Building Self-Regulation in kids

Kids playing outside

Self-Regulation is an extremely important quality. Find out how you can teach your this skill.

\”The way we deal with our emotions determines the quality of our relationships and ultimately the quality of our lives.\” – said New York Times bestselling author and teacher of Buddhist meditation Sharon Salzberg.

Self-regulation aka Emotional regulation is the ability to manage emotions and behavior as per the situation. This skill set enables your kid to cope with difficult situations, bounce back from challenges, and build healthy relationships. They learn to evaluate themselves and use their strong side to achieve goals. 

\”Self-regulation is the ability to manage one\’s emotions, thoughts, and behaviors in a way that is positive and adaptive. It is a crucial skill for children to develop to be successful in school and life.\” – American Academy of Pediatrics

But how many of us focus on this topic? A study was conducted by The Sutton Trust, the University of Oxford, and the University of Cambridge in June 2019 to understand the self-regulation ability of preschool children. Nearly 46 kids took part in this survey. 

It revealed students with high self-regulation scored higher in different activities created by the researchers compare to other kids. To analyze what medium is best for children to implement self-regulation, research was done by Karla Hrbackova and Anna Petr Safrankova.

They wrote in the findings, “ The level of self-regulation of behavior is lower among children in the institutional environment.” The statement denotes that kids who study in school face difficulty controlling their emotions compared to children who are being homeschooled. The opposite of emotional regulation is dysregulation. 

About 5% of American kids struggle with this problem. There are many ways to tell if your child is suffering from emotional dysregulation. 

  • They show severe tantrums. 
  • Gets frustrated easily. 
  • They get aggressive frequently. 
  • Do not enjoy fun activities. 
  • You often find them crying for no reason. 
  • Tries to harm themselves.

Dr. Matthew Rouse, a clinical psychologist said, “ A child’s innate capacities for self-regulation are temperament and personality based. Some babies have trouble self-soothing and get very distressed when you are trying to bathe them or put on clothes. Those kids may be more likely to experience trouble with emotional self-regulation when they’re older.” 

Some scientists also found children who experience trauma like physical abuse or neglect have a 99% chance of developing emotional dysregulation. Because the prefrontal cortex which is responsible for regulating decision-making abilities gets damaged. 

How to manage kids through self-regulation? 

Here are a few tips on how to manage kids through self-regulation. 

1.Teach them to select a situation

Teach them to pick a situation that contains less frustration and stress. For example, if your kid is feeling overwhelmed about the upcoming math exam, ask them to take one step at a time. Start by learning about the syllabus. 

Next, make a list of the hard chapter and easy chapters. Then practice accordingly. 

2.Help them Identify the trigger points

Assist the children to understand what makes them feel sad or angry. Help them look for a general pattern or factors. After identifying it, explore the reasons behind the strong triggers. 

Find ways to reduce the feelings. 

3.Encourage positive self-talk

In stressful situations, kids can end up engaging themselves in negative self-talk. It is extremely important to jump into that situation and shift the tone. This practice will help them to manage their emotions in the future. 

4.Train them to divert their attention

Train them to change their mind. If your kid is fearful of injections, he or she will be scared while going for vaccination or any health emergency that requires injection. But you can not skip this. 

So educate them to divert their attention when they face some scary situation. Thinking about a happy memory will help them survive the fear of injection.  

5.Coach them to module their response

Acknowledging emotions is an integral part of positive mental health. But it doesn’t have to be dramatic. You can coach them to express their feelings without being extremely violent or aggressive. 

Tips to build self-regulation in kids 

  1. Show the kids how to manage their emotions and behaviors by demonstrating self-regulation on yourself. 
  2. Establish a consistent daily routine to help kids feel more in control of their environment. 
  3. Use relaxation techniques, such as taking slow, deep breaths or visualizing a peaceful place to calm down your kid.
  4. Label their emotions and discuss what they might be feeling in different situations.
  5. Ask the kids to express their feelings through letters, art, or other activities.
  6. Praise them when they show self-regulation skills. 
  7. Set clear limits and boundaries, and consistently follow through with consequences when those limits are not respected.
  8. Train the kids on how to identify the problem, generate solutions, and evaluate the consequences of different options.

Building self-regulation skills takes time and practice, so be patient and consistent in your efforts, and seek additional support if needed.

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