This site provides information using PDF, visit this link to download the Adobe Acrobat Reader DC software.

Pause for Parenting: Give children a chance to regulate bad behavior

Pause for Parenting: Give children a chance to regulate bad behavior

Renee Mattson M.Ed., a teaching professor and field coordinator for Special Education Programs at Xavier University's School of Education, will return to The Summit on Saturday, Oct. 28 to present "More Curious, Intelligent & Intense: How Do We Parent or Teach a Gifted Child?" at the Early Childhood Education Symposium. In the meantime, she has provided this guest blog.  

Many times parents jump right in when their child has made a bad choice to render consequences. There is no PAUSING moment to encourage regulation or a chance to do over or make the situation right. The child heads right to the consequence and never gets a chance to show that they can regulate. PAUSING instead of jumping to doling out consequences is essential but so is PAUSING to allow a mini moment to try again.  

The best time to PAUSE in an effort to help a child regulate is before we enter into a situation…

  • Before you head into the store
  • Before you begin a game with the family
  • Before the babysitter arrives

PAUSE to make sure that the rules and expectations and agenda and boundaries are clear. This kind of PAUSING really helps kids to look ahead and make a plan to make good choices. 

Ask the child to pause

When I see a child do something that is not okay – hurt, fuss or disrespect – I try to lean in and help them PAUSE by literally asking, “Would you like to PAUSE and try that again or show me how you can REWIND this situation?” 

When a child is out of control with their fussing, I might PAUSE and ask them if they would like to TAKE A BREAK (or PAUSE and TAKE A BREAK) so that they get themselves ready to work or play or eat at the table. This kind of TAKE A BREAK is different than a TIMED OUT because the parents might allow them to have a calming item to help them while they PAUSE, and the child can always come back into the play or work or dinner zone when they are ready and calmed down. 

Finally when you finish a situation, PAUSE one more time and have your child look back to judge what went well, what should we do next time instead and assess how they have improved or how we can help the situation in the future. This kind of PAUSING is a again a great way to step in and allow for a chance to catch them being good and set them up for success next time.

Basic rules for successful self-regulation

When using PAUSE for taking a break here are the basic rules we try to follow through on to make it a successful way to regulate:

  • The child can come back when they are ready even if that is 20 seconds later as long as they make better choices when they come back.
  • Take a break is not a punishment. It is a chance to save face, calm down and get ready.
  • We would normally give a child three chances to calm down before setting a timer or having them take a loss.
  • The child can choose their calm: their calm zone, their calming things that help them regulate.
  • Make sure that this is a different zone than TIMED OUT so they are not confused.
  • If the child is older than 2.5 years you can teach, model and practice this approach and show them what we can and cannot do in take a break. Teach with a visual storyline or drawing.
  • When they come towards you – PAUSE and assume the best – welcoming them back but do not make a big scene about their return, just phase back into the task or play at hand.
  • Focus on their recovery more than the behavior that got them there. You did it. You were mad, mad, mad, but you went to your bean bag and calmed down so you could come back.
  • Parents can take a break from the child if the child refuses to leave the room. When they come towards you while you are taking a break, say, “Oh I see you are following me. I guess that means you are ready to make a good choice.”

Renee Mattson will present "More Curious, Intelligent & Intense: How Do We Parent or Teach a Gifted Child? on Saturday, Oct. 28 at The Summit's Early Childhood Education Symposium. The symposium is free and open to the public. Click on the link to learn more and register.

Renee Mattson


About Renee Mattson
Renee Mattson, M.Ed, founder of Child in Bloom has been a featured presenter at the Early Childhood Education Symposium hosted annually by The Summit Country Day School. Her “Pause for Parenting” talks offer practical strategies on how to be more positive in parenting.