“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 for 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.  I know I’ve said this before, but it’s worth mentioning again.  I’m not a parenting expert, but I have read tons of parenting books (this one is my favorite) and I enjoy sharing our parenting triumphs here.  I hope you’ll find the word “pause” as useful as we do.

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 by his friends and teachers that it didn’t have the impact I wanted.  “Pause” seemed the perfect alternative.

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 he shouldn’t be in. I said “pause’ in my harsh tone. He didn’t pause, so I walked over to him, gently held his arms to his side and said “mommy said to pause”. He fussed a bit and went about his day.  Later he was getting into the cabinet again 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, grocery store, the zoo,  practically everywhere as you may have seen in my Instagram stories. It worked well 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 be, like climbing his bookshelf or grabbing a knife off the counter, I would say “pause”.  He would freeze immediately, which gave me time to appropriately and calmly respond to the situation.

Teaching your child to “pause” is a powerful tool that will allow you 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…….


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6 thoughts on ““Pause” – A Quick Intervention for Bad Behavior

  1. Jenna

    What age did you start this? My toddler is 19 months so I’m thinking we should start incorporating this at home ASAP. Thank for the advice!

    1. Carly Post author

      We started around 18 months and I really think the reason it’s worked so well is because we started it when my son was so young. It’s the perfect time for you to start.


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