It’s been awhile, but I think it is time for a new Babywise Favorite. I remember reading about this one in the babywise books and thinking, wow, that really makes sense. What is it? It’s simple- the pause. The pause is just that, a moment in which you wait. Your child somehow attracts your attention, and instead of just rushing in to ‘save the day’ you take a moment to assess the situation.
It sounds so simple, right? Just take a moment to observe before you act. But that can be hard with your baby. When your baby cries the first thing you want to do is pick him or her up! That might not always be the best solution though. There are a few times when waiting and seeing what your baby will do can be very beneficial.
1) Middle of the night wake ups. My primary goal when my children have middle of the night wake ups is to get them back to sleep as quickly as possible. I mean, the faster they get back to sleep the faster I get back to sleep! In the newborn days this usually means responding right away to any cries. Newborns need to eat in the night, and they still need reassurances that they are not alone as they adjust to their new life. But as babies get older and drop the feedings at night they are able to start to learn to sooth themselves. Now I want to note a pause is not the same thing as letting a baby cry it out. That is a sleep training technique that I am not talking about right now. No, the pause is waiting just a moment to assess the situation before you go in. Take a second and look at your baby. My girls sometimes cry out at night without really waking up. My rushing to their side is often what wakes them all the way up. So instead of running in, I look in from the door and see if they are actually stirring or if they are in fact still asleep. With all three of my children the pause has given my kids a chance to settle themselves. They find their lovey or pacifier and get themselves back to sleep. Yes, these are sleep props, but if they are using them on their own I think that is just fine! The pause lets babies work towards independent sleep, which benefits the whole family.
2) When they are frustrated at play alone. Play is work for kids. It is the time they explore how the world works and learn so much. There are times when they are playing that they get frustrated though. For young babies it can be when a toy doesn’t fit in their mouth, or if they can’t reach an object they want. It might sound silly, but that is some annoying stuff when you are a baby! These are important learning opportunities though. Why won’t an object fit somewhere? Can things be too big? How can you move yourself closer to what you want? If I rush in and solve every annoyance for my baby, she will never get a chance to grow and learn things for herself. For my toddler it can be annoying when toys don’t stack they way he wants, or simply that he can’t do exactly what he wants to do. Waiting gives him a chance to solve his problem on his own, and perhaps learn some natural consequences for his actions. So when my kids cry out during play time, once I have assessed that they are not in any danger of course, I give them a moment to figure out whatever is wrong on their own. Often they can solve their own problems.
3) When they are frustrated at play with others. This one is a bit harder. We want our kids to get along, and we want them to get along with kids from other families. When there is a dispute over a toy or who’s turn it is to do something we want to jump in and help our kids work it out. These interactions are where our kids learn important social skills though. Yes, when children are young we need to teach them how we share and take turns. We need to remind siblings they can’t fight to get what they want. But at times we need to step back and give them a chance to practice what we have tried to teach them. This means not rushing in as soon as a situation may arise, but giving kids a chance to work things out on their own. Maybe they find a solution we wouldn’t have thought of, maybe there are tears and we can take a moment to work on empathy and understanding feelings. Sometimes our child is the ‘victim,’ but honestly they could be the wrong doer as well. The pause gives us a chance to really see what is happening, not just assume our child is right or wrong.
These are just a few examples of when the pause comes in handy. It isn’t ignoring your child or a situation. It is taking a moment to hang back and really see what is happening. You’re there, ready to help if the problem grows or if your child gets too frustrated. But you are giving your child a chance to learn and grow. I know babywise isn’t the only place to learn about the pause, but it is the book that brought it to my attention. It is one of my favorites.