One – Twooooo – Two and a half… When Counting Doesn’t Work

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We’ve all done it. Counted. We have all experienced parenting fail when counting. Why doesn’t counting work? When we count, we teach children they get more chances to follow directions or comply.  Does your boss or spouse give you that many chances? Counting may work initially, but children quickly learn that they get two, two and a half, three and sometimes five chances. Thanks Sara for prompting me to write this post after seeing your meme on your FB page.


Parents, you have the power to take control and do away with counting. Here are some suggestions to do OTHER than counting:

  1. Use “STOP”: Stop is an action word and it tells your child what you want them to do… STOP! I like to use stop in situations where parents typically use “no”
  2. DON’T USE DON’T : Children don’t hear don’t – “Don’t play with the door”, they hear play with the door. “Don’t throw the blocks”, they hear throw the blocks. Instead TELL THEM WANT THEM TO DO… then redirect. “Shut the door, look at this puzzle” or “You may build with the blocks, leave them on the ground. Let’s build a garage!”
  3. Use WHEN – THEN : When you use WHEN it isn’t a choice. “When you pick up your blocks then we will go get a snack”.
  4. DON’T ASK IF IT ISN’T A CHOICE: “Do you want to clean-up?”….NO  or  “Do you want to put on your coat?”….NO. Teach your child that you respect their no. Don’t ask, tell when it isn’t a choice. “Time to clean-up” and “Put on your coat”. This doesn’t allow for a choice. You can add choices into these commands as well. “Do you want to clean up the cars or trucks?”. Here is a previous blog post on this topic! 

Check out my Challenging Behaviors: 10 Strategies for Change, you can download it here!

Counting seems like a good idea initially but in the long run it doesn’t carryover for successful behavior. These tools are what I teach my parents on a daily basis. Give it a try. Print it out and put these on your fridge. It will take time but when you change your wording you will ultimately change the unwanted behavior. I hope you feel more empowered after reading this post. Questions?? – Jen Bjorem M.A., CCC-SLP

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