Two time-honored training techniques of parents, in use probably since parenting began, have been systems of counting (toward consequence) and earning (rewards). Both techniques stand parents in good stead until the child enters adolescence, when they tend to become less influential and four other discipline factors become more effective. Both systems teach the child to connect choice with consequence.
Counting systems tend to be based on avoiding negative consequences. “Look at me. I want you to know I am serious. I asked you to stop doing that. I've told you what will happen if you don't stop doing that. Now I'm going to count to three. ‘One’ is to give you warning. ‘Two’ is to let you know I mean business. And ‘three’ means I'm going to do what I said. One, two … Thank you for doing what I asked.”
Some parents, with a low tolerance for frustration, use another age-old counting strategy to keep from losing their temper with a recalcitrant child. Counting to ten can help them cool down and maintain self-control to prevent overreaction.
What counting does is put the child on notice about how a choice now will soon lead to an unwanted consequence. Counting gives the child time to think. Does the child really want to pay the consequence for continuing to do what he or she has been asked to stop? The choice is up to the child, and the parent formally acknowledges that choice. Now the child knows, “I affect what my parent will do based on the choice I make.”
Counting systems give warning. They focus attention on what the parent wants, they recognize the child's power of choice, they promise what will happen if compliance is not given, and they deliver the consequence as promised if compliance is refused.