5 Strategies to Improve Self-Control in Children

Self-Control is an important skill for children’s academic success and helps kids to lead a happy, healthy life. It is the thinking skill that helps children learn to control their feelings and behaviors in order to make good decisions, while aiding in reducing impulsive actions and dealing effectively with frustration. Self-Control is a vital part of a child’s social well-being, as it allows them to make good decisions by regulating their feelings, frustrations, and reactions. This thinking skill also helps children to stop themselves from engaging in inappropriate and impulsive actions and to learn how to plan out, consider, and display appropriate behaviors.

Below, you’ll find some general strategies and ideas for helping kids work on Self-Control:

5 Strategies to Improve Self-Control in Children

  • Model effective strategies for dealing with anger and frustration. Your child can learn how to appropriately express their feelings by observing you “stopping” or taking a “time-out” when you begin to get frustrated.
  • Increase your child’s frustration tolerance by incrementally introducing more challenging games and activities into their Play Diet. For example, while playing basketball, ask your child to count how many lay-ups out of 10 they can make, moving back 2 feet each time to increase the difficulty of the activity.
  • Provide your child with verbal praise and rewards for not being impulsive and for controlling an inappropriate response. Choose 1 or 2 specific impulsive behaviors to address, such as blurting out answers or not taking turns with others.
  • Arrange for your child to play games with other children that require them to wait for their turn. A good game for young children that involves patience is Chutes and Ladders, while for older children, games such as Risk or Chess can help to improve concentration and patience.
  • Stress requires management. Learn and practice focusing techniques to manage stress. Your child may benefit by using a “mantra,” a word or phrase that he finds particularly soothing (such as “home” or “calm”), when he is feeling stressed. Simple breathing techniques can be readily acquired and used by watching training videos. Similarly, recounting a memory of a happier time could serve to divert his attention and prevent him from overreacting in order to regain focus.

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