We may hear the term “self-regulation” used by psychologists, educators, and parents , and with good reason. Self-regulation skills lay the foundation for healthy relationships, academic achievement, and future success. The ability to effectively manage one’s emotions and actions is an essential facet of one’s overall emotional intelligence, and is crucial for children as well as adults. This is why it’s so important for us to help our children develop self-regulation skills.
Kids who can regulate their emotions and behavior are more likely to have an easier time making friends, succeeding in school, and managing stress. It can be difficult for parents to know how to help kids when they’re struggling with strong emotions and behavior management. Helping our kids learn how to self-regulate is a process that takes time, patience, and practice. By following these seven tips, you can get started on the right track with your child!
Strive for balance
Most kids tend to cope with stress in one of three ways – avoidance, approach, or aggression. Kids who shy away from difficult situations are self-regulating through avoidance. In contrast, those who engage in risky behavior or lash out at others are self-regulating through aggression. Finally, kids who cope with stressful situations by addressing their circumstances in a positive manner self-regulate through approach.
As a parent, it’s important not to focus all your efforts on one type of self-regulation strategy. Most children will display each of the above-mentioned coping mechanisms at different times, so try not to label your child as just one. Instead of labeling children’s coping mechanisms, try to identify which style works best for your child in different situations.
Kids who can self-regulate effectively are typically able to identify their stress triggers. This means they can quickly move from feeling stressed or upset into healthy self-regulated behavior. As parents, it’s vital to help children become self-aware by helping them pinpoint the event or situation that is bothering them and how they might handle the situation differently next time.
For example, your child might be upset because he didn’t get the role he wanted in a play at school. Instead of having a tantrum or lashing out at his friends, it’s beneficial for him to learn how to identify what is making him so upset. We need to help children understand how they are feeling, and in this case, what it is about not getting the role makes them sad. This will help your child move forward and perhaps find a different activity that can bring joy.
Self-regulation skills begin with self-awareness and self-monitoring. Help children identify the messages they are giving themselves (or “self-talk”) and recognize when their self-talk tends to be positive or negative. When self-talk is primarily negative, encourage kids to change their self-talk from “I can’t do this” or “I’m going to fail” to “I think I can handle this, and if I can’t, I know someone who can help me.” The more they practice engaging in positive self-talk, the more effectively they’ll be able to cope with stressful situations in the future.
When children self-regulate through avoidance, they probably struggle to label what they’re feeling at any given moment. If this is the case, try teaching them how to identify their emotions. This will help them become more comfortable recognizing a variety of feelings, and learning which ones may push them towards different behaviors and responses.
For example, you might tell your child, “You seem really upset right now!” and then wait for a response. Does your child walk away, or articulate the cause of anger? Do this enough times, and your child will learn to self-regulate through self-labeling.
Cultivate a warm and loving relationship
Another important strategy to help children develop healthy self-regulation skills is by cultivating a warm and loving relationship with them. Effective self-regulation skills tend to emerge in children who have self-confidence and feel loved and supported at home. These kids usually cope more effectively in times of stress because they feel secure enough to practice new skills and learn from their mistakes.
Allow children to take their time
Regulating emotions isn’t an ability that is present at birth. Give your children adequate time to process their feelings. When children are upset, remind them to take deep breaths and give them time to calm down before discussing the situation. Self-awareness and self-regulation are skills that require patience and practice.
Healthy self-regulation skills are important for kids to develop in order to succeed and find happiness in life. You can help your child develop self-regulation skills by following these helpful strategies.
At Young Scholars Academy, our philosophy is to be a vital extension of your family. We provide a nurturing and loving environment for children as we work together to build a foundation for their happiness and success. Visit our website to learn more.