Fostering self-regulation development in children

Help your child learn this important ability by understanding what it is, how it works and what role you play in fostering it.

As a parent, you can have a tremendous impact on the development of your child's self-regulation skills. Photo credit: Pixabay.

As a parent, you can have a tremendous impact on the development of your child's self-regulation skills. Photo credit: Pixabay.

Michigan State University Extension contends that self-regulation is an ability that grows and matures as your child develops in physical, thinking, social and language areas. Skills of self-regulation are important because they affect personal relationships, self-esteem and school success. Managing behaviors and emotions allows one to have an easier time with feelings and the ability to relate to others.

If adults don’t feel in control of their emotions, they are more prone to lashing out, outbursts, inattentiveness and finding inappropriate ways to relieve stress. In the case of a toddler, she may hit, kick, scream, bite or push to relieve feelings of being out of control. Controlling one’s temper is a higher level skill and starts with small steps that build on one another. As a parent, you play a big part in helping your child learn how to do this.

The natural predisposition and make-up of a child also affects the development of self-regulatory skills. The qualities that contribute to this are:

  • Temperament
  • Sensory system development
  • Opportunities
  • Brain development

We are all born with personality traits; these traits affect the way we approach and manage the world around us. Things such as activity level, sensitivity, adaptability, persistence, intensity, distractibility and how cautious we are influence relationships and the way we approach new situations. A lot of these traits are fixed, meaning they can’t be changed, so it is important to become aware of your child’s temperament traits and make adaptations and adjustments accordingly.

Sensory system development is the way your child’s brain develops and coordinates more intense and complicated sensations and organizes that information. Typically, a child’s brain grows and changes when he receives information from his surroundings. Children with a history of abuse and/or neglect or health issues may have difficulty registering and/or integrating that sensory information. These children will adapt their behavior in response to the experiences they encounter. Often times, children with sensory problems have trouble with balance, food textures, sudden change in noise volume and attention, just to name a few.

As a parent, you can have a tremendous impact on the development of your child’s self-regulation skills. Opportunities such as setting appropriate limits on your child’s impulsive behavior, arranging a safe environment for your child to learn and practice new behaviors, providing needed support for skills not yet learned, teaching coping skills, helping your child anticipate the consequences of his actions and modeling self-control are ways in which you can help your child learn self-control.

Your child’s brain is developing fast. Emotions become more complicated as the brain develops. The two most important factors which influence how your child develops independence and self-control are the people and opportunities in her life. Surround your child with loving, responsive people who will take the time to understand what your child’s needs are in addition to supporting and teaching new skills. Wrap your child in a safe and encouraging environment. You are your child’s most important teacher!

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