How Can You Assist Your Child in Developing Self-Control?

During college, I worked as a ski instructor, and I taught 95 percent of the classes to youngsters. They were frequently group classes, with up to a dozen kids in my hands at any given time.

I can still remember the ten-year-old girl in my overcrowded class of 12 children who complained, screamed, and had tantrums all day long.

We had a bunny hill for beginners, and every time she skied down the tiny hill, she would scream in a whining voice because her skis were not going in the direction she wanted them to go.

She’d then cry and fling herself on a mound of snow at the bottom of the slope. As a teacher, it had been a terrible day.

I’m still perplexed as to why her parents enrolled her in the program if they were aware of her bad behavior. They probably didn’t care if she learned to ski since they wanted to ski alone. It was just the resort’s most readily accessible daycare.

I was a psychology undergrad at the time, and I recognized her conduct was out of the ordinary. In retrospect, she did not appear to be autistic because her social skills were excellent. She is an excellent example of a youngster who struggles with self-control.

What Is Self-Regulation?

A child’s capacity to regulate their emotions and actions in various settings is referred to as self-regulation abilities. “It has something to do with emotional management and planning, as well as self-control.” [1]

Do your kids throw tantrums or sulk more than other kids their age if they don’t win a board game? When your child can’t locate something, such as their shoes or backpack, before school, does he or she grow upset or lose their cool?

When your child doesn’t get what they want, such as a toy, does he or she quarrel with their siblings or other children?

Related: The “Terrible Twos”: 5 Survival Tips for Parents

Continue reading if you responded yes to any of the following questions or believe your child may be deficient in self-control abilities. This article will provide you with suggestions on how to assist your child in developing self-control abilities.

It is critical that children receive assistance with these abilities as soon as possible, as research has shown that a lack of self-control early in life can lead to more serious problems later in life, such as academic challenges. [2]

Tips to Help Your Child Develop Self-Regulation Skills

1. Discuss Self-Regulation in Their Terms

My children have frequently said, “He made me do it!” Usually, they are justifying their own poor behavior. Because he spits on her, an older sister may beat a younger brother, and her justification is that he forced her to hit him because he spits on her first.

This is how a child’s mind functions. It is the responsibility of parents to teach their children that they have control over their own behaviors and emotions.

Children must learn that developing self-control and self-regulation of their emotions and actions requires time and effort.

This isn’t a one-time talk about self-control and self-regulation. It’s something parents should talk about with their kids on a frequent basis.

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Use terminology that your youngster understands when speaking with them. If you’re working on self-regulation with your child, you’ll need to keep things simple.

You may explain to them that if they throw a tantrum at the grocery store, they won’t be able to go to the playground that afternoon. Before you even enter the store, remind the youngster of the consequences.

Discuss what excellent conduct looks like and how they will be rewarded by going to the park after shopping.

Self-regulation abilities should be taught from a young age. Through consequences, toddlers can begin to acquire fundamental self-control. These consequences, as well as the expectations for their conduct, should be conveyed in age-appropriate language.

“If you strike your baby brother today, you won’t be able to watch TV tonight,” for example. Follow through on the consequences, but also set realistic goals.

Toddlers also require frequent reminders and must be spoken to on their level. Self-control is tough for children, but it is a skill that can be taught.

2. Help Your Child Set Goals

Goals aid in the direction of conduct. If your child establishes a goal of obtaining an A in arithmetic, their behavior will be geared toward achieving that goal.

If kids have a true aim of obtaining an A in math, they may be more inclined to do their math homework rather than play video games after school.

According to research,[3] objectives regulate behavior. If a person doesn’t have any specific aims, his or her conduct is likely to be less regulated or directed toward a desirable goal.

Self-regulation can be aided by assisting your child in setting acceptable objectives that they are enthusiastic about.

For example, if your child has trouble getting out of bed in the morning, discuss creating a goal for them to get to bed by a certain time each night so they don’t have foggy mornings.

You may assist them in creating a chart for this goal so that they can keep track of their progress. After a few weeks of successfully accomplishing the objective, you may talk with them about how their life has improved as a result of getting more sleep and going to bed at a regular hour.

Only you know where your child’s self-control needs to be improved. After you’ve identified the areas where they need to improve, assist them in setting objectives that will help them improve their self-control.

