Tips for Teaching Children Self-Regulation

By Angela French
Angela French
Angela French

Your child's self-regulation is their ability to control their emotions and responses to outside influences or occurrences. This self-regulation is vitally important for them to be functioning members of society.

Though children will be children and we cannot expect them to show desired behaviors 100% of the time, we do need to make it out goal to see the desired behaviors more and more often as they grow older.
Here are some things to consider:
  • Practice sharing!
    Children, especially only children, often have an issue with sharing. The best place to practice sharing is in the home with family members. You can make dinner time a great time to not only talk about it, but to show it. For instance, when you have a pizza or something that is easy to visualize in pieces, talk about the pizza as a whole and how you are going to share it with the family. You can say things like, "I get a piece, you get a piece. See, we are sharing!" If sharing becomes normal and part of everyday life in the home, it will not be a stretch to be expected to share outside the home.

  • Practice listening to others!
    It is important that your child be able to focus on others speaking. The easiest way to do this is to practice talking to your child, or reading to them, without them interrupting. Practice by reading them a short story. Ask them to listen to the whole story. When you are finished, ask them questions, or discuss the story. Building listening skills will help them regulate their emotions and will help them learn to focus.

  • Practice waiting their turn!
    Your child may find waiting their turn to be a challenge if they have never had to deal with it. The best place to practice is at home. Make sure that you do not give in to your childs’ whims right away. If they ask for you to get them something and you are busy, tell them that they need to wait until you are finished, or a set amount of time. When they learn that not everything happens on their time, they will have much more patience in waiting.

  • Practice not getting their way!
    This again is best practiced at home. Even though it is easy to give our kids everything they want (if we can), it is a good practice to not always let them have their way. For example, if you tell them that the family is having spaghetti for dinner and they say they want pizza instead, even if you could easily switch, make sure that you don’t do it every time. Explain to them that spaghetti is what is being served tonight, and that you will have pizza another night. Even if they have a fit and you don’t feel like dealing with it, don’t give in. When young children always get their way, they become harder to deal with as they grow older.

Overall, it is easy to see how the things listed here to practice overlap a lot. When you practice things like not giving in and setting boundaries, you are allowing your child to learn how to self-regulate. Though it is not always easy to learn, self-regulation will make your child’s life better for the present, and for the future.
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