Distraction and redirection…it works!
She was on the move…so our job in redirection and distraction had begun!
When we are holding our newborn, most of us can’t even wrap our mind around the idea that some day this precious child might need a little redirection or even a time out! But the days and weeks fly quickly, and you wake up one day to a 9 month old that is crawling and discovering and actually needs to learn the word “No”. Distraction and redirection are important tools in the discipline process for infants and young toddlers. Parents can often remove a child from a “No” and redirect to a better activity without too much difficulty. This takes practice, time, patience, consistency and a lot of chasing! Remember when you wished your baby would just move off that blanket? Well he does…so here we go!
Age 1-3 months
- During these first few months, your baby must learn that his parents are in love with him and will keep him fed, safe, and loved. At this age, parents need to respond quickly to an infant’s cry and not let a child “cry it out” at this age. An infant cannot be spoiled! You are teaching that the world is a great place and establishing a bond of trust in these first few months.
Age 4-8 months
- A baby’s cries will expand from hunger, fear and discomfort to include “I’m bored.” Parents will start to be able to tell the difference in their child’s cry…”I’m hungry” “I’m tired” and “I’m bored” When your baby cries for attention you now can wait a bit and call that you are coming in just a minute. A child can learn to entertain himself briefly and recognize that when he is bored play is more satisfying than food or crying.
- When babies become mobile, parents need to introduce the word “No.” It is best to child proof well and remove as many of the “No” things as possible. Children at this age are not capable of willfully disobeying, they are just curious. Behavior is very exploratory. Children roll and crawl and begin to toddle and explore their environment. By removing things that you do not want your child to touch, or dangerous items, then the number of “disciplinary” actions will greatly decrease. Hand slapping or spanking is not an effective method, the results are temporary and it is a confusing message to your child, distraction and redirection is best!
- Provide activities that interest your child. If your child is wanting to climb on the coffee table, then provide a safe way to climb. If your child wants to push the buttons on the TV, then find a toy that he or she is able to use the buttons on safely. Most behaviors are motivated by learning and curiosity at this age.
- Babies at this age are easily satisfied with another toy. Take the item that you do not want your child to have and trade it for an appropriate toy. If your child becomes upset, describe the feeling he has “I know you are upset because you wanted to push the buttons on the channel changer, try these buttons!”
- You cannot reason with a child at this age, so long explanations why something is dangerous or not an appropriate toy is wasted and actually reinforces the behavior. (Remember our mantra? Attention is attention whether negative or positive and attention reinforces the behavior) When your baby heads towards a dangerous activity or one that is not appropriate, say “No” in a firm voice and move your child to another area and redirect with another activity.
- If your baby throws a tantrum, go about your chores etc. in a very detached way giving no attention. Try to avoid saying no to everything annoying and save it for the important things.
- You must be consistent. If the TV remote is not a plaything one day–then it cannot be a plaything another day. This is confusing for a child. Dad, Mom and all caregivers must be on the same page!
- Babies at this age can learn that it is a benefit to cooperate. Many fight getting dressed or having a diaper changed. Your goal is to teach that cooperation is much more fun! Change the diaper on the floor now, most of the time your baby is trying to roll and it is difficult and dangerous on a changing table. Your baby fights the diaper change because it is a real interruption in his day! He was involved in play and doesn’t want to be restrained. Before you begin, talk to your baby. Engage your child with smiling and talking telling your child you are going to change a diaper. Give your child a toy, maybe one that you save only for diaper changes. When your baby tries to flip over, immediately stop talking, not a word—not even “NO.” Turn your baby over and change the diaper with as little fuss as possible. If your baby stops trying to flip over, begin to talk and smile and engage your baby again. Remove your attention if the flipping over starts again, don’t show any frustration and remember no talking! Once the diaper change is over start chatting and smiling again. After a few days of this most, babies try to engage their parent’s attention and learn that it is much more fun to cooperate with the diaper change! This technique can be used for other behaviors too.
Redirecting and distracting a baby
- When your baby is doing something that is dangerous or not appropriate, move your baby to another part of the room and redirect him to a safer activity or toy.
- Help your baby with the activity for about 30 to 45 seconds. This will help your baby become involved enough in the new activity that he will hopefully not return immediately to the undesired activity.
- If your baby immediately returns to the undesired activity, say “No” in a firm but not a scary voice and redirect again.
This redirecting and distracting may need to be done many times until your baby understands that certain things and/or activities are off-limits. Babies will then learn when Mom or Dad says “No” they need to redirect and won’t need your help in that quite as often. A baby that has had a hand slapped repeatedly will not learn how to redirect with the word “No” as easily. Hand slapping stops the behavior in the short run, but redirection and distraction teaches a child a strategy when a behavior is undesirable.
Discipline lessons in the first year.
- The world is a great place and I have loving parents.
- I can entertain myself for a short amount of time and wait for attention from Mom or Dad.
- When I cooperate, it is more fun!
- If I challenge Mom and Dad with a behavior that is not safe or undesirable, they react consistently and not in a scary manner.
- “No” means stop, and I am learning to find a new activity when I hear the word.
Distraction and redirection is an important discipline tool that works for toddlers too. Remember, consistency is so important and attention to positive behavior only is the key. We don’t have to be loud, scary, or use spanking or hand slapping to establish boundaries for our children. We need love, consistency, patience, a plan, a little creativity, a good night’s sleep and an occasional piece of chocolate 🙂 to provide the loving discipline every child needs.
More tips and techniques to come!
Take a breath, enjoy the joyful moments of each day, and remember you don’t have to be perfect to be the perfect parent.