Helping your child learn self-regulation
- Parents are the best example to model and teach self-regulation. Explain how you calmed down and managed your strong emotions and show strategies to your child when you are frustrated or upset.
- Label and talk about feelings with your child (e.g., ‘did you throw that puzzle piece because you were frustrated?’ Remember to keep it simple (and do this when your child is calm).
- Teach alternate behaviors and appropriate ways to react to “big” or difficult emotions. When a child is calm you can offer choices (e.g., that was hard when you could not get that piece in the puzzle, you could say “help” or take some belly breaths instead of throwing a piece next time).
- Discuss rules and expectations for behaviors.
- Identify consequences before a problem occurs, make sure these rules are consistently applied, and reviewed often with children.
- Try to “catch” your child doing a positive behavior and making good choices.
- PRAISE your child for demonstrating (even the smallest amount of) self-control and describe the positive behavior you observed.
- You can play games to help children learn self-control such as red light/green light; mother may I.
According to https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/peaceful-parents-happy-kids/201506/8-steps-help-your-child-develop-self-control
(see website for explanations of these steps)
1. The foundation of self-control is trust.
2. Children learn emotional regulation from our modeling.
3. The self-control capacity of the brain increases with practice.
4. Self-Control is CHOOSING to give up what we want for something we want more.
6. Empathic Limits give kids practice in self-discipline.
7. Waiting is good practice -- up to a point.
8. Children learn self-control naturally as they attempt to master their world.
Have reasonable and fair expectations for behavior
It is important to have realistic and developmentally (age) appropriate expectations for self-control.
- Infants should be responded to right away and comforted to help them calm quickly.
- For toddlers, use distraction, set up environment to minimize frustration and have reasonable expectations about how long they should be able to wait (e.g., for food, toys etc) – which is not very long! Talk about feelings and expectations for behavior very simply- particularly for aggressive behavior.
- Children ages 3-5 can be expected to learn simple rules about behavior and some better self-control.
- School age children (6-9)- you can discuss rules and consequences and help children make good choices. Remember to review and reward positive behavior.
When Should I be Concerned? Consider seeking professional help if your child’s problematic behavior appears to be more extreme, more frequent or more persistent compared to other same age children (or if you just need more support and specific strategies to support your child’s self-regulation and positive behavior).
In addition, children who have an underlying developmental disability will have more difficulty with impulsivity and self-control. If you have concerns about ADHD or other potential disabilities please talk with your pediatrician or a psychologist.
(https://raisingchildren.net.au/toddlers/behaviour/understanding-behaviour/self-regulation for more information about why it is important and tips to helping children increase self-regulation)