"If you don't have your shoes on and out that door by the time I get to 3 you will be staying home!" Ha ha ha looking back to hearing Mama D. say those words to me as a child make me laugh now. She was not laughing as she said them that I can assure you! Why weren't my shoes on and why wasn't already out the door? Because I was ignoring her. Sound familiar?
Oneeee, Twooo, Threeeeee! YEAH! We excitedly clap our hands when children learn how to count. I'm sure if you think back you can remember teaching your kids this and become so excited when their tiny chubby little fingers make 1, then 2, then 3 as they too get excited.
Then, months and years later, we teach them something different about counting. It's no longer exciting, it's more threatening. Does this sound familiar? "Do I need to count?" Wait, do you need to count? Why are you counting?
Counting 1-2-3 to get kids to listen has become a popular strategy, especially to parents of smaller children. The problem is, that it isn't effective. Sure it might work to scare them to do what you want them to do, but does it teach them respect to you as you've asked them to do something?
Does this sound familiar:
"Please stop. I said stop it. Don't make me start counting! Oooonnnnee, Twwwooo... Do you want to go home? Ooonneee, Twwoo, I mean it we will leave. One. One and a half. Two. Two and a haaaalf..." (You might get a little crazy and throw in a Two and three quarters in there) and the word three never comes out of your mouth until you get mad. Now you're mad, your child throws a fit because you're making them leave....and now full blown tantrum to which you proceed to tell them to calm down, perhaps start counting again.
Have you told someone to calm down mid meltdown? It's super fun. I'm not sure about you but it's NEVER calmed me down. Ha!
Think about it: counting to three is teaching kids that they don't really have to listen the first time. They know you're not serious and they will stare you down until you start to say thhhh...and not even finish three until they move. We are teaching them that they have a few more seconds to completely ignore us.
What do I do then?
One way to change from your counting method would to be 1. Look them in the eye so they know you are serious. 2. Use a calm but firm voice as you give your request (while including a consequence if your request is ignored) WHILE YOUR VOICE IS CALM and they do not respond....you do! Now this means toddlers, teenagers and in between! True, the requests and consequences will be different depending on their age but let's just use toddlers as counting is most commonly used with them.
For instance: "Jace, will you please stop throwing toys and put them back in that bin, or I will clean them up and put them away for awhile. (Jace ignores you)
"That's a bummer, maybe you can play with your trucks again when you're ready to put them away when it's time" as you gather up the trucks and put them away for a few days."
I can almost hear your next question. "What if he freaks out then?" In your calm voice (notice I didn't say condescending!) let him know he is welcome to stay in his room and cry about choosing to not put the trucks away and when he's ready to be calm he can come back to wherever you are.
Hang in there! It might take a couple of times for the child to know you mean it, but ditch the counting stay consistent and they will get it!