By Raising Children Network
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Preschool boy playing with spade in sandpit
Diverting a young child’s interest and attention can help you avoid situations that might otherwise result in difficult behaviour.

Distraction is a strategy that comes naturally to parents. Pointing out something interesting, starting a simple game, pulling funny faces – parents come up with a million tricks to distract a young child who is getting grizzly or bored.

Distraction usually works. It can also be a good way of keeping children away from dangerous objects and activities. So it’s a great option for parents in many situations.

Tips for distracting

For all children:

  • Distracting can be as simple as giving your child something else to do. Introduce a new activity, toy or game, or even show children something new they can do with the toy they already have.
  • Change the scene. Position children so they can see different things, or move a child to a new spot.
  • Think ahead. Have a few ideas for fun activities. If you’re out and about, take some attractive and fun toys that you can pull out when you need them. If your children might be hungry, have some tasty and healthy snacks on hand too.

For older children, you can also:

  • Change the topic of conversation.
  • Introduce a simple game or activity.
  • Simply suggest something else they could do when you can see that things are beginning to deteriorate. For example, you could say, ‘Oh-oh, looks like that game is making you mad. What about going outside and having a ride on your bike?’
There is an important thing to remember about using distraction: if you regularly offer a favourite or rewarding activity after your child has hurt someone or thrown a tantrum, you could inadvertently reward that behaviour. Distraction is best used when you can see that a child might be about to do something wrong, but before the child actually does it.
  • Last updated or reviewed 15-06-2010