How to Make 1-2-3 Warnings Work

Posted by SharonSilver in Articles on Mon, Mar 26, 2012

You’re probably used to giving your kids warnings (“That needs to stop right now!”), but do they work? You may find that your warnings are more effective when you tailor your approach to your child’s temperament.

Here’s a question to help you figure out what kind of approach to take:

How does your child react when you say, “This is your warning, if you do it again I’ll have to… .”

One of my children used to interrupt my warnings as a personal challenge to “bring it on.” My other child reacted as if my warnings were an assault on his tender emotions.

Some children need warnings to be very direct and firm so they know you mean business. Other children do much better when you use a soft gentle voice and confine the warning to information, only. And some children need a blend of the two. Only you know what your child needs.

Keys to a Successfully Using 1-2-3

We’ve all said to our child, “You don’t want me to get to three!” Some parents even add, “I mean it.” That’s the point when a lot of parents wonder, “What am I going to do when I get to three?”

Many experts say being consistent is the answer, and I agree. But it’s not the full answer.  If you don’t know what you’re going to do when you get to three, you can’t be consistent.

Most parents say, “I’m going to send her to timeout if I get to three.” But timeout tends to stop working when it’s overused, so consistently using timeout isn’t the answer either.

You can increase the chances that your child will listen if you say what’s going to happen as you count and if you say it in a way that’s suited to your child’s temperament. Your follow-through then becomes effortless because you’ve already announced what was going to happen.

Words for Warning Strong-Willed Kids

A strong-willed child needs clear, empathetic, direct, firm directions and no wiggle room. Firmly say: “Do not play with the water glass; that’s 1.”

Wait five seconds to see what he does. If nothing happens, say: 
“I will come and take the glass if you don’t stop now; that’s 2!”

Wait five seconds to see what he does. If nothing happens, say:
“I see you chose not to listen; that’s 3. The water is going away now.” 
Notice: There’s no way for the child not to comply aka no wiggle room, as long as you immediately get up and take the water.

Words for Warning More Tenderhearted Kids

A tenderhearted child requires a softer voice, some eye contact and a little more time. Calmly and gently say: 
“Sweetie, please stop fidgeting with the water glass. You’re not allowed to play with your drink; that’s 1.”

Wait 7-10 seconds to see what he does, then repeat if need be: 
“Honey, do not play with the water glass. You can have water play when you’re done eating; that’s 2.”

Wait 7-10 more seconds to see what he does, then repeat if need be: 
“Sweetie that’s 3. You didn’t stop playing with the water. I need to take it right now.” 
Silently take the glass.

Commonalities

Both scripts…

• Are basically the same; you’ve just adjusted your tone and words to fit your child’s temperament.

• Can, and should, have the time in between warnings adjusted to suit your child, versus simply using the timing I used in the example.

• Allow you to enforce the choice your child made to either listen or not listen.

• Take less than one minute and keep your child engaged enough to listen.

• Teach him you mean what you say and you’ll take action, without anger, if need be.

• Require a slight change in your tone of voice to match your child’s temperament.

Remember, warnings work best when you tell your child what’s going to happen as you count, and when you match your tone to your child’s temperament.

Sharon Silver is the author of Stop Reacting and Start Responding: 108 Ways to Discipline Consciously and Become the Parent You Want to Be, and the monthly Online Skills Class, a local, national and international anytime e-class providing parents with solutions for reacting, correcting behavior, outbursts and more to create the parenting instruction manual you always wished came with your child! Click here to receive 2 FREE tips from Sharon’s book. Find Sharon on Twitter and Facebook

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About Sharon Silver

Sharon Silver is the author of Stop Reacting and Start Responding: 108 Ways to Discipline Consciously and Become the Parent You Want to Be, and the founder of Proactive Parenting. Her book and site help parents gain more patience by responding instead of reacting for ages 1-10. Receive 2 FREE tips from the book. Proactive Parenting is proud to announce the Online Skills Class. A class that any parent can attend, even if you live outside the US. Find her on Twitter and Facebook.

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