The Distraction Method As A Form Of Discipline For Children

Have you ever thought about using this method?
The distraction method as a form of discipline for children

The distraction method generally works well as a behavior management tool,  especially with young children. Deviating a little one’s interest and attention can help them avoid situations that might drift into behavior we don’t want to see.

Distraction is an effective strategy when parents anticipate behavior that could be problematic in the child. It is for example useful when children become irritable, when they have been sitting for a long time or when it is very difficult for them to take turns sharing and / or performing an activity.

The distraction method is simple to apply. Sometimes it’s enough to show something interesting or special, start a simple game, go out and start using simple items to play (like play dough or things for craft activities) or any something else that could distract and / or amuse the child. It is about preventing or putting an end to possible behavior that does not interest us.

distraction method

Keys to Applying the Distraction Method

As we said, applying the distraction method is simple, especially when we take into account that a good deal of children’s behavior is guided by what is going on around them. Their prefrontal lobe is not yet fully developed and therefore they do not fully control their attention. So we can take advantage of it. For that :

  • Provide the child with  an alternative to the activity or stimuli  that may lead to the unwanted behavior. Introduce him to a new activity, game, toy, or show him a new thing to do with the toy he already has in his hands.
  • Change the scene. Have the children turn around to see other things or move them to another location.
  • Consider  preparing a set of resources  for those times when you will find yourself in limited context for distraction.

If you are having behavioral problems  with older children, you may be able to use other strategies  such as:

  • Change the topic of conversation
  • Introduce a simple game or activity that is interesting enough to grab the child’s attention
  • Suggest something the child can do when things are not going well: this will allow them to unblock and get out of this situation

Distraction and redirection

The distraction method is a corrective method which is related to the redirect. Redirection involves directing children’s attention to “less dangerous” activities or stimuli.

Indirectly, distraction involves re-valuing activities that interest us as sources of good behavior. Thanks to them, we will be able to reward the child and strengthen his self-esteem. In other words, we subtly place him in  contexts where it will be easy for him to get support. These contexts, in his eyes, will be more attractive.

distraction method

Be careful not to turn distraction into a source of negative behavior

There is one very important thing to remember about using the distraction method. If you offer or suggest an appreciated or rewarding activity after the child has hurt someone or had a temper tantrum, you will only be rewarding that behavior  (even if it is not what you are looking for). It is better to use the distraction method to anticipate bad behavior because we will have more alternatives.

There may be times when you don’t want to end a temper tantrum or challenge so that the child finds out that certain activities are unacceptable. In these cases, distraction is not the best method of discipline.

Thus,  the ideal is to intelligently combine different educational and disciplinary strategies. The more we know about tools of discipline, the better. In fact, we should know that the more we depend on a method of discipline, the less effective it is.

Therefore,  when using the distraction method, pay attention to the child’s reaction. Remember to be consistent in your application, in addition to being flexible and applying others if you find that the method no longer works.

The distraction method as an alternative to corporal punishment

A study published in 2010 by Gershoff et al. explains that much of the research on discipline so far has focused on the use of physical punishment  by parents. The most likely reason for this extensive research is that corporal punishment is a very controversial way of enforcing discipline.

However,  corporal punishment is one of the many disciplinary techniques that parents use to try to control their children’s negative behavior  and promote positive behavior. Although there are great variations in its use, some parents use it every day and others don’t want to hear about it.

Even so, in a 2007 longitudinal study of the use of 10 different disciplinary tactics by parents, corporal punishment was found to be one of the three techniques least used by parents of pre-aged children. -school. The most common were to control infantile behavior, to talk to children and to distract them.


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