Kids Not Listening? Don’t Count on 1-2-3!


Do you ever feel like it’s impossible to get your children to listen? You know the drill: You tell your child to put away her toys.

Silence is all you hear.

You asked again.

Your daughter doesn’t even look up. You decide to count in order to get her attention.

One Long Wait. Twwwooooooooo. Twoooooooooooo.

Just as you are about to say “Three!”, she starts cleaning.

It worked! Right?

Not really. Your child only learned that she has at least five chances to listen, and sometimes even more, before she must really pay attention. Is that what you really want to teach your child?

What’s wrong with counting 1-2-3?

While counting 1-2-3 may be a popular parenting method, it is not effective over the long term.

This tactic won’t improve future behavior and will, in fact, guarantee that your child will not respond to you the first time. This sets up your child for future problems.

Consider this: Will teachers have the patience and persistence to ask your child to complete an assignment 5+ times?

Would a boss allow your child to respond to a request more than five times? It’s unlikely.

Why should you give your child more chances at home while you are working to prepare him for the real world?

Have you thought about what you would do if you reached “Three” when you are counting?

How do you feel when you count 1-2-3? You’re probably feeling angry and frustrated- not the best way to think about your children!

Sometimes, counting 1-2-3 can be used to “quick-fix” misbehaviors. But the truth is that there is no quick-fix solution.

If we use counting, Time-Outs, and other “magic-wand” parenting techniques, our child will learn that we are not serious until “three.” We won’t get the behavior change we want.

Positive parenting is the answer to your question, my friends. You can use Positive parenting techniques to discipline your child effectively. The goal is to raise competent, capable, and responsible adults.

Understanding what we are doing is the key to long-term correction of misbehavior.

  • The Psychology Behind Misbehavior
  • The reasons why our current reprimands don’t work
  • How we can contribute to misbehavior
  • Some tools can be used to correct misbehaviors at the moment and stop them from repeating themselves.

What can we do instead of counting 1-2-3?

Start by getting face-to-face and using a calm voice to explain the desired behavior.

Make sure that she understands what will happen to her if she does not follow your instructions. You must maintain a calm voice to avoid power struggles.

Say, for example, “Sara please put your toys in a box now or I will put them in a container and you won’t be able to play with them the rest of the afternoon.” This is the only opportunity your child has. Do not undermine the chance to train your child by repeating yourself.

It’s up to you to be calm and respectful when your child doesn’t respond as expected. There’s absolutely no need to get angry or yell at your child if they are having a tantrum. You are teaching your child a valuable lesson. They will know what you mean when you ask for something.

It might be a good idea to count 1-2-3 at first. However, it quickly loses its effectiveness. Will ensure that your children listen to you the first time every time if you set a clear expectation and then follow through with it.

Final Thoughts

It’s the most common complaint I hear from the thousands of parents that I work with.

You’ll learn the 5Rs of fair and effective punishment, so you won’t have to count to three anymore.

Please know that I wish you the best of luck on your parenting journey. We are always here to help you with your next parenting problem!

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