You’ve parenting has probably included a warning or two from time to time. Some warnings use counting, “That’s one, that’s two…” and some warnings may have threats attached to them, “You need to stop that right now, or else!” The question is, do those warnings really work?

Sometimes warnings are more effective when you tailor your approach to your child’s temperament. In order to know if that will work, answer this question, how does your child react when you say, “This is your warning, and if you do it again I’ll have to . . .”

One of my kids interpreted 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.

The Keys to a Successful Countdown
At one time or another 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 correct answer, and I agree. However, that’s not the full answer. If you aren’t clear about what you’re going to do when you land on three, you end up switching what happens each time since you can’t remember what you did last time, and that’s not being 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 use a two-pronged approach by announcing what’s going to happen as you count, and saying 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.

A Script for Warning Strong-Willed Kids
A strong-willed child needs clear, empathetic, direct, firm directions and no wiggle room. You might firmly say:  

“Do not write in the book; that’s 1.”
Wait five seconds to see if he complies. If nothing happens, say:
“I will need to take the book and the pen if you don’t stop writing in the book, now; that’s 2!
Wait five seconds to see if he complies. If nothing happens, say:
“I see you’ve chosen not to listen; that’s 3. I need the book and the pen right now.”

By immediately getting up and taking the book and pen, you’ve shown your child that there is no wiggle room. You calmly gave your child no other options but to comply with your request to hand it over, now. Most likely the next time you use counting (s)he will respond sooner.

A Script for Warning More Tenderhearted Kids
A tenderhearted child requires a softer voice and maybe some eye contact. Calmly and gently say:
“Sweetie, please put my pen down. You’re not allowed to use it to color; that’s 1.”
Wait ten seconds to see what happens next, then repeat if need be:
“Honey, put my pen down. You can use crayons or a pencil, but not my pen; that’s 2.”
Wait ten more seconds to see what he does, then repeat if need be:
“Sweetie that’s 3. You didn’t put the pen down. I need to take it right now.” Silently take the pen.

Notice: The time in between warnings was ten seconds with a tenderhearted child, and five seconds with a strong-willed child.

What These Scripts Have in Common
Both scripts…
• Are basically the same; you’ve just adjusted your tone of voice, the words and the duration between requests, so it works with your child’s temperament.
• Allow you to teach your child about being responsible for the choices (s)he makes 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 or yelling, if need be.

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

Sharon Silver is the author Stop Reacting and Start Responding: 108 Ways to Transform Behavior into Learning Moments, and Why Do I Yell and What Can I Do Instead? webinar. She is the founder of Proactive Parenting dot net. Keep up-to-date! Get parenting information sent straight to your inbox plus receive 6 Unique Ways to Teach Kids Self-Control by filling out the opt-in at the bottom of the home page at Proactive Parenting.  Find Sharon at Twitter and Facebook

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