Mom Tip Monday: 1-2-3…

by Heligirl on December 13, 2010

in Daily Ramblings,Mom Tip Monday,Parenting Articles

Did you know that telling kids they have until the count of 3 (or 5 or 10) is actually counter productive and can make it harder to encourage kids to cooperate? I sure didn’t, but what I learned recently makes a whole lot of sense.

Think about it, does your boss give you until the count of three to get started on a project? Does the electric company give you three chances to pay a bill? Or when it comes to expectations for your kids once they’re in school, will the teacher ask several times before the child must comply with direction? Then why should we give our kids a count until they’re required to comply with the request? The truth of the matter is we want our kids to cooperate and do what they’re asked the first time.

If you have kids that know the number you count to, do you notice they jump when you reach that last number? It might work, but you’re teaching them they don’t have to do it until you reach your own high blood pressure and end of patience. You’re actually training them that they don’t have to respond until you reach that number.

Instead of counting, Amy McCready, founder of Positive Parenting Solutions, Inc., suggests the following:

Correcting misbehavior in children requires a layered approach and an understanding of:

  • The psychology behind the child’s behavior
  • Why our reprimands aren’t working,
  • How we contribute to the behavior, and
  • Specific tools to correct behavior in the moment and to prevent the behavior in the future.

Attempts strategies such as counting “1-2-3″ don’t work for long-term behavior change. In the case of 1-2-3, it trains our children that we’re not serious until we get to 3. It trains kids that they have 2 chances (in addition to the times you may have asked before counting) before they really have to listen.

Why should we have to give three (or more) chances? Don’t we want them to listen the first time?

But, what should we do instead? As I said earlier, correcting misbehavior is a multi-faceted approach, but here is a place to start:

Get down on the child’s level (physically) and look him/her in the eyes and state the desired behavior in your calm but firm voice – including the consequence if he does not listen. The calm voice is important to avoid escalating a power struggle.

For example, say, “Jason, please put your toys away now – or, if I have to put them away you’ll lose the privilege of playing with those toys for the rest of the day/week.” (Depending on the age of the child)

That gives Jason ONE chance. If he chooses to comply – great – everyone’s happy. If not – calmly and WITHOUT words, go and pick up the toys and put them in the closet for the day/week.

If he has a tantrum – that’s fine. Don’t get angry; don’t give a lecture; just go about your business. (Assuming the child is not in danger of hurting himself or others.) His tantrum will pass and he will learn a valuable lesson that when you say something, you mean it. (If the tantrum causes you to reverse your decision, Jason wins and the scenario will be repeated again tomorrow.)

Kids are much smarter than we realize. When we use the “1-2-3″ count, we mistakenly train children that they don’t have to listen the first time and they actually have three or MORE chances before they have to listen.

Instead, say it once, be clear about the consequence, and follow through with the consequence if necessary. Your child may “test” you a few times, but will quickly learn that when you say something, you mean it!

I took a free seminar from Amy and have even hosted a couple here at Heligirl. I’m now a subscriber to her site and never fail to learn something new when I visit there. She offers insight into the psychology behind the child’s behavior, why our reprimands aren’t working, how we contribute to the behavior, and provides specific tools to correct behavior in the moment and to prevent the behavior in the future.

If you’d like to learn more or even take a free seminar to see for yourself, click here. Or if you don’t have time now, I keep a link in the sidebar to the right so you can always come back.

Have a great week everyone!


Hanan December 13, 2010 at 10:44 am

I never even thought of that. Great point!!

Carol @ Knee Deep December 13, 2010 at 12:38 pm

This is absolutely the issue my 4 year old is having in pre-school. Her teacher is giving her 5 or 6 chances to make the right choice. I told her that we give her one chance at home and then a consequence. I’m printing this, I’m going to have her read it and hopefully she can buckle down a little bit because this is creating issues at home now too! Thanks for posting this, Jen!
Carol @ Knee Deep recently posted: A Very Merry -DISNEY- Weekend

Susan December 13, 2010 at 8:35 pm

Once again- Love it! Come to think of it, I have only used the 1-2-3 thing once, and I felt silly using it. Glad to know why it’s not a good way to go. Thanks for the link to more intelligent parenting solutions.

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