Teaching self-control

The essential skills children need when entering school and in life.

There are many ways we can assist children in learning self-control skills. According to Michigan State University Extension, these skills are essential in early childhood, entering school and life in general. We can observe our children to see whether they need a lot of help, some help or no help in the area of self-control skills. Always start out with where the child is and build up from there.

Their attention span should equal their age in minutes. For example, a 2-year-old should be able to have a 2 minute attention span and a 3-year-old should have a 3 minute attention span, and so on.

It is important to take note of how long your child can sit still and be engaged in one activity. One way to do this would be to start out at five minutes with a young child, than try to move up to 10, than 15 minutes and continuing to increase. See if they are able to follow one step directions and after they can accomplish this task, move it up to two step directions. As a child, waiting for their turn can be frustrating. Young children may be accustom to having immediate gratification when they want their needs met. We can work with them on ways to be able to wait for things. We can explain how they need to wait to talk when someone else is talking or taking turns when deciding what show their family is going to watch. The sooner we work with the child in this area, the sooner they will pick up the skill and learn to take turns or share toys.

Young children are naturally self-centered and need to learn to reach out to others. We can incorporate this concept by having them help at dinnertime, small chores and helping other children when they need assistance. This will also help with their self-esteem. We can also work with them on recognizing other people’s feelings at this time as well. Always bring in feeling words whenever the situation arises. Talk about their feelings and the feeling of others. This will help in having them become a caring, compassionate and well-rounded person.

We can work with them in using their words instead of hitting or kicking another child when they become frustrated. Have them practice using the words “no” or “stop” to another child when they are doing something that hurts them. This is the first stage of stopping someone from bullying. Teach them what they can do and whom they can go to for help if needed. If we practice these skill with them before it happens, they will become more prepared for an alternative action rather than hitting another child. Teach children about self-talk when trying to solve problems. This will guide them until they get to the point when they can figure out solutions to problems in their head.

Play musical chairs, stop and go games, or red light, green light games to get them familiarized with having control over their own bodies. Teach them songs where their voices go up and down or their bodies go fast than slow to music. As you can see there are many ways we can teach children to build their self-control skills in a positive and fun ways.

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