Emotional management is not an inherent gift; it is something every human needs to learn. The act of managing or regulating emotional and behavioral responses is self-regulation, which most children learn at a young age.
Parents help children learn this essential skill through discipline, explanation, and example. For example, your child may respond to not getting their way by throwing a temper tantrum, and you may talk to them about more appropriate ways to behave, like stating their discomfort or asking for help. At this specific moment, you educated your child about self-regulation.
What Is Self-Regulation?
Self-regulation refers to the act of managing one's emotional responses and behaviors. Your brain must interpret a situation and determine the appropriate course of action.
A person with impeccable self-control can control their emotions even in volatile, stressful, or upsetting situations. Self-regulation allows for precise and analytical thinking. It is a crucial skill for children to develop, especially since it plays a role in setting goals and dealing with the unpredictability of results and expectations.
When Does Self-Regulation Develop?
Self-regulation is a skill that continuously develops; however, research suggests that most children experience significant gains between the ages of three and seven. Children learn through trial and error and by watching their parents.
While many self-regulation skills come naturally to children, their parents play a critical role in their education. Parents set boundaries, create rules, allow self-expression, and encourage creativity and critical thinking. All of these things contribute to emotional intelligence.
Why Is Self-Regulation Important?
Self-regulation contributes to a child's ability to navigate the world confidently. Children well-versed in the skill will experience less stress, be able to focus better and remain calm. These abilities will allow your little one to make more connections and friends, be a better critical thinker, and live happier.
According to research, self-regulation plays a critical role in determining school readiness. Experts argue that children who struggle with the concept will feel less confident engaging in conversation, focusing on tasks, making friends, or competing and playing with others.
How To Teach Self-Regulation Skills
The key to teaching self-regulation is to look at it as a skill. Too many parents write off tantrums or outbursts as bad behavior when they are inappropriate responses to existing stimuli. Parents can teach the skill by helping their children slow down and focus on their responses.
Your little one might find their math homework challenging and frustrating. They want to leave it and play, but you won't let them because they have work. Their frustration boils over, and they throw their homework and scream.
You may want to yell as a response, but that would be impulsive and wouldn't benefit anyone. The better response is to talk your child through their feelings. Help them understand why they had an outburst. By isolating the emotions and triggers, you help them understand themselves better, allowing for growth.
Mindfulness is an excellent tool to teach kids how to manage their emotions. The practice focuses on the present and eliminates all biases or pre-judgments.
The goal of mindfulness may be too complicated for your little one to understand, so it is best to incorporate some practices to teach them fundamental skills. For example, use an app to help your child learn to meditate. You can also have conversations about feelings, especially when the emotions are high; for example, talk to your little one about why they are excited, anxious, or sad.
Self-regulation is a learned skill, and it takes time to develop. You can help your child by introducing them to things like mindfulness.