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How to help grade-schoolers gain self-control

By Lexi Walters Wright

When grade-schoolers struggle with self-control , they may need extra help learning to control emotions and impulses.

Some kids react badly when they don’t know what to expect in a situation — or what’s expected of them. Fill kids in ahead of time if an activity might be boring or unpleasant, or if it could take a long time.

It’s important to praise kids’ efforts, too. When you see kids practicing self-control, acknowledge it out loud: ”I love how you waited your turn to talk.” This kind of positive reinforcement helps them feel proud that they can control their behavior.

There are also lots of free and low-costs apps to help young kids build self-control skills, like waiting and managing emotions.

Keep in mind that self-control doesn’t come naturally to all grade-schoolers. But by helping them learn to keep their behavior in check, you make it easier for them to make and keep friends and handle feelings. And that can improve self-esteem in the long run.

Dive deeper

Why it happens

When very young kids don’t get what they want, they can really lose it. They don’t yet have the self-control to manage their frustration. But as they reach grade school, most kids start developing the ability to check their impulses, think before acting, and wait for what they want.

Some kids, though, continue to struggle with self-control. There are different reasons this happens. A common one is trouble with  — a group of skills that includes self-control.

Read about learning and thinking differences that can cause trouble with self-control .

Next steps

Trouble with self-control can create challenges at home, at school, and in kids’ social lives. It’s important for families and teachers to share information about what’s going on and talk about ways to help

Reach out as early as possible when you see behavior challenges. There may be strategies and supports teachers can use in the classroom to help with self-control.

Find out what to do when a child’s behavior seems “out of control.”

Related topics

Managing emotions

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