“Every child is different!” We hear this from nannies 10 times a day, and rightly so. No two children respond in the same way every time. So, when it comes to meltdowns and tantrums, it follows that there is no “one way” way to handle it, but there is one broadly adaptable tool that has become a go-to for many nannies—redirection.
Simply put, redirection is turning their attention somewhere else, in some cases it’s plain distraction. Understandably, it can be frustrating for toddlers to learn the hard knocks of life in their early years. Their burgeoning ability to adapt to discomfort and disappointment is still developing. As their feelings get bigger and bigger, often times their ability to have a conversation in the moment diminishes.
When this happens, many caregivers choose to divert their attention to something happier or calmer, encouraging them to make a better choice in the moment and later, depending on the age and ability of the child, they may choose to get down on their level and have a conversation that validates what they were feeling and gets to the root of why they reacted that way. Oftentimes, this conversation includes offering better options for next time about what choice they could make instead. For example, hugging their favorite stuffy, taking a deep breath, walking away or talking to a trusted adult.
Tips for Redirection:
- Stay calm – Children are so smart. Their brains are wired to copy what adults are modeling. So, one of the best things to do is show them with our actions how to act under pressure.
- Validate feelings – In some children, even the smallest irritation can cause a huge upset. Know that there’s always a reason for these big feelings. They may not be reacting exclusively to the stimuli that ultimately led to a meltdown. So, approach the situation with compassion.
- Try to understand the root causes – Many nannies tell us that the more they understand the root causes, the more they can anticipate a child’s triggers and redirect before a meltdown happens.
The beauty of this technique is that there are endless ways in which it can be put to work and adapted. At its best, it’s a proactive way to encourage a healthy habit in the moment—maybe suggest taking a break from a challenging situation. Even in times where the conditions weren’t ideal to capitalize on this teachable moment, watch as you magically deescalate an outburst!