Redirecting Behavior in Positive Ways

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:​ “Let’s 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 highchair tray might trade for a kitchen tool with a sponge top.
Reaction: "This is soft … ​not too loud." Sometimes, we need to redirect children to acceptable sounds, or help them use their hearing devices efficiently to do so (learning about soft vs. loud sounds). Remember that babies who are deaf or hard of hearing, like all children, may create noise that is too loud for adults. You can model calm sound making and vocalizations while playing with toys. You can introduce your child using and “inside voice” (typical volume) vs. and outside voice (loud volume).