Author Archives: fionagatt


This advice is all about discipline,  including punishment. Punishment is an ugly word to some. Reality check: Discipline cannot be established without punishments.


Thomas Phelan developed the One, Two, Three approach. One, Two, Three works best for children under the age of twelve but can also be used for teens by saying something like “First warning,”  “Repeating myself,” “Punishment time.”

Use it for annoying behaviors, failure to adhere to an adult’s “No,” or visible breaking of rules.

Here’s how to put One, Two, Three into action through a strategy I call One, Two, Three – Tag, When annoying behavior or minor rule breaking occurs, say “One.” Continued disobedience gets a “Two.” “Three” gets  a punishment and Tag announces the punishment.

TAG can be used with One, Two, Three or as a stand alone disciplinary plan. For teens, it works best as a stand alone plan.

Here is how to put the TAG option into play:

T = Tell the child a rule has been broken
A = Announce the punishment
G = Give a positive and give the child responsibility

Example one: T = Tell.  Hitting is not allowed. A = Announce: Off to the time out chair until the bell rings. G = Controlling your temper takes time to learn; I know you will learn betters ways of saying you are angry as you get older.

Example two: T = Tell. The school called and said you cut three classes today. A = Announce. You won’t get any good behavior money tonight. G = Give. You did better yesterday. I hope you can get your act together again soon. I know you like doing things the right way. It is up to you.

Example three: T = Tell. I am missing $5.00 from my pocket book. A = Announce. As we agreed, when I miss money, your allowance pays. G = Give. I would like to give you all the money you want, but I can’t.  What happens next is up to you. The rules are clear.

After you TAG a child, end the conversation then and there. With a teen who tries to argue, leave the room while saying something like “I don’t have time to discuss this.” You might want to read about what I call “Gotcha Wars” for it is a favorite ploy of some teens and aimed at winning their wars of rebellion.


ONE, TWO, THREE and TAG should only be used when a child has broken a punishable rule. Moreover, punishments must be known before hand. The punishment should also be able to be enforced without the child’s consent. Extra work is a good punishment and often useful to help a child prove he or she is willing to learn from the experience or make amends for misbehaving.  However, extra work does require the child to cooperate, however, so should always be paired with a punishment that does not require cooperation.

Taking away a privilege—not being able to play with a special toy, loss of special time with a parent, no dessert with dinner, loss of television time, loss of telephone privileges, or for a teenager with a driver’s taking away use of the family car, are examples of privileges that can be removed.

WARNING: Some parents take away holiday presents, birthday parties, vacations, visits with a parent who lives elsewhere or visits with other treasured relatives. These are not privileges but important ingredients in the mix that mean a child feels cared for and must never be used as a punishment.


Perhaps the most valuable result of all education is the ability to make yourself do the thing you have to do, whether you like it or not.

Thomas Henry Huxley

Stop trying to be a perfect parent. Not only possible but to often define in this day and age as keeping the kids happy and never, ever, punishing. Bah humbug. Punishment merely means pain applied following behavior.  If the punishment is a beating, then it is abuse.  For tips about proper punishing see this post of mine.   Unless you are abusive, if you provide food and shelter, encourage education,  if you work to teach values and manners, love your child and s/he knows it you are a good enough parent. Bask in that idea.

Remember sharing is caring and share this post if you found it useful or think someone else will.


Links of interest

One, Two, Three Magic promotion video  Phelan does not share much, but this will give you a hint of his approach. Moreover, the videos are inexpensive and well worth the price.


It’s OK for parents to get angry

This excerpt from ‘When Good Kids Do Bad Things‘ talks about the value of getting angry, that it must be paired with allying (showing your love and support), and relates one of Katherine’s always relevant and always revealing stories from when she was a foster parent to troubled teens.


Some parent education books, like Parent Effectiveness Training, urge you to keep your parenting conflict-free. Not me. As I discussed in the Gotcha Wars, a good kid doing bad things sometimes needs an angry parent. Also, there are times when you simply cannot help getting so fed up and frustrated that you blow like Moby Dick. That’s life. You’re human.

Yes, blowing signals a failure to communicate, but it also signals the start of an unplanned Caring Response… as long as it is followed by an effort to ally. A blowup can mean that you care enough to sound your angriest. It won’t damage your child unless you neglect to ally right away, showing that you want to understand her needs and point of view. Repeat: Confronting (with or without blowing up) and allying must always be linked. Like the old saying that you should never go to bed angry with your spouse, you should never let your child walk away from a confrontation convinced you don’t care about her. Never.

