The 5 Second Rule
We’ve been visiting a child psychologist for the past few months in an attempt to help my young son cope with his father going away on military assignment, so I’m learning a lot about the best ways to ask for compliance from him.
I’ll pause while everyone chuckles over the idea of trying to get consistent compliance from a young child. Go ahead; I’ll wait.
Although I’ve been somewhat skeptical about some of the psychologist’s instructions, some of the things she has taught me have worked so well that I wonder why in the world I hadn’t heard about them before. One of the methods I learned from her recently was the 5 Second Rule.
What’s the 5 Second Rule?
I’m glad you asked. The psychologist and I were talking about how sometimes it seems as though my son simply ignores my requests, such as to pick up his toy or to hold my hand in a parking lot. She explained to me that children of this age may take a little longer to process a request, which I understand, and then she told me that after I make a request I am supposed to count to five in my head before asking again. She told me that I will be surprised at how effective this method is.
So here I am thinking to myself, “Count to five? What good will that do?” Since I am determined to do whatever I can to make life easier for my son while his dad is away, though, I tell myself I’ll give it a shot. In fact, I got my first opportunity as we were leaving the psychologist’s office. He stopped short of the door so I said, “Please go to the door, buddy.” Instead of quickly following this with my normal, “Come on!” or “Let’s go!” or my default, “Dude, listen to me!” I merely counted in my head: “1-2-3-4-5.”
Something very interesting happened. Right around the time I got to 4, he started moving toward the door. It was as if I had just witnessed his cognitive processes humming along and had unlocked a secret timeline.
I tried it again when we got home. I opened his car door and said, “Please get out of the car.” As usual, he sat there thumbing through his books, but instead of pulling him out of the car myself I counted in my head again. Right before I made it to 5, he started getting out of his seat.
The psychologist says it’s crucial to not do the counting aloud, or to even reveal to your child that you’re counting in your head because this will give your child something to challenge. Instead, it’s an internal gauge that you use before you repeat your request.
I’m not saying it works all the time, but until I started using this method I didn’t realize how quick I am to repeat a request. Now that I’ve started counting in my head, we have a lot less pleading from me and fewer protests from him.