Redirecting Children's Behavior in the Preschool Classroom

Redirecting a preschooler can put a stop to inappropriate behavior.
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Preschool children don't always have control of their bodies, minds and behavior, so it's the job of the preschool teachers to help redirect the students when they get out of hand or behave inappropriately. Simply requesting that a preschool student find something else to do usually doesn't work well, so it takes action and gentle words to accomplish the goal of redirecting a wayward preschooler to a more appropriate activity.

1 Why Redirect?

Redirecting inappropriate behavior avoids escalating situations that can result in tears, temper tantrums or fights between preschoolers. If you notice a student picking on a friend or getting too rough with toys, you can step in and help that preschooler find something else to do that captures his interest. It also helps preschoolers who have sensory disabilities, such has being overstimulated with too much activity or nervous when the classroom gets too loud. When these situations occur, you can redirect a child to a calmer or more quiet area of the classroom before it causes behavior problems.

2 Redirecting a Preschooler

When you notice that one of your preschoolers might be losing control, step in, take him by the hand and gently lead him to another area of the classroom. For example, if one of your students is taking cars away from other children, gently lead him away from the car area and suggest that he play with the blocks or pretend to bake a cake in the dramatic play area of your classroom. You might also lead the child to the art area and ask him to color you a picture or to make a present for his mom and dad. In most cases, helping a child find something else to do will stop the problem in its tracks and prevent escalation.

3 Making Changes in Environment

Another aspect of redirecting behavior involves classroom setup and supervision. If, for example, you notice that the preschoolers tend to get into trouble in the block center, perhaps you can relocate the blocks to another part of the classroom that gives the students more space to build their creations. Enhanced supervision is another type of redirection, because the students know you're present and actively engaged in what everyone is doing. When preschoolers know they're being watched, they're less likely to get into trouble and are more likely to find an activity on their own.

4 What Not to Do

In an effort to redirect, certain actions won't help and might actually make the problem worse. Preschool teachers shouldn't yell or scream at their students when they are behaving inappropriately. Yelling rarely works, and positive classroom environments are linked to more secure and academically focused children, according to Vanderbilt University. Avoid empty threats, too. If you tell a preschooler that he'll miss five minutes of free play if he takes toys away from others, you must follow through with that consequence. When you make empty threats, preschoolers soon realize that you're not serious and won't be as likely to change their behavior. When physically redirecting a child, always use gentleness and never resort to yanking a child by the arm or pushing him out of the way. In addition to being inappropriate, it can actually be considered a crime in certain cases.

Sara Ipatenco has taught writing, health and nutrition. She started writing in 2007 and has been published in Teaching Tolerance magazine. Ipatenco holds a bachelor's degree and a master's degree in education, both from the University of Denver.