This is hard to do, I grant you, when your child is determined to play a heavy Gotcha War game. Making sure you ally in that situation requires practice. Worse, a kid can sometimes resist your peacemaking efforts because she wants to create a blowup that will give her an excuse to break your rules.

When pretty little Coralee followed me around one afternoon trying to pick a fight, I was magnificently serene. From other kids I had learned that she wanted to party that night. Her conscience would not let her be bad unless I was bad. For a gruelling five hours the contest wore on—and finally she won. I blew. Even now, I can conjure up the Gotcha War victory smile she flashed when she shouted that she was leaving “this shit-hole.” While she was packing upstairs, I had just enough time to calm myself down. She stormed down the staircase, still spouting obscenities, but I was ready with an allying statement:
“I’m really pissed right now, but when you come back, we’ll talk about this. I do care.”

No, she did not melt. In fact, she got angrier and flew out the front door. But she did hear me, and that is what mattered in long run. Soon she was back with us, ready to look at what had happened and why.

Sometimes, when a confrontation with a kid was rapidly deteriorating from bad to worse, the best allying I could do was to say loudly:
“I want this settled, but right now I’m just getting more and more upset. We’ll have to talk later. I care enough to work this out . . . but not now!”
When a youngster became familiar with this message, I could shorten it: “Time out. I’m pissed. I care.”

The most bloodthirsty of Gotcha Warriors might continue, despite my call for a recess. Some kids have followed me to the bathroom and stood outside pounding on the door. Sometimes I could only escape by leaving the house. It took time, but eventually I learned, even in those hellish situations, that the child needed my anger but I had to remain detached. I practiced until I could say, “I still care. I need to get away for a while. We’ll talk later.”


When Good Kids Do Bad Things – A Survival Guide for Parents of Teenagers, currently with 11 5-star reviews, is available on Amazon.

Back to school – without the anxiety


At the prospect of heading back to school, children should feel happy to be back with their friends again and look forward to learning new things – but what if anxiety about tests cripples any positives with schooling? If your child has suffered from test anxiety in the past, consider taking some time to understand what anxiety is and how you can help them overcome it, so that when testing time does come around, you and your child will be prepared.

The eBook ‘Tame the Test Anxiety (Teach A Child To)‘ will be free on Amazon on Friday 12th July until midnight on Wednesday 17th July. This excerpt should convince you of the reasons why you should take advantage of this offer and download a copy:

Children are very tuned to parental feelings. You may not think you are anxious, but every parent has some anxiety about a child’s school success. You need to take the time to learn and practice the exercises in this book before teaching them to your children. Doing so will have the bonus of improving your ability to be more a relaxed and confident parent, which is good for you and all of your family.

It doesn’t matter if you own an Amazon Kindle or not because Amazon provides free reading apps for any device. Click on the cover below to visit the Amazon page and get your free copy:


You’re not leaving the house in that!

With July 4th parties this week, some parents might hear themselves saying to their teenagers what they never thought they’d say when they were teenagers themselves, and that’s a reproach about what their child is wearing.


Is it always justified to give your opinion on your child’s dress sense, or lack thereof? Well, as you can imagine, Katherine has some opinions on the matter, so here’s an excerpt from her eBook, ‘When Good Kids Dress Makes You Stress‘.

“The issue of sexually provocative dressing is not always that easy. Sometimes, a style that looks whorish to an adult carries no explicit sexual meaning to a preteen. She’s just trying to look like Madonna, or like everyone else at school. In our multicultural society, different ethnic groups have different attitudes toward proper dress. Some first generation parents are horrified that American teenage girls shave their legs or bare their arms, assuming that these are indications of sexual promiscuity. Even sections of the country have different values. The bleached-blond hairstyle that seems sporty, outdoorsy in a Southern California beach community may be thought cheap, or worse, in a Northeastern small town.

Perhaps you feel, as many parents do, that provocative dressing in itself isn’t necessarily bad. Or perhaps you are the kind of parent who believes firmly that it is. Because provocative clothing may not be intended as a come-on, but can be taken for one, I find myself in the middle on this issue. I want my kids to have the fun of experimenting with their image, I want them to feel comfortable with their peers, but I also think it’s wise for all of us to keep a gently wary eye on the outfits that sail out of our houses.”