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Redirecting Behavior: How to Deal with Challenging Behavior

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Sometimes young children may display challenging behavior, such as tantrums or not following directions, when they are upset about something or don’t know how to express their feelings. Caregivers and teachers play an important role in helping children learn how to cope with and manage their big emotions and impulses, and express themselves in positive ways. Redirecting behavior is one strategy to use to stop a challenging behavior from escalating. While it may take some time and patience to redirect behavior effectively, it’s a valuable skill for all caregivers, educators and parents to have.

What is redirecting behavior?

Redirecting behavior is a technique that involves changing the focus of a child’s attention from an undesirable behavior to a more positive one. It interrupts and redirects a child’s behavior to avoid conflict, acting out, or calming them down. With redirecting, the caregiver is still in control, but the child feels like they are too. This helps the child feel more secure, making them less likely to continue the negative behavior.

Redirecting behavior should be used when the child is engaging in a behavior that is:

Redirecting will look different based on the situation and the child’s age. However, it acknowledges the child’s feelings, gives them choices, and helps them find a more constructive way to express themselves.

How to redirect children’s behavior

Redirecting challenging behavior helps children learn to control their emotions and impulses, develop coping skills for dealing with stressful situations, build positive relationships with others, and become more successful in school and life. With patience, creativity, and a willingness to try different techniques, you can turn negative actions into positive behavior.

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