Redirecting Behavior in Positive Directions

Dad talking to sad son  

Babies and young children don't typically misbehave deliberately.  

  • They may be experimenting with a behavior or with your reaction to it.  
  • If your reaction is "No, stop it!" then the behavior will probably be repeated. 
  • It got your attention, and the child didn't know what else to do.  

Redirecting  vs. Saying "No" 

By using redirection, you are showing your baby what to do.  

  • You replace an unwanted behavior with one that is acceptable.  
  • It is tempting for us to say "No!" when we are alarmed or want to stop a certain behavior.  
  • Toddlers can sometimes see "No!" as a challenge to get around.  
  • Redirection is a good alternative to no.  

More Examples 

Situation: Child is throwing blocks. 
Reaction: "No throwing blocks. Throw Nerf balls." Then play Nerf balls for a little while. Nerf ball throwing may become a favorite pastime.  

Situation: The baby just learning to use a spoon may like to throw food with it.  
Reaction: Maybe it would be fun to feed Mommy instead? Or feed a toy animal with an empty bowl, taking turns to practice self-feeding. "Let's feed Baby. Feed Mommy. Feed Bear. Not the floor." 

Situation: A baby banging a spoon on a pot or high chair tray might trade for a kitchen tool with a sponge top. 
Reaction: "Too loud. This sounds nice." We need to redirect them to acceptable sounds, or help them use their hearing aids more efficiently. Remember that babies who are deaf or hard of hearing may make noises that are too loud for us, but are just right for them. Babies who are deaf may vocalize too loudly as well. You can model calm vocalizations while playing with toys.