Self-control helps promote good decision making. It makes it easier to achieve set goals. And like adults, learning about self-control can benefit kids in more ways than one. It will improve their focus and increase their chances of success. Here are a few ideas that can help teach your child better self-control.
Control your emotions and reactions
Children learn by mimicking the behavior of the adults around them. The way you react to situations is how a child thinks they should react in similar situations. Think before you react to situations and avoid yelling or angry outbursts when you get upset.
Use everyday situations to model self control. For instance, if you have to stand in line at the grocery store, explain that the line is long but we need to wait for our turn patiently. When children see you following the rules, it makes it much easier for them to learn how to behave.
Create opportunities to practice
Just as working out increases the strength of muscles, exercising the brain builds mental strength needed to manage behavior. Children learn self-control by repeating an action multiple times. Every time your child has to exercise self-restraint, they are developing neural pathways associated with self discipline.
Play games that require your child to exhibit self-control. A good example can be freeze dance. Your child has to dance when the music is on, and they freeze when the music is off. You can also play to follow my clap. The leader creates a clapping pattern. Children then have to listen and repeat.
Have consistent consequences for bad behavior
Self-control is managing our impulses in order to meet our goals. Not having self-control can keep us from reaching a goal. Children need structure and limits to know how they should behave, and if they do go over the limit, give them a gentle reminder to stay on course.
Reacting to a situation thoughtfully and without losing your emotional balance is the best way of teaching behavior skills. If your toddler throws a toy, explain why it is unacceptable, then put the toy away for five minutes until they calm down.
Teach patience, with realistic expectations
Waiting helps children develop self control, only if it is realistic. Waiting for an hour may seem like forever to a child, increasing their anxiety and overwhelming the child.
Offer your child a choice between a small reward immediately or a bigger reward if they wait a little longer, say 15 minutes. This gives them a reason to initiate self control.Try to find a way that they can distract themselves while waiting.
If the child can’t wait the whole 15 minutes, do not be too hard on them. Understand that children are by nature impulsive, but as mentioned above, self-control gets better with practice.
Teach them how to deal with emotions
Emotions are a huge factor in decision making for most people. A huge part of teaching your child self control is making them aware of their feelings. If your child feeling a bit stressed, talk to them about how to react beforehand so they are prepared. This can reduce stress in some children that have a low tolerance to frustration which can cause impulsive outbursts.
Teach specific strategies to help soothe negative emotions. Breathing exercises or taking a few steps away can help calm your child down. Give them time out if needed, making sure to explain why it is necessary to keep a level head.
Some studies have linked the ability to practice self-control at a young age to greater success later in life. The ability to manage urges is important for meeting long term goals. As a parent, it is important to make sure you are helping your child learn self-control.