Self-regulation is integral to life success through goal setting. In a research article that supports goal-setting and self-regulation, the following was stated:

Self-regulation also involves setting and reaching goals. To succeed in life, people must manage themselves effectively, which involves setting appropriate goals and then making themselves carry out the steps to achieve them. Often, this involves persisting in the face of failures or setbacks. Self-regulation is crucial for enabling people to do this. [4]

Related: Self-Care Tips for a Healthier, Happier You

3. Give Them Choices

A youngster with excellent self-control will be able to recognize various alternatives in a scenario, weigh each option, and choose the best option.

Because they are never given the opportunity to practice making decisions, children who are constantly told what to do, how to do it, and when to do it may develop poor self-regulation.

From an early age, children should be permitted to make simple decisions throughout the day. For example, during snack time, ask a child if they want milk or juice.

It makes no difference to the parent which option is chosen because they are both healthy for the child.

The goal is to provide opportunities for children to make choices in a variety of circumstances so that they may learn to make their own decisions and understand how their actions have consequences.
As they become older, their alternatives and choices should expand.

Asking a five-year-old which shoes they want to wear to school is an example. They have the option to choose.

If kids choose rain boots and realize at school that they are difficult to run in during recess, they will have learned a valuable lesson via their own choices. The lesson should assist them in making better decisions in the future.

This type of decision-making opportunity teaches a youngster how to plan and think ahead. I’m thinking about it.

Related: Ways to Motivate Your Child to Learn And Grow Positively

4. Give Them Planning Opportunities

A child’s ability to self-regulate their conduct is aided by planning. “It [self-regulation] is linked to emotional management, planning, and self-control.” [5]

A child’s self-regulation can be aided by planning how to behave in a difficult scenario. If your child has a propensity to lose self-control in certain situations, teach them how to prepare ahead.

If your child throws a tantrum after their little league baseball team loses a game, for example, assist them in developing a game plan.

Talk about how they’ll behave if they win and how they’ll respond if they lose. You can discuss with them how they have a choice regarding their conduct at that time.

Assist them in anticipating the decisions they will have to make in difficult situations. When kids make poor decisions or plan badly, it’s a chance for you to talk about how they could do things better next time.

Related: Bedtime Routines for Children of Various Ages (Your Go-To Guide)

5. Play!

Play aids in the development of self-control in youngsters. “Children learn to limit their impulsive conduct and obey rules, which transforms their behavior from impulsive and spontaneous to mediated and voluntary,” according to a study. [6].

When youngsters play a game with their classmates, for example, they learn to obey the rules. They will rapidly learn that if they do not follow the rules or cheat, their peers will respond negatively.

They might be thrown out of the game or chastised by their teammates. They can practice self-regulation in real-life settings that youngsters can comprehend via play.

6. Model Good Self-Regulation Skills

A youngster keeps an eye on his or her parents and caretakers. They’ll keep an eye out to observe what type of conduct is being modeled. That is a natural element of human growth. Children observe, learn from, and mimic their surroundings.

As a result, parents and caregivers must be conscious of their own self-control abilities.

When things don’t go your way in life, how do you handle it? Do you swear and raise your voice? Are you impulsive, or do you take the time to think things through and make the best decision you can in every situation? Do you think ahead and make wise decisions?

We teach our children. We must make an effort to exercise strong self-regulation abilities so that our children can learn from our example.

Related: How Can You Assist Your Child in Developing Self-Control?

Final Thoughts

Returning to the tale at the beginning of this piece, I’d want to address the problem with the girl who lacked self-control on that specific day.

She might have behaved better if her parents had assisted her in setting a goal of learning to ski that day and discussed how she should behave in class to optimize the learning opportunities.

Her actions, on the other hand, were so far from typical self-regulation that she would very certainly have needed professional help (counseling or behavior modification treatment) to behave normally in a group ski lesson.

If you’ve ever witnessed a ten-year-old child acting like a two-year-old, you know how vital it is to acquire self-control abilities in life. It becomes more difficult to modify established behaviors as a youngster grows older.

Begin teaching your child excellent self-control as a toddler, and continue to teach them as they learn and grow.


[1] ^ American Psychological Association: Temperament, Attention, and the Development of Self-Regulation.

[2] ^ Developmental Psychopathology: Biological processes in prevention and intervention: The promotion of self-regulation as a means of preventing school failure

[3] ^ ResearchGate: Self Regulation Through Goal Setting

[4] ^ Improving Competence Across the Lifespan: Self-Regulation as a Key to Success in Life

[5] ^ American Psychological Association: Temperament, Attention, and the Development of Self-Regulation.

[6] ^ Early Childhood Development and Care: Does play promote self-regulation in children?