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How to Help Your Child Self-Regulate

self regulating emotions

Temper tantrums, emotional outbursts, yelling and screaming, anxiety in your children – these are a handful of things that you might make you doubt your own parenting skills. Am I not fulfilling my parental duties? Are my children not happy with me? Am I not providing enough emotional support to them? But here’s the thing. You don’t need to doubt yourself as a parent because your child may just be struggling with self-regulation.

What is self-regulation?

Well, self-regulation simply put is the ability for someone to manage their emotions and behaviors before acting on them. For example, you tell your child they can’t have a snack before dinner. And, as a response to your request, they start wailing and crying, throwing things and even hitting. This means that your child is having a difficult time managing his or her emotions and they have not yet acquired the skills to self-regulate. On the other hand, children who have learned how to self-regulate would be able to make better choices and would respond in a healthier way.

How can you help your child?

The great thing about self-regulation is that it is teachable and over time, children can build up their self-regulation skills. Children who haven’t learned or practiced these skills can be more irritable, anxious, impulsive and have a range of emotional problems. But you can help them learn self-regulation by:

Having a more meaningful relationship with your children.

This means to shut off those devices, really be present in the moment with your child and be conscious about the way you parent. When you take time to build a special bond with them, you’ll notice that they will respond differently to unfavorable situations and will be more likely to listen to you.

Express your own emotions responsibly.

Evaluate how you react to certain situations. Do you yell a lot? Do you complain often? Do you feel your temper rising frequently beyond control? Before we expect our children to self-regulate, it is important that we practice self-regulation ourselves and are able to model it in front of them. When dealing with big emotions, talk to your children about the importance of thinking before reacting and on how to discuss their feelings. Remember, they’ll only be able to do it when they see you doing it.

Teach them to wait.

Controlling one’s impulses and waiting for gratification are all part of self-regulation. So it’s important to teach your children to how to wait and be patient, and not act instantly before thinking. You can teach this skill by rewarding them for the time they waited or were patient. Perhaps, you’ll give them dessert only after they have finished their meal or even read short stories to them and thank them for staying quiet while you read.

Practice self-regulation strategies before-hand

It’s a great idea to practice self-regulation skills and explain the idea behind it so if our children encounter certain situations, they know exactly what to do. This can be done by role-plays, short stories, games or simply by modeling it yourself. Self-regulation strategies could include using a timer to remind you to wait for somethings, breathing and meditation exercises to calm their emotions, venting their feelings which could include stomping on the ground or writing in a journal. Doing this in between the moments where they may have meltdowns is great. Use the time in between for training.