Break Your Kid’s Bad Habits With These 3 Steps

break your kid's bad habits

“Break Your Kid’s Bad Habits: Pause, Rewind, Do-Over

break your kid's bad habitsHow often do you find yourself saying “Please don’t…”. (insert your broken record request here) – “…leave your book bag in the middle of the floor!” “…slam the door.” “…put wet towels on the bed.” Bad habits can run amok with our kids sometimes, leaving us sounding like the bad habit police with a serious whistle-blowing problem.

Calling out our kids, scolding, or explaining the rationale of an expectation, however, have little lasting effect on changing our kids’ future behavior. Especially, for those bad habits that our kids just can’t seem to drop. Although we cannot undo these bad habit behaviors, which are already wired in their brains – that track is laid, that road is paved (you get the idea) – we can override the bad habits by helping them to practice new corrective ways of responding. Laying new tracks, new highways, new neural pathways of behaving in their brains. As neuroscientists love to say, “what fires together, wires together.” Time for a bit of brain training with the Purposeful Parenting tool, Pause, Rewind, Do-Over.”

Here’s how it works, immediately following the bad habit behavior, use these 3 simple words to prompt the corrective behavior.

Example: Katie drops her book bag in the middle of the floor instead of putting it on the designated hook:

pause rewind do-over

Example: Joe grabs the iPad from his little sister:

how to break your kid's bad habitsReady for high impact training?


Direct your child to do multiple “Do-overs” of the same corrective behavior. Delivery with this strategy is critical. In a neutral tone, you can say something like “Let’s train your brain to make this flushing habit automatic so you don’t have to be bothered by my nagging. Do-over. Please flush the toilet 5 more times.”

Shorten to one-word

The more your child performs the corrective behavior for the situation, the more likely the bad habit will fade and the good habit prevails. We are human, of course, occasional slip ups are expected. Eventually, it will only take a one-word prompt to get them back on track. I’ve been using this tool with my 3 boys for several years now to the point where they are able to self-check and self-correct when prompted with a simple “Rewind.”

Happy parenting!

break bad habits

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Mary B. Moore, LCSW
Mary B. Moore, LCSW Mary B.’s passion is connecting with parents and children in meaningful ways and helping them to develop skills so that they may be their best and flourish. Her specialties are parenting, childhood anxiety, social-emotional skill development, Asperger’s, grief/loss, collecting Boba Fett memorabilia, and creating clever catch phrases, like “Connect Before you Direct” “Pause. Rewind. DoOver,” and “Involve to Solve” to help parents. Mary B. is the creator of The Purposeful Parenting™ Program at Southeast Psych; Co-founder of The Epiphany School of Charlotte, and author of The Friends and Feelings™ social-emotional learning curriculum. Besides Star Wars, Mary B. loves playing games, Legos, Nerf gun battles, and watching action movies with her 3 fun energetic boys and patient husband.


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