Teaching children self-control

Teaching children self-control

One of the most important things a parent can teach their child is self-control. Being able to think before acting and control our impulses and emotions has many benefits. Children are far less likely to get into trouble at school and the wider world if they can stop and think about the consequences of their behaviour. Children who learn to control their emotions are also more likely to turn into adults who have healthy romantic and work relationships. They are also better able to cope with stress and anxiety.
Parents can teach children self-control through explaining how to deal with frustration and anger. For example, if you are stuck in a traffic jam and getting worked up, you could take a deep breath and say to your child ‘I feel really frustrated when I am stuck traffic jam but I am going to breathe in for seven now and breathe out for eleven and that will make me feel better.’ Explaining to your child how you deal with stress, will help them know how to deal with frustrating situations themselves.
You can also explain to your child about how their thoughts can affect their feelings and reactions. Tell them that it is useful to talk to ourselves in our head when we are feeling angry or frustrated. For example, ask them to imagine an annoying situation such as another child refusing to let them play on the computer. Then explain to them that before they react to the situation, that they can think first in their head about what is the best way to deal with it. Explain to your child that they could think about the different options in their head before reacting and get your child to talk through different scenarios with you. For example, your child might say that they could switch off the computer, hit the other child, push them off or ask for their turn in a nice way and you could discuss with them how the other child might feel or react based on their behaviour. It is important to emphasise to your child that they are in charge of their thoughts and reactions.
Give your child different scenarios such as another child saying ‘You aren’t my friend anymore.’ Ask your child to think about as many different ways of thinking about each scenario as possible. For example, your child might suggest ‘They don’t like me’. You can then ask them how this thought might make them feel. Then suggest alternative reasons for the other child’s comments such as ‘They are in a bad mood’ and ask them how that would make them feel differently. In this way, you can teach your child how thoughts can affect our emotions and how we can control our thoughts.

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