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The Power of the Pause


The ability to pause provides us with many benefits in life. Creating a space between our thought and action allows us to filter what we are going to say or do.


In the adult world, many conflicts can be averted or softened through a moment of reflection and inner redirection. Young children often don’t have that ability to self-correct. They hit each other or grab objects from someone else at lightning speed. “That’s mine!” It’s important to work with children to help them control their impulsivity in order to relate to other people successfully. “Let’s stop for one minute and ask your friend if you can play.”


In the Nurtured Heart approach, the pause (or reset) offered in a calm way is the touchstone for learning to transform one’s energy and rejoin the flow of events in a positive way. Yet taking a pause isn’t just a key to curbing natural impulsivity. When practiced repeatedly, it can be the gateway to relaxing and calming our bodies, making good decisions, and having a sense of what our internal voice advises us to do.


A pause can last a few seconds or minutes or introduce a shift to a different activity. Here are some of the ways we help the ability to pause at different ages and in different situations to become an important part of a child’s repertoire.


A child hits us. “I see you’re upset, but I can’t let you hit me. Let’s take a pause so you can use words to say what you’re feeling.”


Children are physically fighting. If they won’t stop, we have to insert ourselves between them, and simply ask them to take a pause before they go on playing. “Time to reset and play peacefully.”


A child is upset and unable to calm. “Can you stop and take a deep breath. Let’s pause for a moment and relax.”


A child is demeaning herself out loud. “Let’s pause and say some kind words about yourself. What are some things you’re good at?”


A child feels under pressure about homework. “Let’s pause and do something active, like tossing a ball for a few minutes.”


A child is stuck trying to solve a problem. “Let’s pause and see if we can think about in a different way.”

A child is trying to decide about signing up for a class or a sport. “Let’s stop and tune into what your heart is telling you.”


In The Pause Principle, author Kevin Cashman points out how fast and overstimulating the world has become and how crucial our ability to pause is. We help children by talking about the ways we pause in order to maintain our own well-being and equanimity. “I have to pause and think about that before I make a decision.”

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