Stop, Redirect, Reinforce

Hello, overreaction! I constantly find myself exhausted, in the middle of a battle, thinking that I never should have engaged. When I remember one of the most basic parenting strategies, I can usually avoid power struggle catastrophes that leave everyone unhappy and battle-sore.

It’s called STOP, REDIRECT, REINFORCE. This is ground-level strategy for babies and toddlers who don’t understand cause and effect consequences, but can also come in handy with older kids and teenagers. This is not for big misbehavior that seriously harms people, but works great for 90% of all run-of-the-mill, junkie kid behavior.

STOP the inappropriate behavior
REDIRECT the child to good behavior
REINFORCE the good behavior

It might look like this:
Your toddler is handling your newborn a bit aggressively
STOP “We need to be gentle.”
REDIRECT (show how to touch nicely) “Can you rub her feet like this?”
REINFORCE: (smile!) “Good job! She likes it!”

Your future little league champ is throwing rocks on the playground
STOP “No throwing rocks. That can hurt people.”
REDIRECT “Here’s your football. Toss it to me!”
REINFORCE “What a throw! That’s lots safer.”

Your teen is watching an inappropriate show
STOP (push pause) “Hey. I’m not feeling so great about that show in the house.”
REDIRECT “Let’s see what else is on.”
REINFORCE “Thanks, hon. Want some popcorn?”

It doesn’t always work, but you’d be surprised how often it does! Next time your littles are pulling the dogs tail, jumping on grandma’s couch, or sneaking cookies before dinner, try the STOP, REDIRECT, REINFORCE strategy. You may just get the behavior you want…and avoid going into battle.

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