Pantley distinguishes this method from the “if-you’re-not-here-by-the-time-I-count-to-three-you’re-in-trouble” count down. This particular count-down is more to pre-warn a toddler about what is coming and to give him the opportunity to adapt to the changes more easily than if he were told on the spot that he had to drop everything effective immediately. This is because toddlers often get so absorbed in their activities that it is difficult for them to make the switch. Heck, who’s talking about toddlers? I find it difficult to drop something I’ve started to go do something else.
The idea is to let your child know when he’s got five minutes left before he has to go home, take a bath, stop watching TV, etc. You give him a second warning when there is three minutes to go. A third warning comes at the one minute mark, and then finally when it’s time, he has to stop what he’s doing.
I’ve never quite done it this way because I started it when he was quite young and wasn’t able to understand what a minute was, let alone five. I would usually give him a warning that made more sense to him. For instance if we were at a playground waiting for Daddy to come pick us up, I would say, “When Daddy gets back, we have to go home.” Alternatively, with the TV, I would say, “After this show ends, we have to turn off the TV.”
To further encourage your child to go when it’s time, Pantley suggests adding something fun at the end. For instance, “C’mon, let’s hop like kangaroos back to the car!”
Whatever you do, I think the important point is to pre-warn your child so he knows what’s coming and is better able to accept the change when it arrives. Whenever I anticipate a meltdown from Gavin, I would pre-warn him about what was coming. Sometimes I set it as a condition. For instance, Gavin loves going to my SIL’s cafe and will make a fuss whenever it is time to go. Sometimes it is so bad that it can create quite a racket for the customers at the shop. Now, whenever we visit my SIL at her shop, I pre-warn Gavin that when I say it’s time to go, it’s time to go – no fussing. Sometimes he forgets his promise and he’ll start to whine, but he usually complies when I remind him what he said.
I think this is a fairly straightforward method of heading of tantrums but I’d still like to hear all about your experiences below.