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Age From: 


Age To: 


Delivered To: 

  • Parents/Carers


  • Component 3 : Working with parents and carers


  • Parenting education


Target Group

The primary target group for group programmes are parents of children in the pre-primary and primary school years, though it has also been conducted with parents of children as young as two years of age. 1-2-3 Magic can also be used in classrooms by teachers to manage difficult behaviour.

Delivery By: 

  • Primary teachers and staff
  • Early childhood educators and staff
  • Allied health professionals
  • Other


The 1-2-3 Magic and Emotion Coaching program aims to teach parents how to deal with their children’s difficult behaviour by using an easy-to-learn and easy-to-use signalling system to manage children’s difficult behaviour. The signalling system requires the parent to use less talk and less emotion, which in turn encourages the development of children’s ability to manage their emotional reactions to parental boundaries (or emotional competency).


State/s Available: 

  • National


Program content and components:

The three sessions of the program cover the following topics:

  • The course philosophy, in which parents are familiarised with the two main aims of the program: to increase children’s ability to self manage, and to provide parents skills to take action in difficult-to-manage parenting situations

  • Contemporary thinking in child development with a particular emphasis on the differences between adult and children’s cognitive abilities

  • Clear thinking strategies for helping parents to sort between different types of behaviour

  • The two most common mistakes of parenting – too much to talk and too much emotion

  • Processes of pattern-establishment and pattern change including, how negative reinforcement works, the characteristics of patterns, the parent as participant observer, and how to interrupt patterns and extinction bursts

  • Response flexibility in parents and carers – knowing how to avoid getting ‘hooked’ by children’s negative emotions

  • How to choose the best strategy – Do nothing, listen or act?

  • The 1-2-3 Magic technique:
    o what it is, and is not, used for
    o how it’s done properly
    o how to implement it at home
    o how to avoid the two biggest mistakes of parenting

  • Developing response flexibility in children:
    o response flexibility in the brain: What’s new?
    o emotion coaching
    o cognitive strategies parents can teach children

  • Start behaviour tactics

Program Structure / Methods of Delivery: 

The 1-2-3 Magic and Emotion Coaching program is usually conducted in groups of up to 25 parents, and can be taught effectively in three two-hour meetings. Fathers are encouraged to attend through offering a special couple price.

The course has session-by-session leader guides and the materials can be conveyed to parents using a pre-packaged PowerPoint presentation. There are also DVDs of Dr. Phelan showing how the 1-2-3 Magic approach is used.



The 1-2-3 Magic train-the-trainer program costs between $299 – $399. The presentation package (not including the 1-2-3 Magic DVDs) is included in the cost of the training and includes session-by-session guides, PowerPoint presentation for presenters, sample advertising, research articles, tips about how to set-up groups, and information about how to access 1-2-3 Magic resources. 1-2-3 Magic DVDs are available through Parentshop at an additional cost.

Program Specific Audience: 


No. of Sessions: 


Professional Learning: 

  • External Agency Only Professional Learning Available

Professional Learning Compulsory: 


Formal Parent/Carer Component Provided: 


Other Elements: 

Staff professional learning (PL):

1-2-3 Magic Practitioner Training workshops are regularly conducted in all major Australian cities, as well as by invitation from various government departments and non-government groups. These workshops are open to any professional who can demonstrate that they work in the area of supporting and educating parents. Information regarding upcoming workshops can be found at Parentshop website.

Evidence of Effectiveness

Evidence of Effectiveness Rating: 


Identified Theoretical Framework: 


Identified Theoretical Framework Description: 

The 1-2-3 Magic program is based on a behavioural theoretical framework. It also teaches children emotional intelligence skills using cognitive-behavioural strategies.

Survey/Audit Tools Available: 



References supplied by program authors: Bradley, S. J., Jadaa, D., Brody, J., Landy, S., Tallett, S. E., Watson, W., Shea, B. & Stephens, D. (2003). Brief psychoeducational parenting program: An evaluation and 1-year follow-up. Journal of the American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry, 42, 1171 – 1178



Thomas Phelan and Michael Hawton

About the Author(s): 

Dr. Thomas Phelan is a US-based clinical psychologist who is the author of several books in the area of child behaviour problems. Michael Hawton is an Australian psychologist who has 19 years experience. He has worked in various child therapy settings. He is a listed single expert with the Family Court of Australia and on the panel of psychologists who do reports for the Children’s Court in NSW.

Contact Information: 

Parentshop Pty Ltd
PO Box 102
Byron Bay, NSW. 2481
Phone: 1300 738 278
Fax: (02) 6680 8900