Tips for Supporting Your Child’s Development of Self-Regulation

How do you respond to your children’s needs, impulses, and behaviors? Your responses can help set a strong foundation for how your children will manage and respond to their own feelings, impulses, and needs—both now and in the future. What follows are some basic ideas that may help you support your child’s development of self-regulation:

  • Provide consistent, responsive care-giving. Consistent routines and predictable, responsive care can help your child to experience the world as a safe, secure environment. Children learn that their feelings of discomfort and distress do eventually pass as warm and loving caregivers respond to their needs. Creating consistent structure in your child’s external environment will help your child, over time, to develop an internal sense of “structure” or self-regulation.
  • Use language to help your child identify and express feelings. Identify and label your child’s strong emotions. This helps him to feel acknowledged and accepted. It can have a calming effect for many children. Labeling children’s feelings helps them to begin to develop a way of talking about their strong emotions as they develop language. Helping young children to convey their feelings and needs through words helps them to develop a sense of self-control. It helps them learn an effective way to manage their own emotions. And as children become more able to identify and label their own feelings, they also begin to identify and recognize feelings of others, developing empathy for those around them.
  • Provide choices for your child. Allow your child to make choices that are appropriate to his age. This enables him to feel a sense of self-control and to feel that you trust him. Letting children choose what they want to eat for snacks, what they want to wear, or what they would like to play with promotes a feeling of self-confidence and efficacy. Choices also help children to manage their disappointment and frustration when things do not go their way.
  • Provide guidance on acceptable behaviors. It is often easier for a young child to learn something new than stop something they are already doing. Provide ideas and assistance around acceptable behaviors. This can help children learn that there are many acceptable ways they can express their feelings. It also helps lessen the number of times you find yourself saying, “Don’t do that” throughout the day! For example, you can tell your child, “When you are angry, you can stomp your feet or jump up and down.” This helps your child know how to manage strong feelings in healthy ways.
  • Engage in play that promotes self-regulation. Play is a wonderful way to help your child develop feelings of self-control. “Simon Says,” “Red Light, Green Light,” and even a simple game of rolling a ball back and forth are all examples of games that teach your child about waiting and taking turns. Reading stories together provides an opportunity for your child to practice waiting and taking turns. You can also use the story to talk with your child about the feelings and behaviors of the characters in the book. Pretend play can also be a valuable way of supporting your child’s expression of strong emotions in acceptable ways. Pretend play with peers can be a cooperative activity that helps children to negotiate their ideas, feelings, and impulses in a fun and healthy way.

Self-Regulation and Self-Control » Resources/References