior and setting routines
  3. And then we have four strategies for bonding, or strengthening in your relationship with the kids.



February 28, 2019
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