The “instead of…” re-direct

Here’s a little gem that has proven useful around our house. I hope it gives some respite to those of you out there attempting to communicate with a toddler.

Sweetie is just about two-and-a-half years old. A while back, about eight months ago, she went through a gnarly and thoroughly frustrating biting period. No big shock, many toddlers experiment with biting. Wife did some online digging and found a method for diffusing the situation by re-directing the child’s behavior with an “instead of” scenario. When Sweetie would make like she was going to bite Wife would tell her, “Instead of biting Mommy, why don’t you give me a kiss?” I was a skeptic at first, and it took some getting used to, but we saw good results quickly. And got a lot of kisses.

As we have moved into the full-blown, second-year-of-life toddler existence I have applied this re-direct to just about everything. If Sweetie throws a fit over eating, I give her an “Instead of getting upset, let’s just take the bite.” What? She doesn’t want to stop playing to pee? “Instead of arguing about going to the bathroom, let’s just go real fast and get back to playing.” And it is working well enough that I thought I should share it with the rest of you (like 8 times out of 10).

Some of you out there probably already know this parent mind-trick. That’s great, just give me a “Duh” in the comments section. Others might point out that the “instead of” re-direct provides the child with an option, a choice. This empowers the child to exercise their agency in a situation while still reaching the parent’s goal. You can fill the comments section with heady child psychology type stuff. For those of you that might need this tidbit, please try it. You can leave your success stories in the comments!

That’s all for now. I will continue to share as we see successes in our house. Please feel free to do the same – I can always use the help!

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