Redirection is an Effective, Hands-On Way to Say “No” Without Saying “No”

When you don’t want a young child to do something, redirection is an effective way to get them to stop doing that thing. If a verbal request (hopefully a polite one) to ask them to stop doing something works, then that is wonderful. That is the easiest way to get them to stop. If not, redirection, or some other hands-on method may work.

If a child is banging on something, say near the TV, and you are worried they’ll hit the TV, you physically move them away from the TV or take away the thing they are using to bang. For a young child (under 3) especially, being hands-on like this sends a much, much stronger message than shouting or yelling. Ideally, you would get them doing something similar to satisfy their need to bang on something. You might let them bang on a pillow or soft couch or give them something soft to use to hit with.

Some people worry this method isn’t strong enough. I found it was very strong. Once my son was hitting a toy that I didn’t want him to hit. I gave him blocks instead, which he could build and knock over. He stated, “It’s Ok to hit block but not toys.” He totally got it, and I didn’t say a word. Although it requires a bit more effort to be hands-on and to come up with a clever solution, in the long run it helps with behavior.


The most important thing to implement this is to keep your emotions under control and to keep your wits about you. It can be maddening to deal with children but please adopt the attitude that the child is not bad, they are just doing what they need to do developmentally, and if we have this attitude that they are probably good, if we know our job as caregivers is to stay engaged with them, and if we treat them as delightful little people who will probably do what is right, we can keep a more cheery and optimistic disposition with them. This is far more effective at gaining their cooperation than getting sucked into the frustration and negativity of yelling. I think we all have it in us to do this but sometimes we need reminders and examples to restore and refuel us. I aim to provide stories, tools, and tips here at The Observant Mom to do just that.

I have a tool for staying patient here (see it as -> Toddler Summaries if reading the print version), “Emotional Responsibility: Staying Patient as a Parent.” I have other tools also listed in the summaries, matched to the age of the child on a nearly month by month basis. Other tools you may consider are to design the environment: put away things you are worried about being broken or which might be used to hit things.

See my book Misbehavior is Growth: An Observant Parent’s Guide to the Toddler Years for more.

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