Stop, Redirect, Reinforce ~ Falling In Love With Your Family

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Falling in Love with your Family by Alison

Parenting…the Play, Act I

Son: “Daddy, I have a sliver.  Can you get it out?”

Dad: “Sure!  Just a minute”

(Dad enters, stage right, with a chain saw and revs the engine.)

Dad: “Don’t worry kid.  It will just take a minute.”

Wait!  Ridiculous scene, right?  As parents, we would never take such drastic action for something so small.  But most of us do it every single day!  Too often we “pull out the big guns” for each and every minor mistake our kids make.  Our “discipline” can often exacerbate the situation and end up teaching kids worse behavior than we were trying to correct!  Here is one effective discipline technique to add to your parenting tool belt that teaches children instead of frightening them, and leaves both parent and child feeling good after the interaction.  It’s called STOP, REDIRECT, REINFORCE. 

Who to use it with: Numero Uno discipline strategy for babies and toddlers.  Super effective for older children as well.

When to use it: When a child misbehaves and you want to teach the appropriate behavior.  It can be used in public or private.

When not to use it: When a child has broken a big rule and needs a bigger consequence.

In a nutshell:

STOP the inappropriate behavior

REDIRECT the child to the behavior you want

REINFORCE the good behavior by giving the child attention, encouragement, or thanks

Example: A small child is throwing pebbles at the playground too close to other children.  The parent says, “Rocks are not for throwing. (STOP) Here, put the rocks in this bucket. (REDIRECT)  Good job!  Let’s see if we can fill it to the top. (REINFORCE)”

The STOP step has one purpose—to stop the child who is behaving in a hurtful or inappropriate way so you can teach.  Look the child in the eye and communicate very briefly in a calm, firm voice.  It might sound something like this:

1. “Stop.  No hitting.”

2. “Walls are not for coloring on.”

3. “Don’t pet the goldfish.”

4. “I don’t feel comfortable with the show you are watching.”

REDIRECT is the long lost cousin in parental discipline.  It is easy to tell kids NO, but then what?  Every time you stop an inappropriate behavior, make sure to redirect the child towards the appropriate behavior.  Spell out exactly what you expect of them.  Maybe you would say something like:

1. “Ask him if will give your toy back”

2. “Color on the paper instead.”

3. “You can pet the cat.”

4. “Let’s see what else is on another channel.”

When you’ve stopped the inappropriate behavior and redirected them to something correct, then REINFORCE.  This lets your discipline end on a positive note, chalks up more positive interactions, and gives attention to the good behavior (which increases the likelihood they will do the right thing again.)  Just say or do something positive like:

1. “Thanks for playing so nice!”

2. “Tell me about your picture.”

3. “ He likes it when you pet him.  See how he’s purring?”

4. “Thanks guys.  I feel better about this show.”

Often, the STOP, REDIRECT, REINFORCE method is all that is needed.  This kind of teaching is what babies and toddlers need 99% of the time.  They are simply learning how to behave and they need gentle, consistent reminders of what is and is not appropriate.  Sometimes this method is complicated by a tantrum, even worse behavior, or outright defiance.  Sometimes, kids break big rules and a consequence is in order instead of redirecting.  Sometimes a child needs to go straight to time-out.  But often with the STOP, REDIRECT, REINFORCE method, you’ll find the situation over and done with in a matter of seconds.  The kid isn’t crying and you still have your hair.  It’s certainly worth a try.

Try this Today:  Make a list of inappropriate behaviors you often see that might be good candidates for the STOP, REDIRECT, REINFORCE method.  Practice what you might say.  (Ya, you read that right!  Practice!  Changing behavior takes some effort!)  When you see a behavior that might be a good candidate for this method, give it a try.  Be brief and to the point.  Don’t forget to end with a positive interaction!

To read Alison’s other  posts, click here.