Down on the Three-Count

The other day, I googled “why do parents count to three.” You probably know what I mean, but in case you don’t, that is when a parent gives an order and when the child doesn’t immediately obey the parent counts to three before she takes action, if she take action.

Slow count vs. Paradise

What I read was that some parents swear by counting to three. They say that it makes the kids quake in fear. A mom named Mary says that “I’ll count to three” is a statement that every mom should love. Some say that counting backward from three “totally works.”

Then again, one mom says that her three- and four-year-olds don’t take action; they just think her counting is cute and count with her. Smart kids.

Some parents say that counting to three is not like giving three warnings, but that it gives the child about three seconds to begin obeying. Who are we kidding? I think that Donna’s kids pop this bubble. Donna writes that counting worked for awhile. Then one day as she was counting, her older child leaned to a younger and said, “You don’t have to do anything until after she gets to two.”

This behavioristic technique answers the child’s foolish disobedience with foolishness. Proverbs 26:4 says, “Do not answer a fool according to his folly, lest you also be like him.” Foolishness in parents is like their children. Those who use this behaviorism are “kidding,” or “kiddifying” themselves.

Really, why does anyone need to time a child’s get-started process? What if I count slowly? What if I count quickly? If sometime I don’t count will he wait until I start? Does he need some sort of audible hand-holding to keep him focused on beginning to start to commence?

I’ve heard people say, “God is a God of second chances.” Adam didn’t get a second chance. The moment he took one bite, just one bite, he died spiritually and began the journey of sweat, sickness, and pain toward his eventual physical death.

There is much more to obedience than getting the child to cooperate with the parent’s immediate plan. Obedience is of supreme importance to God. Since we want children who revere and love and obey God, teaching the value of obedience should be high on our priority list. Dare we think that teaching a child that authorities will wait on his convenience does not carry over into his response to God’s commands in the Bible? He learns that it is acceptable to presume upon God’s patience by obeying God when he gets around to it. There is no reverence.

Also consider this idea of making the child quake in fear. Fear of discipline has a valuable place, but if fear is the main tool that plies obedience out of the child, then a) the day will come when the child will no longer fear so he will no longer obey and, b) there is no valuation of obedience as an act of love, as something done because it is right and loving rather than to avoid unpleasant consequences.

Parents need to teach their children why obedience is so important. Talk about it from God’s perspective. Teach them about the supreme right of God to command, about His immeasurable love in giving commands that are for our benefit, and about the fact that obedience demonstrates our love for and trust in Him.

Parents need to train their children that when the parents gives a command once, the child obeys. If there is disobedience, a parent will take action. The action will, of course, depend upon the degree of infraction. In some cases, it may be as mild as taking the child by the hand and leading him through the obedience with further instruction. The main point is that the child needs to see that a parent is not all talk and no action.

When you give a command do you mean what you say or don’t you? The Three-Count method:

  • Teaches disobedience at least three times for every infraction: Disobedience to the initial command plus counts one and two.
  • Models laziness. The parent is lazy in not taking action at the first resistance.
  • Implies that a parent does not mean what he says. He doesn’t mean, “Get ready for bed now.” He means, “Get ready for bed after I show you that I can count to two.”
  • Incites disrespect. Who respects someone who is lazy and doesn’t mean what they say?
  • Teaches the child to push the limits rather than sensitizing him to quick obedience. Do Christian parents really want to be the ones who teach the child dullness to the commands of Scripture? To devalue holy obedience?
  • Incites anger. As the contest for control continues, a parent’s emotional reactions escalate. The child may become angry over the manipulation of the counting or over the injustice of a parent who doesn’t mean what she says and then gets angry when the child takes advantage of the lesson.

What do you want to teach your child about God’s view of obedience, about reverence for His authority, and about how we show our love to Him?

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About Linda

Wifing, Singing, Studying, Counseling. I counsel at Gateway Biblical Counseling and Training Center. M.A. in Biblical Counseling. Certified by Association of Certified Biblical Counselors
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