Friday, November 07, 2014

Redirecting Versus Distracting in the Montessori Environment

NAMC Montessori redirection vs distraction boy on swing with muddy feet

What is the difference between redirecting and distracting children from unwanted behavior? The biggest difference is in the approach. Redirection involves guidance; distraction merely diverts attention.

Let’s look at a few examples and see if we can tell the difference:

1. Baby Sarah gets upset and cries when Mommy leaves for work. As Mom closes the front door, Sarah’s caregiver gives Sarah a toy and says, “Look at this pretty toy.” Redirection or distraction?

This is distraction. There is no acknowledgment of Sarah’s feelings, and the toy is unrelated to the event.

Redirecting Unwanted Behavior Versus Distracting in the Montessori Environment

2. Miles likes working with the small hammer that he uses with his peg board. He starts to use the hammer on his puppy. Mom says, “Miles, you may only pound your peg board with the hammer. You may not use it on the puppy.” She guides him back to the peg board. Redirection or distraction? 

This is redirection. Mom takes the time to guide inappropriate behavior back to appropriate conduct.

3. Maleeka is toddling over to touch the big screen TV. Grandma picks up her keys and starts jangling them loudly to get Maleeka’s attention. Redirection or distraction?

This is distraction. Grandma is hoping the noisy keys change Maleeka’s behavior without having to talk about not touching the TV.

4. Jordan is on the verge of a tantrum in the middle of the shopping mall. He has missed his nap, he is hungry, and he wants to go home. Mom grabs a lollipop out of her purse too soothe him. Redirection or distraction?

This is distraction. The lollipop has nothing to do with Jordan’s desire to go home. It merely stops the behavior until the lollipop is gone.

NAMC montessori redirection vs distraction girl eating a lollipop

5. Aimee and Tara are running around the house chasing each other. They are having a good time, but they are in danger of knocking something over and getting hurt. Dad tells them that we run outside and walk inside. He suggests either playing a board game together or going outside and playing chase. Redirection or distraction?

This is redirection. Dad clearly states what the rules and limitations are and offers two alternative choices.

The purpose of redirecting behavior is not to distract the child from their original intent with something unrelated; it is meant to direct the intent toward a more appropriate outlet or application. Redirection always offers alternative choices that correspond to the original behavior.

Michelle Irinyi — NAMC Tutor & Graduate

As much as possible, NAMC’s web blog reflects the Montessori curriculum as provided in its teacher training programs. We realize and respect that Montessori schools are unique and may vary their schedules and offerings in accordance with the needs of their individual communities. We hope that our readers will find our articles useful and inspiring as a contribution to the global Montessori community.
© North American Montessori Center - originally posted in its entirety at Montessori Teacher Training on Friday, November 7, 2014.


  1. Thank you for your comments on redirection rather than distraction. We use this in our preschool and find it a most useful strategy.



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