Baan Dek

Redirection in Montessori

Thoughts & Reflections

Redirection is one of those funny terms. We hear it used frequently, and we use this tool in the classroom, but what does it really mean? So often “redirection” is used when “distraction” is what is meant. Redirection is not just a way to avoid a tantrum, though that’s often what happens.

In the classroom, we use redirection often. We see what a child is doing, we name that behavior or action, and we give options for a positive outlet.

Running sure is fun! It feels great to run outside. We’re inside now. Do you remember how to walk inside? Maybe you’d like to practice walking on the line?

I see how disappointed you are that your favorite work isn’t available. Can you think of something else you’d like to do, or would you like help?

We’re getting ready for lunch now. Would you prefer to eat lunch now with your classmates, or would you rather eat when they go outside?

Those beads sure are beautiful, aren’t they. Would you like to dust them?

redirection in Montessori baan dek

Much like “consequences,” “redirection” is one of those words that has emotions tied to it that aren’t necessarily true to the definition. If you’re interested in more on consequences, check out this post.

Redirection is a tool. It’s a way to avoid saying “no,” something no one really enjoys, without simply giving in to every desire, which isn’t sustainable.

How can this be used at home?

Say siblings are having a bit of a disagreement about a toy. Maybe one didn’t want it until they realized the other had it. Maybe it’s the current favorite. Redirection is giving children options when they only have the tunnel vision of I Want It Now.

I can hear you really want that toy. Your brother is playing with it right now. Is there another one you’d like to play with until he’s finished?

It can be really frustrating to want something you can’t have. Sometimes I feel frustrated. I find it helps to find something completely different to do in the meantime. Did you remember you have new library books?

It sounds like you’re having a difference of opinion about who had that toy first. If you can’t figure it out, I can hold onto that for the time being while you play with the other toys. Sometimes it’s too challenging to play together, and if you’d prefer to play alone for the time being, that’s fine too!

These are just a few options. None of these is right, and there still might be tears! After all, young children are still developing impulse control, and there’s no magic solution. We can provide options and be a resource for children developing these social skills, but, particularly in the sibling relationship, sometimes hard learning happens.

A very dear friend is playing with a mutually favorite toy, and we giddily ask if we can please play together. The response is a respectful but unwavering “no.” I’m taken aback. Wait a second, this is my best friend, we love building with Legos together, I used all the right language in asking to play, and yet, “no”???

Social relationships aren’t a formula. No is just as good an answer as yes, and just as we have the right to ask, we have the right to say no, to play alone, to choose not to share, whatever the case may be.

In this situation, having experience with redirection, choosing something else to do, finding someone different to play with, realizing you too would rather play alone, is a valuable skill. It’s not an avoidance of dealing with the disappointment, or a distraction from the discomfort of having a dear friend say no, or a giving-in to the tantrum we all feel welling up inside. It’s “huh. That’s not what I wanted or expected or like, but I can cope! What a wonderful tool to have at my disposal!”

Written by:

Charlotte Snyder

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