I don't see giving a 6 year old the count of three as patronizing. I see it as giving him or her a warning that they are committing a foul tthat will punished should the act continue! I have three kids myself, two aged 8 and one who is 6. When they were younger, I used to tell them to stop then go to the count.... 1 was telling them to stop, 2 was getting up and going to where they were, and 3 was taking them by the hand and removing them from the scene of the crime and sitting them down for time out. But now, 1 is telling them to stop, if they continue I simply say "that's 2!", and 3 is their punishment, only it dioesn't consist of time out. They are old enough to get them whert it hurts (game cube taken away, no swimming that day or the next, no television, whatever they are into at the time).
I don't see myself as a stern parent, but I will not allow my children to run all over me. I also tend to pick and choose my battles. If it's a question of dealing with right and wrong, I'm right there. If it's an issue where they are messing with each other, I let them deal with it the best they can before I step in.