There is probably no Filipino parent who has not heard their parent count down to get their attention. "Tumigil ka. Magligpit ka na. Hindi mo ba ako naririning, isa... dalawa..." It sounds all too familiar.
If you're trying to apply this tactic, do you notice that you're counting really long ones and twos, and then before the last count of three comes long counts of two-and-a-half, two-and-three-quarters... And just as you say three, your child moves to do what you asked.
In case it isn't apparent, telling your child, "I'm going to give you a count to three," to discipline him doesn't work. Sure, he may stand up the second you get to three, but what would you have done if you got to three and still had no response from your child?
Counting to three is just a quick fix for misbehavior that doesn't make a positive impact long-term. It doesn't help get your child's attention so he could listen to your instructions, nor motivate him.
According to Jenni Rice, director of Halsey Schools counting to three sends a message to your child that it's okay to ignore you or your demand until you get to the last number. "Very quickly you'll go from 3 to 4, then 5, then 6 then… 10 and more," she wrote.
What you can do instead of counting to three
According to Amy McCready, parenting coach and the mom behind Positive Parenting Solutions, you need to get your child's attention first. Then, help him listen and understand what you need him to do.
"Get face-to-face with your child and use a calm, firm voice to state the desired behavior in a way she can understand," McCready writes. Look him in the eye, so you know he can hear and understand you, including including the consequence if he does not listen," she adds.
Use your calm voice to avoid a power struggle. It should be clear to your child what will happen if he/she doesn't follow your instructions. Be sure to cite reasonable consequences so you can follow through with it.
"Even if your child has a tantrum, there's no need to yell, get angry, or even respond," McCready advises. If you're consistent, your child will learn to pay attention when you make a request. He may test you a few times, but he'll eventually get it that when you say something, you mean it.
Rice also suggests that instead of counting to three, give children advanced notice and warnings. Mind you, it's different from repeating your instructions or requests over and over again.
Say, "Ten more minutes of TV time, and then you need to pack away your toys." Then, remind your child about it after two or five minutes. Once the time is up, turn off the TV. Always stay true to your word.
Discipline isn't so much about power, but it all boils down to communication. Counting to three may work for your little ones at first, just like time-outs did. But kids outgrow these discipline practices later on. There is no magic tactic when it comes to discipline. It's a continuous process of figuring out why your child misbehaves, why your reprimands are not working, and how you're contributing to the behavior.