Skip to main content

3 Strikes & Counting

Many parents use some type of strike or counting system as a warning before discipline.  Something wired deep in our psyche knows that our children need some kind of warning before their actions have consequences.  We want them to learn, not be afraid.  The thing is, we often sabotage this by being inconsistent and showing mercy, giving extra strikes, or adding 1/2 seconds to lengthen our counts. 1, 2, 2-1/2, 2-3/4... Our children need to know what to expect, and that means that once you start counting/strikes you need to follow through.  Anything less leaves them wondering where the line really is and will lead to more anxiety and line pushing in the future. 

Before I dig into recommendations let me start with 2 warnings:
1.) Do not use counting or strikes for things that should not result in consequences.  When our children are unable to do something due to skill or emotional distress we cannot expect consequences to fix it.  Consequences are only helpful when our children are capable of meeting our expectation in that moment, but they are unwilling.  
2.) If you begin counting/strikes and realize that the consequence is unenforceable, unfair, unjust, or too harsh DO NOT follow through with it just for consistency sake.  As parents we get emotional, because we are human, so we say things like "If you do that one more time I am going to cancel your birthday!".  Our kids struggle with this same humanity, so they benefit by witnessing us handle our own emotions.  Sit them down and explain the mistake you made, then come up with a new plan together.  Every time you do this you will be teaching them how to manage their own emotions better.  This is not "blood in the water for the sharks!"

As for counting/strikes I recommend strikes with silent counting in between.  Teach your kids that strike one is a warning.  They are not in any kind of trouble, this is just a way for you to tell them that a behavior is unacceptable.  After offering the prompt count to yourself.  You want to give them 5-10 seconds to comply without assuming they are being defiant.  Our children process slower than we do.  Strike 2 means they have crossed a line and you may be upset or disappointed with them.  Give them 5-10 seconds again.  Finally, strike 3 means they are in trouble.  Something in their world needs to change.  They don't get extra strikes, they don't get extra time, they get no extra chances.  Hopefully the consequence is already pre-established as part of your discipline plan, but that is another topic all together.  If it is not, then reaching 3 means that you will be having a conversation about what the consequence will be. 

If you are ridiculously consistent with this you will see a major impact in their behavior over time.  At first their behaviors may increase while they test this new boundary, but that just gives you more chances to establish the new norm.  After a bit of time they will stop challenging the boundary and after a little more time you will see their anxiety decrease because they feel more comfortable in a predictable world. 


Popular posts from this blog

Death Will Lose it's Sting

Our reading from the Narrative Lectionary this week is 1 Corinthians 15:51-57. In these verses, Paul reveals a mystery, that in the end some will be transformed, given a new body, instead of facing death.  In other words death is not one of life's two certain terms.  It seems taxes may be the only guarantee.   " this world nothing can be said to be certain, except  death and taxes ." - Benjamin Franklin. Ok, all jokes aside, these verses are difficult to read.  Paul looks forward to a time when death will have no victory, it will have lost its sting.  But today, we are in the middle of a pandemic, surrounded by death.  Many are scared for their lives, or their loved ones, and too many have already been lost.  Death does not seem to have lost its sting at all, it feels as if it is closing in. When I worked in wilderness therapy I remember holding a child who was desperately trying to kill himself.  We cried together as he struggled to end it, and I struggled

Fool for Christ

Our reading from the Narrative Lectionary this week is 2 Corinthians 5.  Verse 13 stood out to me. If it seems we are crazy, it is to bring glory to God. - 2 Corinthians 5:13a (NLT) John Wimber, the founder of the Vineyard churches did a famous sermon called "I am a fool for Christ, whose fool are you?".  Reading this week's text reminded me of this wonderful sermon.  Wimber's sermon reminds us that, as christians, we are called to something truly radical.  The christian walk is strange and counter cultural.  Jesus once explained this to his disciples in John 15 "If you belonged to the world, it would love you as its own. You don't belong to this world, I have chosen you out of it.  That is why the world hates you."   Peter, in a letter to the church, later referred to all of us as strangers just passing through this world.   Do you feel like a stranger?  Do you feel like the world hates you?  Are you a fool for Christ? Here is the thing, you are going t

Looking Back?

"Remember Lot’s wife!  "   -  Luke 17:32 This is one of the shortest verses in the Bible.  Jesus was talking about the terrible circumstances that will be present when he comes back.  He was warning people that they would not see it coming.  People will be going about their business and then suddenly, without warning, chaos will take over.  People will need to flee, and he warns them not to go back for their possessions, for anything.  This is where he says "Remember Lot's wife!".  In desperation he pleads with them to remember the fate of this woman.  To his listeners it would bring to mind the story of Lot and his family fleeing the destruction of Sodom.  They too were warned not to go back for anything, not to even look back, but Lot's wife did look back.  And when she did, she turned into a pillar of salt.   Metaphorically speaking this is often what happens when we look back.  We get frozen in place and we cease moving forward.  I have a childhood frie