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How to Redirect Behavior in Preschool & Pre-K Students

by Erica Loop

Your preschooler's immature sense of self-control and emotional immaturity may result in misbehavior. From aggressive acts such as hitting other kids to emotional outbursts and tantrums, there are a range of problematic behaviors that pre-k children exhibit. Instead of losing your cool when your preschooler gets out of control or acts defiantly, try redirecting his energies elsewhere. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, redirecting unwanted behavior can replace these negative actions with positive ones.

Assess the situation. Some behaviors require more powerful intervention, while others may not. Preschoolers are developmentally ready -- according to KidsHealth -- to understand that rules have consequences. It's possible that your preschooler needs only a simple reminder such as, "If you keep whining you will lose TV time" to redirect her behavior.

Use your words to put a halt to the behavior. Make your verbal directive brief and to the point. This will help your preschooler get the message that her behavior is unacceptable. If your child is having a tantrum and begins to hit you, firmly tell her, "No. You do not use your hands. Use your words."

Remove your child from the situation, especially if your child is acting aggressively towards another child. If your preschooler gets mad at her play mate and decides to hit her, stop your child and move her away. Firmly ask her to go to another area, such as moving from the family room floor to the kitchen table.

Provide your child with another option, creating a diversion that works with the situation at hand. If your little bundle of energy is throwing herself around in a temper-fueled tantrum, it's unlikely that the choice to sit down and color will distract her. Pick an energy equal for your child's behavior. This could mean redirecting her fists from hitting you to hitting a soft pillow or having her kick a soccer ball outside instead of kicking her brother's legs.

Reflect on the positive change that the redirection is making. Praise your child if possible. If you redirect your preschooler's tantrum into a game of backyard tag, comment on what a good job she is doing running in a straight line or following your directions for the game.

Tip

  • Keep alternative activities on hand. This is particularly helpful in a group situation or a preschool play date where disputes among shared toys may come into play. If your child and her friend begin to argue over who gets to play with a favorite doll, offer an alternative activity such as making paper dolls or playing with modeling dough.

Warning

  • Redirection must replace a negative behavior with a more positive action. Avoid punitive types of alternatives such as isolating your child to a room by herself or giving her a chore to do.

About the Author

Based in Pittsburgh, Erica Loop has been writing education, child development and parenting articles since 2009. Her articles have appeared in "Pittsburgh Parent Magazine" and the website PBS Parents. She has a Master of Science in applied developmental psychology from the University of Pittsburgh's School of Education.

Photo Credits

  • Hemera Technologies/AbleStock.com/Getty Images