Redirection, a Magical Misunderstood Strategy

Do you use "redirection" as a way to respond to children who are using toys in unsafe ways, not following directions, are about to bite a peer, or who are engaging in other unwanted behavior?

I recently discovered that there are a good number of early childhood professionals that say that they or the teachers they supervise use "redirection"...but when asked to describe what they say or do to "redirect" it turns out that redirection is NOT actually the strategy they are using!!!!


Redirection can be pure magic, yet many are missing out on its power because they missed the memo on exactly what it is!

Rather than actually "redirecting" some teachers are actually just reminding the child of the rules. 

That is NOT redirection (though it can also be a useful strategy).

Let me explain what "redirection" actually is with an example, just in case you or someone you know or supervise isn't quite clear on the distinction...

Cheryl, a 3-year-old is engaging in pretend play with a two peers when she suddenly approaches the class fish tank and starts to open the mesh lid on top. The teacher in the area sees this and while she thinks that in this instance Cheryl is merely being curious she also knows that Cheryl can react negatively to being told what to do, which often results in limit testing, power struggles, and temper tantrums. 

Therefore, she thinks quick on her feet, walks briskly to the fish tank, leans on the lid with one arm, and grabs a nearby cylindrical toy (you know, those ones with the colored liquid and floating sequins) and pretends to feed the fish while making a shaking sound. 

Cheryl looks at the teacher and the teacher then says to Cheryl, "feed the fish!" and gives her the pretend bottle of fish food. Not only does Cheryl take the bottle and smile as she pretends to feed the fish but the two other children come over and pretend to feed the fish, too. 

Power struggle averted.

This, my friend, is redirection.

Saying, "we don't touch the lid of the fish tank." Or, even the positively stated reminder, "keep the fish tank lid down" are not examples of redirection. 

Those are examples of reminding the children of the rules.

You may also wish to use the strategy of reminding children of the rules (MUCH better to do this before they break them). 

I'm not saying that reminding children of the rules is a bad strategy.

But it's important to understand the difference!

Especially if you are working with children who are too young to logically understand the rules (2 years old and under for sure) or children who like to limit test or seek attention for breaking the rules then you will likely have a much higher success rate by simply redirecting (aka distracting).

Basically, redirection is a trick up your sleeve. You are distracting the child to avert a power struggle or act of aggression.

Don't miss out on using redirection, which can be a highly effective strategy because you are continually correcting children or reminding them of the rules (and thinking that you are "redirecting.")

Maybe you already understood redirection and have been using its magic for years. 

How about those you work with, supervise, or the parents and families of the children you teach?

Keep your ears open over the next week or so and see if there's anyone in your midst who could use your help in understanding exactly what redirection" is and isn't.

Can you share one way you currently use redirection or are now planning to use it?

Please be super specific like the fish tank lid example because that will really help us all think of new ways to use it!