Redirecting Children's Behavior in the Preschool Classroom

You'll have days when you have one nerve left and your child seems determined to get on it. He really doesn’t mean to be annoying -- it's just what kids do. They live in the moment, testing all behaviors, good and bad. Because preschool teachers want to keep their sanity, they have methods for redirecting a child’s behavior. Incorporate these strategies and your child will be the first “Star of the Week” in preschool.

Remain Calm

Even though you want to scream, “What are you thinking?!” when your child hammers the coffee table with his new red baseball bat, remain calm. Breathe deeply and think before you speak. The object is to change the situation rather than escalate it with excessive emotion. Lower the tone of your voice and use positive speech as you offer an alternative. “You can hit this pillow with your bat, Billy, but you can’t hit the coffee table. The bat scratches the coffee table.”

Switch Focus

A child’s attention can be diverted in an instant. If he is playing with a toy airplane and a flashy race car catches his eye, the plane is history. This works to your advantage when redirecting unwanted behavior. For example, if your child grabs his older brother’s book out of his hand, return the book to the brother and walk the child to the bookshelf. “Joey is reading that book. Let’s find another one for you.” If your child is upset because he can’t have his sister’s toy, direct his attention to a different toy. You are showing him better ways to handle these predicaments.

Change Scenery

Children don’t always think before they act. If your child wants to do a somersault in your crowded office, he’s likely to hit the ground running, even though enough space isn't available for tumbling. Take his hand and walk him to a larger room or an outside area. “Let’s go to the back yard where there is plenty of room to tumble” is more effective than reprimanding him. Changing locations is especially important if your child is in danger of getting hurt. For example, if he is tumbling near a brick fireplace. Always talk about the reason for the change.


Your child’s family chore is to feed the cat. He’s playing with his remote-controlled car and forgets to do his job. Pick up the car and remind him, “You have to feed the cat now, Sam. I’ll hold this car for you until you’re finished giving Fluffy her dinner.”


Whether it’s negative or positive, children seek their parents’ attention. If you ignore poor behavior and applaud good behavior, your child will likely repeat the appropriate behavior in the future. Look for praiseworthy moments and acknowledge them. “I’m proud of you for letting Susan play with your new doll.”