Updated: Nov 30, 2022
A key part of successful behaviour management and preventing challenging behaviour escalating into meltdowns is being able to redirect behaviour. Redirecting behaviour involves taking a child from a problem behaviour and then engaging them in a more appropriate behaviour than what they were doing but it is still similar. This sounds simple enough but often easier said than done!
When you get redirecting behaviour down to a tee, you will be able to redirect behaviours before the inappropriate behaviour even occurs. It is always better to prevent than to react and stop behaviours as and when they occur. When done perfectly, redirection means that you will be one step ahead of children. You will be able to distract the child from an undesirable behaviour they are about to engage in and redirect them to one that is more appropriate but serves the same purpose. Following up this redirection with positive reinforcement will, of course, reinforce that the redirected behaviour is acceptable and that they can engage in this instead whenever they have the urge to have a certain need met. Over time, children will deter from inappropriate behaviours all together and go towards the behaviours they have been redirected to as the default.
How to Redirect Behaviour Successfully
When you see a child about to engage in an inappropriate behaviour, you need to be able to intervene in a positive way. There are 3 simple steps to remember for successful redirection of behaviour.
Redirect to something similar but appropriate
When you are redirecting behaviour, it needs to be to something that serves the same purpose as the original behaviour. If a child is running round the classroom, trying to redirect them to sit quietly and do some colouring will be pointless as they clearly need to burn off some energy or do something active. You could suggest going outside, going to soft play or channelling that energy into a productive task such as organising the classroom toys or taking some documents to reception.
Reinforce the redirection
When the child successfully engages in the redirected behaviour, you need to reinforce this. Be sure to give them lots of praise for engaging in the more appropriate behaviour - this will increase the likelihood of the child engaging in this behaviour in the future!
Being redirected to a behaviour that you then have to do alone is going to be no fun or motivational for a child - so join in with them! To use the example from above, if a child clearly needs to burn off excess energy and you redirect them outside to the playground, you should engage in a game with them or run around with them as well.
Redirection of behaviour is only effective in the stages before a meltdown or shutdown - if you try to redirect behaviours when a child is in meltdown, you will only be making situations worse. It will take time for you to notice the triggers and early behaviours that need redirecting, but once you pick up on them, it will be a lot easier to channel the child's energy and desires into behaviours that are more appropriate.