Self-control helps us handle life’s disappointments, worries and frustrations. It also makes it easier to focus on goals, finish what we start, and wait for things we want.
Children develop self-control best when they see it role modelled by caring adults in their lives. Self-control is the foundation for developing other inner strengths that build resilience. Fortunately, there are simple ways that caring adults can help children develop self-control and boost their own at the same time!
Tricia shares how she keeps herself calm and patient when her son needs her support during a frustrating situation. (2 min. 23 sec.)
Here’s what you can do
Practice deep breathing to calm yourself.Watch video.Then help your child take deep breaths to settle down and focus attention (pretending to blow up a balloon in their belly helps young children take deep breaths). Check out this wonderful video of children showing how they use deep breaths to deal with anger. Regular practice helps adults and children remember to use deep breathing as a natural and helpful response to stressful situations.
Three parents tell personal stories about using deep breaths to avoid having a negative reaction in stressful situations. (1 min. 47 sec.)
Help your child picture something pleasant (like a favorite animal or a special place). This helps a child who is feeling stressed to focus on something that is soothing and calming.
Help your child practice waiting. Often children need just a brief pause to help them wait for what they want. Role model patience by singing a little song like “Count to eight, it helps me wait: 1-2-3-4-5-6-7-8!” Then ask your child to sing it with you.
Praise your child for waiting:“It was really hard for you to wait for dessert, but you did it! You are getting better at waiting!”
Let your child know it's OK to have strong feelings, but not OK to hurt others. Parents can teach children how to express their feelings with words when they're upset. For example, you can say, "It's not OK to hit Jeffrey. You can tell him you feel mad when he doesn't let you play with the truck. Let him know you want a turn when he is finished playing with it."
Tell your child that you are there to help calm strong feelings, if he or she needs you.
Encourage your child to keep on trying even when it is challenging or frustrating. “You can do it! Keep on trying… it just takes a little practice.”
Read or tell your child stories about how others use self-control. Click here for children’s storybooks about self-control.
We have a routine at our house
Friday night is pizza night. And my 2-year-old son loves pizza. So, he sometimes starts asking me a day ahead whether Daddy's coming home with pizza... READ MORE
Poster of a friendly dragon reminding us "to calm ourselves so we can think, and think so we can calm "our fire."
More resources "Ocean breathing" is another simple and effective way for adults and children to calm down when life kicks up a storm. Babies become sleepy, too, if you hold them against your chest while you're ocean breathing. Click here to learn more.
* Self-control is an inner strength that plays an important part in developing self-regulation. “Self-regulation” is how we adjust our feelings, behaviour, attention, thoughts and bodies so that we can handle different situations effectively without getting overwhelmed. For more about self-regulation and why it’s important, please read this article about "Self-Regulation" (PDF)
Visit Intro to Resilience for a list of other inner strengths and some outside supports that work together to build secure relationships and develop self-regulation and resilience in young children.
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We help adults and young children develop resiliency skills. Children learn
resiliency skills by watching adults model them. This simple idea is
backed by 30 years of research and is the cornerstone of our approach.
We teach adults the skills they need to handle life's challenges with
resilience and show them how to pass those skills along to children.
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