The Most Powerful Word in Our Home is "Stop"

practical tips Feb 22, 2023


In the classic childhood experience, we teach them "Magic Words," special words that hold power, that get them the attention and compliance of adults, usually words of supplication or gratitude, "please" and "thank you." In our home, the most powerful word in our toolbox is "STOP."


I am big on boundaries. I am teaching my children the meaning and purpose of a boundary by empowering them to find, communicate, and enforce their own. The first word I want them to use is "STOP" with a hand popped up like a stop sign.

"Stop" says "you've crossed a line, violated a boundary, made me feel unsafe. I need a minute."

"Stop" is a powerful word, and I back it up with my adult energy by echoing it: "I heard a 'stop!'" We practice what to do when someone says "Stop" by playing games and role playing.

Stop tell us to do 3 things:

We freeze our bodies, take a breath, and take a step back.

"Stop" protects my children when they are away from me and something makes them feel unsafe.

"Stop" teaches the other person where the boundary is and how to stay on the right side of it next time.

"Stop" alerts me as the parent that something has heated up among my children, and they may need my help.


My children are wrestling and laughing, but someone is laughing too hard and cannot get their breath back. They are pinned under a brother and feeling panicky. "Stop" they cry! The wrestling stops immediately as the now-instinctive freeze takes over. The one on top takes a breath and takes a step back, as we've rehearsed dozens of times. I walk into the room to check on things, soothing the ragged breathing.


If you're going to teach your children that words are "magic," let them be words that empower and create safety. "Stop" is magic to us. With a single word, we can halt the progression of a game that is getting out of control. With a single word, we can communicate a need to our sibling. With a single word, we can gain the immediate attention of an adult. Stop has power. Stop keeps us safe.

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