This week's tool really is more than just a tool. It is a way of life when you have a toddler in your life. Fortunately for you all, I got to practice it at least 1000 times just this week, so I have a ton of first hand experience to speak from. The tool is Distract and Redirect, and unless you enjoy yelling and constantly saying "NO" and "STOP", then you ought to at least give this one a try.
The idea is simple, instead of saying "no" or telling your child to "stop", you simply steer them toward an activity that you find more acceptable. Instead of telling your child to stop banging on the t.v. with his ball you invite him to a hammering toy. Or my favorite, when my son is struggling against me as I try to put him into the car seat, I offer him a book or snack to distract him while I buckle him in.
Toddlers and babies under the age of two don't fully understand the meaning of the word no. They may understand that you don't want them to do what they are doing, but that is the extent of it. Montessori speaks of young children being lead by their inner teacher. This teacher encourages them to do the things that they need to do to create themselves. As your child goes through the various sensitive periods (periods of intense interest in one area), their inner teacher guides them to the activities that will best fulfill their current interests. When a child is "misbehaving" (according to you) and you tell them no, they have no desire or interest to follow your instruction because their inner teacher is much louder (and more fun) than you at that moment. Your "no" may even be an obsta
It comes back to the foundation of the Montessori philosophy: Observation. Maria Montessori developed her theories on the development of children by simply observing them. To observe a child is to silently watch the actions of your child. Without judgement or critique you must learn to look beyond your ideas of what they should be doing and see what they are doing. That is the only way that you can meet the needs of your child.
Once you have spent time observing you will know the current needs and interests of your child. If she is constantly pushing furniture or the laundry basket around the house, then she is trying to coordinate her gross motor movements. She needs to be given an open space and a push cart or such toy to use freely until the interest has been satisfied and the skill attained. Instead of telling her no and taking away the item she is pushing you give her an acceptable option for performing the activity of her choice.
Recently, my son has been taking our things from around the house and putting them places they don't belong. I find my husbands socks in my purse, my daughters library books in the laundry basket and bath toys in the toilet. This is an exasperating activity to all the members of my household except my son. He clearly has an interest in transferring objects. To meet this need I filled one drawer in the kitchen with extra kitchen items that are safe for him to handle and I leave out a reusable grocery bag. He has spent many hours transferring the things from drawer to bad and back. We also made him a new activity called a mystery bag. It is a small bag with a draw string that you can't see through. Inside are many different objects that he can feel with his hands, then pull out to discover what they are. As he takes them out he puts them in the basket that we keep the bag in on the shelf. He really enjoys this, but I do continue to find new items in there regularly. I guess it is a mystery bag for all of us!
The next time you find your child doing something that you would rather he didn't do, instead of saying "no" and stopping his behavior invite him to do something else. If possible, make it something that will meet his needs and yours.
Even if you can't redirect to a related activity, this tool is still effective. There are certain things in life that we just have to do, even if we don't like them. By distracting your child at theses moments you can make things go a lot more smoothly for both of you. We use the "cleaning monster" in our house to wash our son's face after meals. After he has had a turn cleaning his face, the cleaning monster comes along with a silly sound and cleans up the rest. The job gets done and everyone is a lot happier. My almost six year old still loves to race to get our p.j.'s on or put our laundry away the fastest. A boring task becomes a fun game. We are not taking away from the lesson, "Like it or, it has to be done", instead we are teaching our to find the joy in an unwelcome situation. Don't we all need a little distraction every now and then!
Next week's tool is: Decide What You Will Do.