If you’re like me, you grew up in an era where the phrase “I’m going to count to three…” out of the mouth of your father, struck fear inside your very soul. Counting to three was the final straw. You were either in the car by the time dad reached three or you wouldn’t be able to sit on your bottom for a week.
However, our kids do not live in the same childhood world we grew up in. Have you noticed that when you count to three, your kids wait until you reach 3 before they even start to move? I stand there, open mouthed, resisting every urge not to scream at my child, “MOVE IT!” How do we even have hair left, from all the times we’ve pulled it out while counting? Why didn’t my 1,2,3 initiate the need to GO like my dad’s did?
Here’s my theory:
1. Kids are used to Instant Gratification
If I wanted to watch Rugrats when I got home from school, the stars had to aline. I had to (1) hope mom was done with her soap operas, (2) hope my school bus wasn’t running late so I could turn on the television at 4p, and (3) physically turn the channel to 24.
Today, there’s no waiting for my son’s favorite show to come on television. I can not only flip to PJ Masks in about 30 seconds, but I can also find the exact episode where Romeo tries to take over the world by covering the town in rotten eggs (how this is supposed to lead to world domination, I have no idea, but hey. Whatever works, Rome). Maybe you see how this connects, maybe you don’t.
Since our kids are used to getting the things they want right when they want them, it is okay to hold your kids to that same standards when YOU want something. Since our kids expect you get PJ Masks on immediately, you should expect them to get their shoes on immediately. Scandalous. I know.
2. Kids are stimulated every second of every day
When I was in high school, notes were still taken by hand. “The Cloud” was the big fluffy thing in the sky that determined whether or not there would be a football game that night. My phone… It still flipped (*gasp*). If you ask one of my old coworkers, they would tell you I’m one of the worst millennials when it comes to technology. “Turn it off and turn it back on again,” is my only point of reference when it comes to fixing any thing that requires a battery or outlet. You might as well age me 20 years and call me “Susan.” (No offense to any Susan’s 20 years older than me..)
My almost-4-year-old can maneuver through an iPad better than I, as a 16 year old, could work one of the computers from the mobile lab they used to roll into my literature classroom. But to him, technology is literally second nature, and because of that a “1,2,3” length of time to him, is NOT the same as what “1,2,3” was to me.
I’m not even talking about just screen time for him, which we do limit for him. But surely I am not the only mom out there who keeps the tv on, even if it is on my show?
I watch the Today show every morning. Even though this is just background noise to him, his little brain is still engaged. He can tell me who Kathy Lea and Hoda are. He knows Savannah and Dylan. Sure, it’s “Mom’s Show,” but it’s still on, therefore his brain is still stimulated by it.
When my dad started with that resounding “ONE…“ I knew I needed to get up, get my shoes and coat on, get to the car. Most of the time I made it before “TWO” came, but, Lord help me if “TWO AND A HALF” was spoken. To my son, who’s brain is constantly stimulated, my “ONE…” is more like a loading bar.
“1,2,3” doesn’t communicate urgency to our kids; it communicates “buffering.”
3. Our Kids are Entitled
Let’s be real for a moment: Our kids are being raised an entitlement generation. Gimme. Gimme. Gimme. I want this. I deserve it because I showed up. You owe this to me. Sure, maybe our kids don’t/can’t use this type of language yet, but every parent of every toddler who has totally lost their minds in the middle of Walmart knows, “this kid is an entitled brat..” Be honest; You’ve thought it.
Keeping them from being entitled might seem impossible when everyone and their brother is trying to keep up with the Jones’s, or in our day, the Kardashians. But what if I told you that by eliminating counting to 3, you can start to breakdown a little piece of that entitled wall?
Imagine for just a moment: You’re waiting to pick up your child from daycare/preschool/elementary school/etc. All the other parents are standing there, pulling out whatever bit of hair they have left, counting to 3 trying to get their kids to MOVE IT. You greet your child and say “Ready to go?” And they go. The gates of Heaven open up, the clouds part ways, angels sing a rendition of Handels “Hallelujah”! Seem too good to be true? It doesn’t have to be. You CAN walk away, kid in tow, with all your hair.
Counting to 3, gives kids permission to be disobedient.
Sure, all kids do still have bad days. Melt downs happen. No kid is perfect. No parent is perfect. But what I would challenge is that by removing “1,2,3” from your parenting style, you hold your kids to the same standard that the world now holds, you remove the buffering from your kids brain, and you take away the permission your kids have to not listen. If for no other reason, do it for the remainder of your hair. Because you do deserve to have hair.
I realize that every parent and every kid is different. The above advice is what has worked for me, my family, and my kids.