Quick tips to help kids gain self-control
- Quick tip 1Give a heads-up.Give a heads-up.
Let kids know what to expect in a situation — and what’s expected of them. For example: “My friend and her son are coming to visit. You might need to let him play your video games, so put away any that are special.”
- Quick tip 2Help identify feelings.Help identify feelings.
When kids can recognize feelings before they get out of control, it can help prevent outbursts. Say things like “You were really mad when I said you couldn’t play the game right now.”
- Quick tip 3Make a “break” space.Make a “break” space.
Create a special, quiet place where kids can go when they get upset. You can even agree on a signal kids can use when they need a moment to calm down.
- Quick tip 4Teach phrases that build self-control.Teach phrases that build self-control.
Give kids language to use that shows self-control. Teach phrases like “I’ll wait my turn,” “I can share it with you,” and “I’d like it now, but I’ll wait until later.” Sometimes just saying the words can help put the brakes on impulsive behavior.
- Quick tip 5Talk in a calm voice.Talk in a calm voice.
Avoid showing emotion or matching kids’ tone of voice. Try to keep your voice steady and calm, even if they’re yelling.
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.