Redirection as a behavior management technique worked well when my boys were early toddlers. I’d point out a plane in the sky so they’d drop their fascination with that sharp nail in the driveway. I’d talk up a game of hide-and-go seek to get them to stop fighting over blocks.
Then, two things happened: they got a little bit older, and I got a little bit lazy. (I meeean, I had a few good reasons.)
I didn’t want to come up with something cool and exciting every time I needed to get them from Point A to Point B. I just wanted them to listen to me and respect me. Done. End scene. I was tired.
My sister, on the other hand, would come over and delight them with her redirection skills. If Hyatt kicked and wrestled during a diaper change, she would sing him a silly song and get him to calm down and giggle. If Lincoln was upset about bedtime, she would tell him a creative story about a “little boy named Lincoln.”
The songs and stories had enough intrigue to work from a behavior management perspective. They made the bedtime process magical rather than routine.
“If you want to build a ship, don’t drum up people to collect wood and don’t assign them tasks and work, teach them to long for the endless immensity of the sea.”
Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, creator of The Little Prince
My Bible study is reading Give Them Grace. So far my favorite part has been the encouragement to talk about promises, the grace-filled “why” behind what we teach our kids. Because the Lord has loved us and made such great promises to us, we are to teach our children to love him with all their heart, all their soul, and all their might.
It’s so easy to be a task-master and just demand my kids do what I say. It’s efficient. In the end, though, when I use the task-master approach, not one of us feels very loved or connected.
Turns out, my kids still need redirection. They need a vision, a why, a promise that even the mundane bedtime routine is part of a bigger story.
On Monday I picked them up at their sitter’s house. They didn’t want to get in the car yet, they didn’t want to sit in their carseats, and then they didn’t want to buckle their harnesses. They cried because they wanted chocolate milk. They fought–and screamed–about which songs I should play. I knew it was going to be a frustrating drive home.
Then I remembered what my sister (and possibly a less-tired version of myself) would do.
Instead of taking our normal right, I turned left. This caught their attention. I told them to notice how green it was all around us. We’re heading into the jungle. Be on the lookout for animals. Wow! I think I see a monkey over there.
I drove slowly and narrated, as if we were on a rainforest adventure. We’ve had a big rain, and that’s when the snakes come out. Make sure to watch your head.
And you know what? It worked. No more tears, only giggles.