As I have gotten older I find it refreshing to know that I have become wiser than the 18~19~20 year old who “knew Everything”! I remember being young and so intelligent that I thought I could make off the cuff judgments and assessments just because I knew my way was right! For instance, my child was NEVER going to have sleeping troubles—ha, my children will ALWAYS eat what I put in front of them without complaint—haha, and my children will never throw a tantrum in public—hahaha! My favorite was I will NEVER have to count to three because my children will respond immediately to every request—hahahahahahhahaha!
Counting to three has become my number one lifeline in every single behavioral and learning situation I have encountered with every child I have worked with in my classroom as well as with my own children.
I give my direction, or pose my question to my child. If there is no response or worse a big fat “NO mom”, I start to count. When I am first introducing 1-2-3 to a student or my children, I say the direction and 1 (ie “come here, 1”). Then I continue with the direction and 2, the direction and 3. Nine times out of ten when I begin teaching this to a child, I will get to 3 and they will continue to ignore me. Here comes the teaching part: when they ignore me, I simply say, “I’ll help you” and I do just that. Here is an example: Me: “Time to clean up and get ready for bed”. (No response) Me: “Clean up 1, (pause) Clean up 2, (pause) Clean up 3, (pause)” (No response) Me: “Okay I’ll help you”. I then walk over and I calmly hand-over-hand help him clean or provide him with the bins the toys need to go in and wait for him to clean up. Boom all done!
Why it works:
We have all heard it once before “Children need structure and limits set for them.” This has definitely proven the case in my experiences. We as humans are made to test boundries and think outside of the box. This is not something that just happens when we are adults, it starts as babies and toddlers and continues throughout our entire lives. As a mom I am responsible for teaching my children right from wrong, being respectful of others, themselves, and their things. They do not just know it! The counting to 3 is a tool that allows them time to process the request, use their own brains to decide how they want to respond, and then ultimately follow through on their decision. If we as parents push them and stress them to the point that they cannot think for themselves but instead make them react out of fear and demand, then we essentially are telling them not to use their natural inclinations to learn and develop. Another thing to note about a child’s development is their reaction time is slower depending on what they are doing. When my older son is engrossed in something, whether it be TV, coloring, sports, music, games, or just playing with his toys, he is completely engrossed in it. He is not thinking about leaving, or cleaning up, or dinner, or napping, or whatever I am thinking about. So when I find him and tell him to stop and do something else, he has to mentally and physically comply. This can be difficult for him if he is in the middle of something that he thinks is extremely important. When I provide him wait time his brain is able to process it and then better decide if he wants to listen to me or not.
This is also a great tool to use with your growing baby. My almost 1 year old is currently learning to follow simple 1-2 step directions. I use the same counting method to teach him to follow my directions. Again, my goal is to teach him to listen and follow directions, not force him to yield to my will. For example, when he decides to empty out a kitchen drawer of utensils and I do not want him to do it, I simply tell him “No thank you”, If he does not stop (which is always) I Count: “No thank you 1, No thank you 2, No thank you 3, I’ll help you”. I then pick him up close the cupboard and bring him to a place where he can play. The reason I do this even though he does not quite understand “No” is to provide consistency as well as provide him the time to process what I am saying, what he is doing, and what my actions are. This will help him to connect it all together logically instead of being confused by me saying “No” and ripping him away from something he was having fun doing without warning.
I can happily report that with each student and most importantly my own children this has worked wonders. As always I did a little extra work in the beginning for less work later; now when I have to count I hardly ever make it past one before my given direction is followed! As an added bonus this tool also provides me the much needed time to calm down and control any anger I may be feeling, and I am able to focus on helping my kids instead of screaming at them!