Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Sharing Footprints -- practical parenting tip: the countdown

Just a quick thought to share . . . While I expect first time obedience from my children I ran into an issue with the speed of a job done.

If they don't even move when told to take care of a task that clearly falls in the disobedience category. But, it gets a little more grey when they get up, walk to take care of it, but not quite as quickly as you might like. So, we started counting down.

This works well for situations like getting dressed, emptying garbage cans, cleaning up toys, and similar multi-step tasks that require focus, but aren't really detail oriented. This does not work for tasks like brushing teeth, cleaning windows, and folding laundry where tasks require greater care and time.

Here's how it looks:

"Nathan, it is time to get dressed. Your clothes are on your bed. I need you to put them on. Ready?"

Big grin back at me as he poises for action.

10 (And they're off! . . . his pajamas are quickly off and in the hamper)
9 - 8 (back to grab his pants and he pulls them up quickly)
7 - (Nathan faces a little hang up with his snap, so my counting temporarily slows a bit as I help him. I'm not trying to trick him or give him a challenge he can't handle. I'm trying to motivate him to work quickly without distraction)
6 - 5 (back on track, Nathan grabs his shirt and it comes over his head in record time)
4 - 3 - 2 (my counting speeds up to keep him moving as he shoots his sleeves through the arms. And, he beat me once again)

When first introduced, we sometimes give them a second chance to "beat the clock" if we can tell they are really trying. This is a case where we are disciplining their heart, not necessarily their actions. Their actions might be doing what we said, although not the way we wanted, and that is because their heart is not quite where it should be.

Once they are used to this, they know a consequence will be handed out if they do not meet the deadline. We adjust our counting (but don't ever stall at the "one and a half, one and a quarter . . . ") if something unusual comes up. And, we don't always have to start at ten. If we are telling everyone to get in their seat and they have a couple toys to clean up quickly we can start from five, or twenty if needed.

This has given us a simple way to encourage quick obedience and discourage hesitancy in obedience.

Once kids have reached the age of six or seven we don't use the counting down much any more because the standard is clear. For the young kids it helps them learn where the bar is set and encourages them in a lighthearted way to pick up the pace.

This is a great method that has worked for us.

To read more in my current blog series: Sharing footprints


Living with Lindsay said...

This definitely works! When my son is being a slow poke about getting into the car, I always start counting and he tries to beat his previous time. Great tip!

Single Income Dual Kids said...

Thanks. Need to try something new--"1-2-3" has lost its edge :)

elleeyun said...

i would love to hear some of your consequences when they don't beat the clock. i have a six year old boy.
btw, i love your parenting series. it's very helpful.

Becky said...

Although most of our children are on their own now, when they were little I learned really quickly that counting from 1, 2, 3 didn't work. Just the fact of counting backwards made an amazing difference. And I usually just had to say "3" and off they'd go! This tip definitely worked for us as well :)

~~tonya~~ said...

That is a great tip!! Gonna try it with my little boy.

Anonymous said...

Oh my gosh I LOVE it! Sometimes I struggle to find the possitive way to do things. I was counting, but it was the negative 1 2 3 kind. Thanks for the GREAT tip!!

Cindy said...

Great idea. We use a timer for Lukas to get dressed (1 minute), but I like the counting down idea too.

Thanks for stopping by and commenting on our blog.

5intow said...

Thanks, everyone, for stopping in, and for the thoughtful comments. It is always motivating to pool fresh ideas to help us parent even better and refresh our enthusiasm on the child-training front.

elleeyun, so glad you are enjoying this series, thank you! It is truly amazing how infrequently we need to worry about those times when they don't beat the clock, but it does still happen. The consequence will vary based on the child, the extent of the negative attitude exhibited, and the situation (grocery store, home, church, etc.) We do use time outs, spankings, an extra chore, lost privilege, etc.

Most often we stop, get down on their level and make sure we capture their heart again, first. Once we are back on the same page I like to give them a different, but similar, task to do for a countdown.

For example, if they were cleaning up toys we will finish it together, and then I will find another area that needs toys picked up (that's not usually too hard), and count down again. This helps them experience a success, and the subsequent praise, and reinforces how they should behave.

Hope that helps. Any further questions, please ask away!

WEEBLE said...

There is a quote that my husband I & use around our house when our kids choose to delay obedience. "Delayed obedience is disobedience!" It gets their attention every time.