Helping Kids Develop Self-Control

Young children are known for their lack of impulse control. But as they approach their fifth birthday, children become increasingly capable of choosing their behavior. While they might still have the occasional meltdown, you are likely seeing fewer all-out tantrums. That’s because your child is gaining both the motor and verbal skills they need to feel more in control of their world.

Here are some ways you can encourage their developing self-control:

  • Praise the positive. Be sure to notice and name it when your child demonstrates self-control. Tell them what you see and why you appreciate it. Your child wants to please you, so every time you praise their efforts to make good choices and solve problems, it sinks in deep.
  • Separate the person from the action. It’s essential for your child to know that their worth is not tied to their behavior. When your child acts out, talk about why that action is a problem rather than using phrases like “You’re a bad boy,” or “I hate when you do that.” Instead, tell them that what they did was wrong, and explain why: “When you hit, it hurts people, and that’s not okay.” Or “I can’t solve your problem when you yell at me. We can try again when you’re calm.”
  • Create a space for calming down. Even if your child is less prone to tantrums, they still need a space to sit and regroup when they are frustrated or upset. A quiet room in the house, a cozy chair, even your lap can be a place for your child to step away from a problem, settle themselves a bit, then try again.
  • Model problem-solving. Your child is more aware of you than ever, so they will notice the way you speak when you’re upset, the way you deal with frustration, and the way you recover from conflict. You don’t have to be perfect—whew! In fact, being honest about how hard it is for you to stay calm when something’s bothering you can be a great example to your child that frustration and conflict are just part of life.

Most of all, keep offering your child second—and third and fourth—chances when they mess up. Make sure they know they are loved and cherished no matter what.

This blog content is from the “Your Developing Child” section of the Frolic Family Newsletter, a monthly newsletter for families of children from birth to age 5. To receive content specific to your child’s age, sign up for FREE!

Photo credit: The Manhattan Psychology Group