Helping Children Learn Self-Control
Self-control is an important skill for all children to learn. In other words, individuals know right from wrong or have power to control their own actions. Self-control is the ability to think before you act, rather than being controlled by your feelings. Children who rely on parents or other children to make choices for them do not learn self-control.
Often times, these children may follow others’ bad choices and not take responsibility for the consequences of their behavior. When the child is young, this causes many frustrations. As they grow, the problems can grow as well and the consequences can become more and more serious, even leading to self-destructive behavior like the use of drugs and alcohol. Therefore, it is very important to start young to build the skills that children will need later in life.
Self-control lessons start in the first year of life, but it is never too late to help a child build more self-control. Research shows that when you respond predictably to an infant who cries, later on that baby is likely to cry less rather than more. So you need to get to know your baby’s style of soothing.
Toddlerhood is a demanding time for parent and child. Many toddlers become frustrated because they may have trouble making themselves understood or may be too little to do the things they want to do. Expect toddlers to have little self-control.
Children behave best by keeping them on a regular schedule as much as possible. Help them get enough rest and serve regular meals and snacks. At this age, children are very distractible – you can redirect them to another activity when they are doing something unsafe. If your child has a temper tantrum, make sure they are safe and keep them from hurting themselves or others. After the tantrum is over, they need comfort and support. Teach some basic words, such as NO and STOP, to use in difficult situations. The goal of self-control at this age is to help children begin to use words to express themselves.
During the preschool years, children are eager to play with others their own age, but it is rarely smooth. The goal of this stage of development is to learn how to talk about a problem and solve it with words rather than aggressions. Encourage children to say what the problem is and ask them to come up with ideas for a solution. As long as all the children involved agree, let them try out their own solutions.
This is the time to introduce family chores. Simple jobs like setting the table and putting away laundry are good for children at this age. Research has found that children who have regular chores from the age of four are more successful in early adulthood.
The work of helping your child build self-control continues through the elementary school years and into the teen years. Children learn to be responsible by handling homework, family chores, and obligations to friends and family. Starting early and carrying on self-control lessons throughout your child’s developing years is the best way to give the gift of healthy self-control.