“If there is some child who persistently annoys the others, the most practical thing to do is to interrupt him…Often a question will serve, such as ‘How are you, Johnny? Come with me, I have something for you to do.’"
Dr. Maria Montessori from Absorbent Mind, p. 254
Applying distraction is a matter of getting a child’s attention through some type of interruption. Quite often, you can do this by holding an object that the child is mishandling in some misbehavior scenario. When the child looks up, you then let go of the object and complete the interaction by using a clear direction phrase; e.g., “Come over here. Let me show you something.”
The Distraction Technique

“Distraction: Technique involving teacher getting attention of child in misbehavior scenario. Usually, it involves touching or briefly holding some physical object in the scenario.”
Lee Havis (Glossary of Montessori Terms)

The IMS Montessori technology includes the technique distraction as a relatively heavy polishing tool for controlling the environment to resolve various misbehavior scenarios. It applies particularly well to dealing with children’s misuse of physical objects.

The main feature of this technique is getting the child’s attention, which you can usually accomplish by touching or holding the misused object in the child’s hand until there is eye contact between you and the child. Following the protocol least amount of adult involvement, you must quickly release your hold of the object as soon as you have the child’s attention to avoid a “tug of war” power struggle with the child over the object.

After using the distraction technique, it is customary to apply the clear direction technique to show some piece of work, using a safe word phrase, such as, “Come over here. Let me show you something”. Showing work is an important final step in the distraction lesson presentation because working with materials is always the ultimate answer to all misbehavior. Without this final step, children will most likely return to some type of fantasy activity.

Sometimes, you can use the distraction technique when there is no physical object involved, such as with children who are wildly running around in fantasy. In this situation, you get the child’s attention by holding its whole body, and then, giving a clear direction to show some piece of work.

As with all techniques, you must carefully regulate your use of distraction by following such basic protocols as least amount of adult involvement and well-being of the total environment. This allows the technique distraction to be very useful and effective in resolving many misbehavior situations where lighter polishing techniques, such as eye contact and proximity ,are ineffective or unavailable.