A NUMBER OF YEARS ago a young mom came into my office. She was a single mother of three and she was thirty-three years old. When she sat down and I had a good chance to look at her, I could see that Sarah looked like she had been run over by a truck. When I asked the young woman what had brought her in to see me, she said, “Dr. Phelan, I don’t want to get out of bed in the morning. It’s horrible. I just lie there, pull the covers over my head, and cringe.” “Why don’t you want to get up?” I asked. “The thought of getting my three kids up and ready for school is horrible. It’s absolutely horrible!” she said. “They don’t cooperate, they fight, they treat me like I’m invisible.
I scream I yell, I nag. The whole thing is so upsetting that it ruins my day. I can’t concentrate at work and I’m depressed. Then the next morning I have to do it all over again.” After asking Sarah more questions and doing a brief history of her life, I asked if she’d like to learn 1-2-3 Magic. “I’ll do anything!” she said. Sarah meant what she said. I taught her 1-2-3 Magic. She went home and told the kids things were going to be different. The kids smirked and looked at her like she was nuts.
Over the next few weeks, this young mother made believers out of her three children. She used counting for sibling rivalry and disrespect. She used some of our “Start” behavior tactics for picking up, homework, and—most importantly—getting up and out in the morning. She also employed sympathetic listening and shared one-on-one fun as bonding strategies.