“Pause” – A Quick Intervention for Bad Behavior

bad behavior

When E first started walking we taught him the word “pause”.  At the time we thought it was a convenient word to keep him from getting too far away from us, but it’s turned out to be useful bad behavior too.  I’m a huge fan of using keywords for parenting toddlers (more about that here and here), so today I wanted to write about how we’ve taught E to respond to the word pause and how we use it.

E was so tiny, but was so fast when he started walking.  It was terrifying!  I instinctively started trying to figure out ways that I could make sure he wouldn’t get too far away from me.  Initially I tried using the word “stop” for bad behavior, but this word is used so often that it didn’t have the impact I wanted.  Since E hears his teachers, friends, relatives, and the TV say “stop” on a regularly, he basically ignores the word.  I needed a word that E rarely hears, and could recognize that I’m not messing around when he hears it.  “Pause” seemed the perfect alternative.

As E was learning how to walk and getting into everything, I started saying the word “pause” with a harsh tone when I needed him to stand still immediately and not move until I told him he could move. I used every opportunities at home to teach him what to do when I said “pause”. It took a lot of practice for him to learn, but the lesson has paid off time and time again over the past three years.

To teach E how to pause, I treated it like a game and let him say “pause” and then I would stand perfectly still until he came to my side. He was super amused by this “game”. Then I explained to him that it was important he learned how to pause, so that I could help keep him safe. We reversed the game with me saying pause. During the game I made sure to use a harsh tone every time to emphasize the importance of the word.

The next day E was getting into a cabinet I didn’t want him to get into. I said “pause’ in my harsh tone. He didn’t pause, so I walked over to him, gently held his arms to his side, waited until he looked at me and said “mommy said to pause”. He fussed a bit and went about his day.  Later he was getting into the cabinet and I said “pause”. Again, he didn’t stop, so I repeated the same steps, but this time after reminding him I said pause, I asked him to show me how to pause. He did. Then we practiced pausing a few times while taking turns telling each other to pause.

After we had mastered pausing at the house, I started using this technique at the park and grocery store. It worked great for keeping him out of trouble! The moment I sensed he was getting too far away from me or getting into something I didn’t want him to, I would say “pause”.  He would freeze immediately.

One of the first times I used this technique to help with bad behavior in public was during a play date at the zoo with two other toddlers. The three toddlers took off running and just as they were about to turn a curve where the moms wouldn’t be able to see them, I practically barked “PAUSE!”. E instantly stopped while the other two toddlers ran off. The other moms were amazed.  Not only did I look like an all-star, but I realized how powerful a tool “pause” could be.

After that, I started using the word in more and more situations. For example, E grabbed a kitchen knife while I was making dinner. A quick “pause!” caused him to hold it in mid air until I could safely take it away. A few days later, I walked in on E climbing our bookshelf.  A quick “pause!”, caused him to freeze mid climb and stay on the second shelf until I safely got to him. Another time we were at a birthday party and I say his arm come up to hit another kid (I have no idea what they were fighting over), but a harsh “PAUSE!” caused his arm to stop in mid air and kept him from hitting the other kid.

Teaching your child to “pause” is a powerful tool that allows parents to quickly take control of a bad situation.  It has endless uses and is a word I can easily say in public without looking like a crazy mom.  It’s been extremely useful as a quick intervention for bad behavior.  I highly recommend teaching your kid how to “pause”.  You won’t regret it…….

Will teaching your child to “pause” help you manage their bad behavior?

 Don’t forget, subscribers get exclusive access to my “Key Parenting Phrases” article.  Click here to learn more key parenting phrases

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