Teaching Self-control to kids
Posted: November 16, 2011
Last Updated: November 16, 2011
When kids melt down in a crowded store, at a dinner with family, or at home, it can be extremely frustrating. But parents can help kids learn self-control and teach them how to respond to situations without just acting on impulse or frustration.
Teaching self-control skills is one of the most important things that parents can do for their kids because these are some of the most important skills for success later in life. By learning self-control, kids can make appropriate decisions and respond to stressful situations in ways that can yield positive outcomes.
For example, if you say that you're not serving ice cream until after dinner, your child may cry, plead, or even scream in the hopes that you will give in. But with self-control, your child can understand that a temper tantrum means you'll take away the ice cream for good and that it's wiser to wait patiently.
Here are a few suggestions on how to help kids learn to control their behavior:
Up to Age 2
Infants and toddlers get frustrated by the large gap between the things they want to do and what they're able to do. They often respond with temper tantrums. Try to prevent outbursts by distracting your little one with toys or other activities. For kids reaching the 2-year-old mark, try a brief timeout in a designated area, like a kitchen chair or bottom stair, to show the consequences for outbursts and teach that it's better to take some time alone instead of throwing a tantrum.
Ages 3 to 5
You can continue to use timeouts, but rather than enforcing a specific time limit, end timeouts once your child has calmed down. This helps kids improve their sense of self-control. And praise your child for not losing control in frustrating or difficult situations.
Ages 6 to 9
As kids enter school, they're better able to understand the idea of consequences and that they can choose good or bad behavior. It may help your child to imagine a stop sign that must be obeyed and think about a situation before responding. Encourage your child to walk away from a frustrating situation for a few minutes to cool off instead of having an outburst.
Ages 10 to 12
Older kids usually better understand their feelings. Encourage them to think about what's causing them to lose control and then analyze it. Explain that sometimes the situations that are upsetting at first don't end up being so awful. Urge kids to take time to think before responding negatively to a situation.
Ages 13 to 17
By now kids should be able to control most of their actions. But remind teens to think about long-term consequences. Urge them to pause to evaluate upsetting situations before responding and talk through problems rather than losing control, slamming doors, or yelling. If necessary, discipline your teen by taking away certain privileges to reinforce the message that self-control is an important life skill.
As difficult as it may be, you should resist the urge to yell when you're disciplining kids. Instead, be firm and matter of fact. During a child's meltdown, stay calm and explain that yelling and other such outbursts are unacceptable behaviors that have consequences and say what those consequences are. Your actions will show that tantrums won't get kids the upper hand.
If you continue to have difficulties with your kid’s behavior call Border Area Mental Health Services. To reach Border Area Mental Health Services in Grant and Hidalgo Counties, call 388-4412; in Catron County, call 533-6649; in Luna County, call 546-2174. For CRISIS, call 538-3488 or outside Silver City, call 1-800-426-0997.