Kindergarten can be an exciting time for both parents and children. The transition to full-day school brings new skills, new friends, and new opportunities and experiences, but while some kids make the transition with ease, others really struggle with the adjustment.
And who can blame them?!
While daycare and preschool offer a quiet, calming, play-based environment with small teacher/child ratios, kindergarten classrooms are loud and chaotic. The school day is filled with multiple transitions, and while the curriculum is still fun, the educational component can be challenging for little minds and hands, which brings me to the point of this post…
How to Teach Children Self-Control
Teaching children self-control is one of the most important things a parent can do for their kids. Some studies suggest that a child’s level of self-discipline at a young age can predict how successful – and happy – he will be later in life, and while some might argue against such findings, the facts remain the same: if you take the time to teach your child strategies for self-control now, you will be setting him up for long-term success at school, work, in his personal life, and beyond.
From managing impulsive behavior, resisting distractions, and learning the art of delayed gratification, to regulating emotions in the face of conflict and feelings of discomfort, self-regulatory behavior is key to success in all areas of our lives, and since children with poor self-control tend to exhibit more behavioral problems than their self-disciplined peers, teaching children self-control is more important than parents might think.
So, how exactly do we, as parents, do this? How do we teach our kids the art of self-discipline and self-regulation without spending all of our free time battling meltdowns, temper tantrums, aggressive behavior, and feelings of defeat? Because, let’s face it: it’s sometimes easier to give kids what they want rather than subjecting ourselves to a day filled with power struggles and time-outs. Amiright?
The good news is that learning how to teach children self-control isn’t as difficult as it sounds. Yes, it takes time, patience, and dedication on the part of the parents and caregivers, and there will be days that your child may not comply with your wishes, but the long-term benefit of working with your child to help develop his self-regulating behavior far outweighs the short-term pain.
Here are 7+ strategies and activities to teach children self-control.
1. Be clear about rules and expectations
This is especially important in young children. By explaining what the rules are, what’s expected, and what is and isn’t appropriate, and taking the time to give your child regular reminders, you are setting him up for success. The easier the rules are, and the more consistently you reinforce them, the easier it is for your kids to meet your expectations.
2. Follow a predictable routine
We all know that kids thrive on consistency, and getting your children used to a predictable routine will not only help with the transition to full-day school, but also help set expectations as to what is expected throughout the day. By setting clear boundaries around different activities – learning, independent play, outdoor time, quiet time, eating, etc. – you can help teach the different types of self-regulation needed in the classroom and beyond.
3. Remind! Remind! Remind!
The younger a child is, the more easily he can (and will) be distracted, so taking the time to give him reminders at regular intervals will go a long way in helping him learn the art of self-control.
4. Use positive reinforcement
Reinforcement is a fabulous technique parents and caregivers can use to increase the likelihood that a child will repeat a desirable behavior, and while both positive and negative forms of reinforcement can help with teaching children self-control, research tends to suggest that positive reinforcement is the most effective. Sticker charts are a simple, yet effective, form of positive reinforcement that can be extremely motivating for kids. This Dry Erase Reward Chore Chart is my favorite as you can easily customize it for your individual child.
5. Always follow through!
As parents, we often hear about the importance of being consistent and following through with consequences. If you fail to follow through, your child won’t take you seriously, learn accountability, or figure out the difference between right and wrong. And while this makes perfect sense, what many parents forget is that the same holds true for rewards. If we neglect to make good on our promises, we take away the motivation our children need to make positive changes to their behavior, which can significantly impact our ability to teach our children self-control and self-discipline.
6. Model positive behavior
Another important, yet often overlooked parenting strategy is the importance of being a good role model. Our children look up to us, and oftentimes want to mimic every single thing we do, and when we take the time to actively demonstrate our own self-regulatory behavior, we are setting our kids up for success. Thinking before acting, practicing deep breathing, being kind and compassionate to others, and using appropriate language to express our feelings are all positive ways to teach your child self-regulating behaviors to help develop self-control.
7. Make self-discipline fun
When it comes to teaching self-control, there is no ‘one-size-fits-all’ approach. Every child has a different temperament, and what works for one may not work for another. The good news? There are HEAPS of great self-discipline activities for kids that feel more like play than work, offering a fabulous, stress-free way to help children with self-control issues.
Here are 30 of our favorite self-control activities for kids!
1. Calming Tools and Resources That Really Work | the kindergarten connection
2. 15 Ways to Calm an Anxious Child | Lemon Lime Adventures
3. Slow Down | Sugar Spice and Glitter
4. Helping Your Child Cope with Anxiety | Raising Lifelong Learners
5. Teach Emotional Intelligence | The Joys of Boys
6. Conscious Discipline | I Can Teach My Child
7. 7 Simple Mindfulness Hacks | Lemon Lime Adventures
8. Top 5 Ways to Help Reduce Anxiety | Baby to Boomer
9. How a Glitter Jar Can Help Kids Control Their Feelings | Fireflies & Mud Pies
10. Fun Activities for Practicing Self Control | Matt B Gomez
11. Self Control with Kinder & 1st | Ms Sepp
12. 5 Ways to Teach Students About Emotions | Hojo’s Teaching Adventures
13. Games That Teach Self Regulation | PBS Parents
14. Games and Exercises | Self Regulation in the Classroom
15. 3 Mind Body Activities Kids Can Use | Move With Me
16. Alphabet House: Hop Little Bunnies | Things to Share & Remember
17. Self Regulation Activities | Your Therapy Source
18. How to Teach your Kid to Self Regulate | Today’s Parent
19. Making Learning Fun: Activities that Teach Self Control | Teachers with Apps
20. Teaching Self Calming Skills | Responsive Classroom
21. 5 Activities to Help Children Develop Emotional Control | Moments a Day
22. Emotional Regulation: Feelings Identification Activities | Kiddie Matters
23. 10 Calming Sensory Strategies for School | The Inspired Treehouse
24. Activities for Anxious Kids | School Counseling Files
25. How to Stop the Whining and Crying in Kids | Meaningful Mama
26. Calming Tantrums and Meltdowns | Lemon Lime Adventures
27. Anger Management Skills for Kids | Fireflies & Mud Pies
28. 12 Tips to Deal With an Overly Emotional Child | B Inspired Mama
29. 3 Easy and Positive Parenting Strategies for Taming Tantrums | Premeditated Leftovers
30. Emotional Coping Techniques | Sugar Spice and Glitter
Learning how to teach children self-control before they enter school – and continuing to do so as they learn and grow – can have a huge impact in helping them develop the self-discipline and self-regulatory behavior strategies they need to cope and learn in the classroom (and beyond). The more you focus on helping your child learn the art of self-control, the more you are setting him up for long-term success with his eduction, career, and personal relationships. It may seem daunting at first, but using positive reinforcement, following through with rewards and consequences, modelling good self-regulatory behavior, and getting your children excited about some of the self-control activities for kids noted above will give you the foundation you need to give your little ones a good head start.
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