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November 30, 2021

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Using the power of redirection when correcting young children

Have you ever heard of the saying, “A battle not fought is a battle won?” Getting into an argument or power struggle with a child can result in both parent and child feeling like they’ve lost a battle.

Having a power struggle or argument with a 3, 4 or 5-year-old child often leaves parents feeling confused. We usually find ourselves wondering if the words or actions we chose were the right ones. Did our encounter hurt the child more deeply than we can determine? Did our encounter damage our relationship? Was my discipline effective enough to change my child’s behavior? These are common questions parents may face when disciplining with corporal punishment. Let’s take some time to consider an alternative disciplinary approach — redirection.

Redirection is a proactive parenting strategy used to address a child’s unwanted behaviors before they continue or escalate. Put simply, redirection is actively directing a child’s attention away from the object or situation causing the negative behavior or action. Redirecting can help parents avoid negative encounters with their young child and build a healthy parent-child relationship that sets both of you up to avoid a battle.

All behavior can be corrected or improved when discipline is provided in a caring and loving manner. Redirecting teaches children what we need from them, often before the behavior escalates. Corporal punishment as a means to change behavior leads to increased acts of violence from the child to others. It increases the risks of mental illness, anxiety and depression. On the other hand, redirecting children before or at the onset of unwanted behavior teaches children about the behavior we want from them. It opens up communication and can build positive relationships with our children.

Here are four common methods used when redirecting a young child along with examples of situations in which parents may sometimes find themselves.

• Verbal redirecting

Example: Throwing a fit to not eat dinner.

Interrupt the behavior by posing a choice. Say, “You have two choices: 1) Continue throwing a fit and you will lose your video games tonight, or 2) Finish your dinner and we can go out to play together afterwards.”

• Cue redirecting

Example: Refusing to wake up in the morning.

Say, “Remember we have our sticker chart for all the mornings you wake up on time. Hop out of bed so we can put a new sticker on your chart. You can do it! You’re almost to 10! Then we go to the park!”

• Physical redirecting

Example: Talking to a friend, your child is climbing on a bike which isn’t yours.

Step closer to your child. Place yourself in between the child and the bike, blocking his access. Hold your child’s hand. This is a good time to have a snack or small book ready to provide as a distraction.

• Proximal attention redirecting

Example: You are talking to your spouse in the kitchen. Child is jumping on the couch.

Simply walking to the couch and shaking your head signaling “no“ can stop the unwanted behavior.

Moving closer can be just the thing to change a behavior.

Discipline is an ongoing part of being a parent. In fact, some might say it’s one of the most difficult aspects of parenthood.

However, when parents feel prepared to deal with a child’s negative behaviors in a positive and loving way, discipline becomes more constructive.

Here are some ideas for parents to better prepare for a child’s potentially negative behavior.

# Think ahead, plan ahead

If you think your child will misbehave during an upcoming event or outing, have a bag of snacks or small items for him or her to play with in order to avoid boredom. Boredom is often the trigger for misbehavior.

# Teach your child cues or signals

Proactive cues are quite effective at reducing bad behavior. Giving your child a “thumbs up“ or “okay“ signal when they are behaving in the manner you desire is a great place to start. Reactive cues may also be needed. Holding your hand up to communicate “stop“ can be effective. Hand signals should be taught to the child and understood. It is highly recommended that they are practiced in a pretend environment before being tried out in real-life situations.

We all want the best for our children. At Concordia International School Shanghai, we value our parent relationships and seek to provide our parent community with an opportunity to think about ways to increase love, patience and thoughtful parenting strategies during the early childhood years.

Early childhood

Concordia’s Early Childhood program provides educational experiences expressly designed and developmentally appropriate for young children aged 3 to 5 years old. Our Preschool, Pre-Kindergarten and Kindergarten communities are actively engaged within safe, nurturing and playful learning environments that encourage knowledge and skills development and fosters positive, life-long learning habits.

The Early Childhood division is filled with adventure, creativity, investigation and friendship. We provide a research-based approach to teaching and learning in which children learn about themselves, others and the world around them – all in an atmosphere of love, care and acceptance.

Reciprocal learning exists when teachers and families communicate regularly and keep student success in mind. Therefore, we welcome active participation from parents and family members. We feel this partnership plays a contributing role in each child’s learning and growth. We know that children thrive when they are loved and supported and when the actions at school are congruent with the actions at home. We teach our students that they are valued, special and a wonderful part of our Concordia.


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