Sunday, April 7, 2013

Does Counting To Three Work?

“Do not train a child to learn by force or harshness; but direct them to it by what amuses their minds,
so that you may be better able to discover with accuracy the peculiar bent of the genius of each.”
- Plato

   Having your parent count to three seems like a rite of passage for all of us. Don't we all remember the famed "Two and a haaaaaaaaaalf!"? As I look back, I remember not doing a single thing about the threat at the count of one, or even two. I snapped to it at 2.5, 2 3/4 and 3. There are a few experiences around the concept of counting that I'd like to share for consideration. 
   When The wife and I were first married, we had a Great Dane that we took to a short obedience class. The instructor watched a young woman give her Husky a command over and over. The instructor told us of a man she met who's dog would obey his commands, after some work, only after he said it three times. See, the guy was giving the command twice before giving it a third time and MAKING the dog obey. Hence the result. 
   While we are not canines and neither are our children, I see the same thing in principle all the time. I have seen parents close to me count to three many, MANY times, with no result. It's clear that without enforcing the rule, it's lost its effectiveness. I've read a few articles written by psychologists and child behavior experts and it's clear that counting to three may not be the best choice. While The Wife and I have used it out of tradition and lack of knowledge of other tactics, we ARE looking at alternatives, since it doesn't seem to be the best solution for our kids specifically. 
   The discussion with our little ones has recently been about choices. Our 'Lil Miss is old enough to get the concept, and our 'Lil Man is getting there. The more we discuss "making good choices/decisions", the more we get away from counting to three. It' not a cold turkey thing, but we're making the transition. Now we ask for a task to be done, and can give the consequence of not making a good choice. It seems to be working, and I'm not counting to three,...again.
   Everyone has a different style. I'm interested in yours. Please let me know what you're doing that works. Please? Don't make me count to three!



  1. Jason,

    I, like you, grew up with the count of three. When I went to school for social work, I learned about the "true" effectiveness of counting (or lack of effectiveness).

    My wife and I have never used counting with our son. It is particularly beneficial to tell him the consequences for not doing something when asked. There are times he still likes to check to see if we are actually going to follow through on the consequences. In general, it is much more effective.

    Aaron Brinker aka DadBlunders

  2. It's great to hear some supporting experiences from a fellow dad. I had no decent role model in the father dept., so I'm building as I go. Just today, I went to count and changed my tune to explaining the consequence of his actions. It's a work in progress, for certain.

  3. I love the dog training analogy (there are LOTS of similarities, aren't there?) The counting method trains the child not to listen or act until the count is done. Why not teach a child to respond to the parent's voice on the FIRST time? Thanks for your thoughtful post.