What Is Reversion or Redirection With Toddlers?

By Maria Magher
Tantrums and other emotional outbursts are common during the toddler years.
Tantrums and other emotional outbursts are common during the toddler years.

Toddlers are learning to assert their independence while also undergoing major developmental changes. It can be hard for them to process all the emotions they are feeling, and tantrums and reversion are both common. Reversion refers to toddler behavior that is moving backward developmentally, and redirection refers to a way that parents can handle poor behaviors.


Reversion, also called regression, happens when a toddler starts returning to previous behaviors that have been overcome or that are no longer developmentally appropriate. For example, a toddler might want to start using diapers again even though he has made considerable progress with potty-training, or he might ask to nurse or bottle feed even if these have been limited or even discontinued. Regression might also happen with sleep, in which a toddler who had been sleeping well or even sleeping through the night suddenly starts waking up more often or fighting sleep. According to the Healthy Children website, regression most often happens when a change occurs in the child's routine or a significant change has happened with the family such as a divorce or the addition of a new child.


The toddler years are marked by an assertion of independence, and parents might find themselves in battle over the smallest of decisions. Instead of giving toddlers a directive and engaging in further battle, parents can redirect undesirable behaviors. For example, instead of telling your toddler not to hammer surfaces with toys, offer them a place or an object that they can hammer. Instead of telling your child not to jump, offer him a safe place to jump. Instead of just telling your tot that he can't have something, offer him something else that he can have. The solution is not giving the child what he wants, but rather providing a positive solution that makes both parent and toddler happy.

Toddler Development

As a toddler, your child is not quite a baby but not yet a "big boy" or "big girl." In addition to physical changes, your toddler will go through a lot of emotional development during this time. According to the National Network for Child Care, toddlers want to act independently, including play by themselves. They view themselves as the center of the world, and they become frustrated easily but are not able to express themselves well. As a result of these and other developments, tantrums are common. These changes can bring on regressions and can make a battle of wills common, leading to the need for more positive solutions like redirection.

Taming Tantrums and Regressions

Redirection can help tame tantrums. Empathy and connection can also help to tame tantrums, as well as to address regression. According to Ask Dr. Sears, making statements such as "I know you're frustrated. That must have been really disappointing" when your toddler is having a tantrum can help validate the feelings and soothe the tantrum. When toddlers revert in their behavior, it is also a signal that they need more closeness. Offering empathy and connection can help them to feel securely attached and end the behavior. Spend more individual time together and offer cuddles and other attention.

About the Author

Maria Magher has been working as a professional writer since 2001. She has worked as an ESL teacher, a freshman composition teacher and an education reporter, writing for regional newspapers and online publications. She has written about parenting for Pampers and other websites. She has a Master's degree in English and creative writing.