Wednesday, January 25, 2012


Counting makes me cringe. It really does. I know a lot of parents do it, my own parents do it. And it was a threat, a threat that if I didn't do what they wanted by then time they got to "3," then I would get spanked. I've talked to other parents who do it and have said they've never gone to 3, so they've never had to carry out any threat. But the threat is still there and that irks me.

And then there are times when I find myself really really wanting to do the counting thing. I was successfully patient the first 50 times, but this time, I am NOT patient and I am not feeling nice. Last weekend I got to that point and I did indeed start counting, even though I didn't know what I'd do if I got to "3."

But then mid-way through my count, I remembered something someone said about counting that I really liked and I don't even remember who the person was, but I'm grateful. They said, "Think of it as counting up to something really exciting." So I did. Instead of stopping at three, I went to five and at five I picked Margaret up and flew her around the room and shouted, "Blast off!" 

This did a lot of things at once: got Margaret distract from climbing the shelf again, kept the connection between us, gave me a few seconds to be patient, and it was fun. And I didn't need to threaten her or punish her.

This can be used for a lot of things: counting down to buckling in the car(but make it fun!), getting ready to leave, I've even used it in nursery class when a child doesn't want to come over for a snack or music time.

Also, kids really like to "Blast off!"

So that's something that's in my parenting bag of tricks. It doesn't work all the time. Times it hasn't worked have included times when my kids wanted me to acknowledge their upset instead of distracting them, and I've apologized for not being respectful of that and re-connected in a different way. But it's a good one to have in my pocket when I don't have patience and something needs to be done Right. Now.


  1. I don't find counting a natural tool I go to so I haven't used it yet, but your idea sounds great.

  2. I use "blastoff" a lot for distractions! My kids like it. (Or really, they like "Blast-O!" as Benji says.) Nothing is more fun than a rocket ship!

  3. Katelyn9:23 AM

    I know the counting you're talking about with the implied threat behind it. I don't like that type of counting.

    However, I have used counting with my now 18 month old when he was struggling against putting on a shirt. I help fit his arm to the whole and count one, two, three (in an excited voice) and we Push! the arm through the armhole. After a couple times of this he now pushes his arm through the hole himself if he hears me counting and often smiles afterwards.

    Honestly, I think counting to give myself a moment when I'm not feeling patient is a better use than trying to count my child into quiescence. Counting to myself while taking big breaths and blowing forcefully out seems to help me maintain composure when I'd much rather yell. (The forceful blowing is a physical act to get rid of the mad while counting occupies my brain from starting the "I've told you x times not to ..." rant.)

  4. I count with my 2 year old, but not as counting to a punishment. She LOVES to run, so when we get to 3, she runs to me. She thinks its fun, I love that it gets her attention focused on something other than what she was previously doing and we're both happier for it.

  5. Oh dear--I had no idea there was an association between 'counting to three' and spanking. We've always done the counting thing, but there's not an *implied* threat; we explicitly say what will happen at 3 before we start slowly counting. (And yes, we often get to three.) Like, look, buddy, I'm going to count to three, and if I get to three before you've gotten up to put your jacket on, we're just leaving for school without your jacket. Or, okay, I'm going to count to three, and if I get to three before you've eaten another bite, I'll assume you're finished and wash your plate. It's typically a Noah's-frozen-in-indecision-or-totally-distracted-and-we-need-to-move-on-thing, and not typically a 'punishment' or 'threat' thing (though he does not like it).

    Especially for younger children, your counting-to-blastoff thing is awesome.

  6. I use counting occasionally, but never with a threat. Well maybe I 'threaten' to put him in his car seat if he doesn't do it himself but I am not trying to instill fear in him or anything. Just saying that's what will happen. Like giving him a chance to do it himself within a specified amount of time.

  7. I use counting to help hurry my daughter along in a decision. "Choose X or Y. I'm going to count to three and if you haven't chosen by then, then I get to choose." And then I follow through. If she doesn't choose, I choose, even if she then picks the other choice. She's learned that if I start counting, she needs to make her decision or she loses the chance to choose. There's no punishment, per se, especially not a physical one. Rather, it just cuts down the hours we would spend in indecision otherwise.

    Also, decisions include things like, "Do you want mommy to put you to bed or daddy?" Either way she has to go to bed, but she can at least have more of a choice in the bedtime routine. It's not all "What cereal do you want?" or "This shirt or that?"

  8. I've always felt wrong when I count at Peanut. We don't do physical punishment, but it was a threat thing. Do such-and-such thing before I count to three or I'm going to do such-and-such thing you won't like. She often burst into tears before I even finished counting.

    I had an "ah-ha!" moment a few weeks ago where I realized that life goes so much smoother if we turn everything into play. It took a few times for her to get past the trauma that counting had obviously caused her, but she did figure out that counting can be to something fun too. Like "Bet you can't get your coat on before I count to ten!" and then she gets her coat on as fast as she can so she can "win" the game. Or we'll race to the car. Or we'll do froggy hops across the room to get her clothes on in the morning. Just adding an element of fun to things I would otherwise get frustrated about helps SO much. I wish I would have known this two years ago. :-/


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