As a parent of a child living with ADHD, autism, and/or a learning disability do you often feel that you are always saying, “No?”
Do your days often sound like this:
“No, you may not jump on the couch.”
“No, you can’t go outside in shorts when it is snowing out.”
No, you cannot eat mac n’ cheese at every meal.”
“No, please don’t hit your brother, chase the cat, eat in the living room……..”
Many parents get stuck in the cycle of “no”when their child challenges rules and expectations, or is just unaware of what is expected of them. Parents become overwhelmed because they feel they have only two tools in their toolbox, “No,’ and “Yes.”
But a creative parenting strategy is to use more than just those two tools. Like any prepared handyman (or woman) you need many tools for the job of parenting your unique child.
On of the most powerful tools in the parenting toolbox is the strategy of Redirection. Redirection involves diverting your child from an undesireable behavior (such as jumping on the couch) to a desireable behavior (jumping on a trampoline). Redirection can almost eliminate “No” as a primary parenting approach because you replace the , “No, you can’t do……” to :Honey, why don’t you do……”
Let’s use the jumping on the couch scenario as an example. Your child has had a long day and needs to blow off some steam. He has ADHD, is unfocused and hyperactive. He needs to move and, hey, jumping on the couch is fun! As a parent, you do not want your child jumping on your couch! Your first instinct is to run in the living room and shout, “Hey, stop jumping on the couch!” Chances are your child will hear you , but have a really hard time stopping his jumping. He needs to move, he likes to jump, it is just so fun, and no one has offered an alternative.
Now let’s try to redirect your child from couch jumping. Child jumping, parent wants jumping to stop. Parent walks into living room and says, “Hey, you know we don’t jump on the couch. It isn’t safe. Why don’t you go downstairs and jump on your trampoline for awhile?” Your child now hears your redirection–stop jumping on couch, but keep jumping on trampoline. He does not hear the word, “no,” he does not hear any criticism or anger. He hears support and understanding and someone who is trying to help him solve a very real problem (hyperactive body that needs to move).
Here are examples of other possible redirections in the same scenario. Notice how each of these meets the child’s need to move, but in a positive, safe way.
“Why don’t you vacuum the living room for us?”
“Please get off the couch and jump over to the kitchen to help me with dinner.”
“Great jumping! Come off the couch and show me how fast you can jump up and down the stairs. Ready, set, GO!”
“Let’s jump to your bedroom and pick up the clothes on the floor.”
Remember, the opposite of ‘no’ is not always ‘yes.’ Redirection offers an acceptable choice that allows your child to be who s/he is without hearing negative feedback all the time. It also can minimize power struggles, arguments and upset families.