I love teaching with other preschool teachers because I always learn (and am reminded of) so many tools and tricks for working with young children. Early in the day, I watched while Teacher M redirected a child from throwing a hard object to throwing a soft one. It seemed like such a natural and effortless approach, but I realized in that moment that the easiest thing to do would have been to tell the child “NO” (“don’t throw that hard rock”). In fact, I’ve been telling my almost-3-year-old “no” a lot lately—that’s probably why her (more gracious) choice to redirect stood out to me!
Later that morning, my son started pushing another boy. Even though the boy was clearly saying “no” and crying, my son just kept right on pushing (sound familiar?). My first strategy was to appeal to my son’s empathy and point out the other boy’s suffering.
Does he like being pushed? I can tell he doesn’t want you to push him because he’s saying no and crying.
This argument was getting me nowhere and the pushing continued. Suddenly, I remembered I had more conflict resolution tricks in my tool box and tried the redirect I had been reminded of earlier that morning.
I can see that you need to push right now, but let’s push something that doesn’t get hurt. How about the tree or the picnic table?
Ding ding ding! He moved away and started pushing the tree. A few seconds later he said: “I don’t want to push the tree.” So I replied, “push on the picnic table. See if you can move it!” After a few moments of that he got distracted by some students swinging and moved on. The other boy stopped crying and moved on as well.
Since I’m not in the classroom every day, these small interactions stand out to me as HUGE ACHIEVEMENTS. I can clearly see how skilled preschool teachers need to be at using language and tools that are age-appropriate for their students. Instead of a day filled with resistance, “no” and “don’t,” the kids were given the building blocks for learning to redirect their own behavior toward activities that don’t harm others.
- Teacher Kendall
Dr. Kendall Becherer
Kendall is an author, photographer, teacher, and learning scientist who loves helping parents & teachers find new ways of connecting with their children.