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The Art to Pause Between
Stimulus and Response


Between stimulus and response there is a space.
In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom.
Viktor E. Frankl

I found this quote in the book "The 7 Habits of Highly Effective Families" by Steven R. Covey. 

It got me thinking...

What a liberating thought! AND

How do you use that space?  Do you feel it is really there? And if so, how can you make it last just a little bit longer?

The toddler having a whiny or clingy day, or week, or month; The preschooler happily exploring with paint - and leaving a trail of mess behind; The dishes piling high for days and whatever you do, it seems it gets only worse?

How would you normally react? And how else could you respond?

If life gives you a lemon - make lemonade How do you make lemonade?

Frustration -
key to that space between stimulus and response

For me at the moment the key to this space seems to be frustration. That's where this space is needed the most yet tends to disappear. And it's also a strong emotion that's easy to recognize. I like to deal with frustration by using it as a stop sign.

So how could this quote help with the challenges described above?
Just picture this:frustration as response and stimulus

All too often an irritating situation makes me react in a way that I regret later.

But it doesn't have to be like that. In each of those arrows lies a space. I don't need to respond with frustration to things going wrong. And the stimulus frustration doesn't need to lead to impatience or even anger. I do have a choice. 

More accurately: In a situation going pear shaped there are several moments where we do have a choice, and each of them offers a chance of growth and freedom.  What an empowering thought is that!!!

But often I do need more time to actually use that space.

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How to Create a Pause
between Stimulus and Response

What I need is a long enough pause in that space. Luckily there are several ways to accomplish just that and to extend that pause long enough to find a positive response. One that helps me grow into a more positive way of parenting.

My favourite ways to create this inspiring and enabling pause are:

  • taking a deep breath and letting it go sloooooowly
  • leaving the situation for a short while if possible
  • praying (not nesessarily in a religious sense) to find the best possible solution or thought in the time available 
  • and combining this with: creating the feeling of confidence inside me that this will happen and that it will be truly better than any automatic reaction
And then look out for at least one alternative response and choose the better of the two. Practicing this is what gives "response ability" in it's true meaning.

These are baby steps that will over time lead to a much more positive way of responding. Celebrate them. Be proud of your accomplishment. And be confident, that next time you really can do one little but important baby step like that again.

To get into the habit of creating a pause go through the list of possible ways to pause and choose the 2 or 3 you like the most, then practice. So if you end up in a frustrating situation, work down the list. And after a frustrating situation, instead of allowing any internal replay of  the frustrating events, imagine how the situation could have turned out if it had been perfect and replay that.

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What are Your Favourite Ways to Create a Pause between Stimulus and Response?

Here I'd like to invite you to share your recommendations and experiences with the readers of positive-parenting-skills.net .

Do you do something similar?

If yes - when and how? Please share your experience and knowledge with us!

If no - Why doesn't this work for you? and... What changes could you or someone make to make it work?




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Of course recognizing frustration and creating a pause are only the first few steps. To come to a place where it comes naturally to always respond calmly, even in stressful situations, takes a bit more preparation. It requires a mind shift from feeling a bit like a victim (of the situation or whatever) to setting yourself and your kids up for success and trusting that you'll find a way to manage.

Some important steps to change perspective are:
  • Taking the time for self-reflection
  • Setting some Me-Time aside to do things you enjoy doing and do them without any guilt.
  • When realizing that there is too much stress, acknowledging the fact, looking for and accepting help gratefully.
  • Finding yourself a supportive environment.

Other articles that support this goal are: 
  • How to Calm Down? - an older article to the same topic, with a slightly different point of view.
  • Controlling Emotions - steps that help in the long term to reduce stress and help to control emotions.

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