Childcare providers are often taught to use “redirection” in conflict resolution with children. When there is an incident such as biting, hitting, or kicking, redirection is the preferred method of dealing with the offending child.
This was always a source of contention for me working at a daycare, because I know it doesn’t work. Let me tell you what redirection is, and why it doesn’t solve conflict.
What is redirection?
Redirection is the practice of distracting a misbehaving child with another activity. The idea is that if they are redirected, they will no longer be doing the bad behavior.
So what is the problem?
Redirection does not solve conflict.
Nor does it teach children how to resolve future conflict.
Where redirection fails
It fails to teach the offending child that their behaviour was wrong. Redirection is not a punishment. It can actually be seen as a reward, if the child is redirected to an activity that they enjoy.
It shields children from dealing with difficult emotions. Instead of forcing them to work through WHY they’re upset, it ignores their feelings and tells the child they aren’t important.
It fails to explain how conflict ought to be resolved. Conflict can be a learning experience for children if they are given the opportunity. Both the offending child and the victim can learn how to communicate their feelings in a healthy way and disagree without resorting to violence.
It removes the element of justice. You don’t like it when someone abuses you and gets away without repercussions. In the same way, resorting to methods that remove the element of justice from conflict resolution sends a message to the offending child that they can get away with violence, and sends a message to the victim that it is okay for them to be abused.
It sets children up for a future of distraction rather than confrontation of conflict. We’ve all met those people who can’t handle difficult emotions. They would rather watch TV, browse the internet, eat junk food, or play games. We need to teach children to face conflict head on and resolve it in a healthy manner. Adult modeling is very important in this endeavor. The way that children see us resolving conflict demonstrates to them how they should resolve conflict in their own life.
Redirection is an easy way to deal with conflict between children. It’s an easy way to deal with conflict for ourselves. But the fact of the matter is that it doesn’t work long-term. It should never be the go-to solution.
If you want to set your children up for successful conflict resolution in the future, you have to put in the extra effort to mediate your children’s conflicts and allow them to learn successful communication and resolution on their own.