If you’re a parent of a toddler, the chances are you’ve had your child make a scene or burst into tears because they didn’t get something their way. While it’s hard to stay calm and collected at such times, this is a perfectly normal developmental phase. Toddlers are too young to be able to regulate their emotions, but if you’re patient with them and guide them in the right direction, they’ll master this essential skill.
What is self-regulation?
Self-regulation is the ability to understand why you feel a certain way and control your emotional reactions. It’s not about hiding or ignoring your emotions since this wouldn’t be beneficial to your mental health. Instead, it involves things like:
- Having adequate reactions to negative feelings like anger and embarrassment
- Being able to calm yourself down
- Easily focusing on an activity
- Switching over to a new task when you need to
- Being amicable and not stirring up conflict
Why is self-regulation important?
Self-regulation is said to be the trait of successful people. Success is rarely achieved overnight, so those who reach big goals have to work hard and keep at it for a long time. This means that they have to get past setbacks and failures, and keep going despite adversity. They also need to remain calm and perform well under pressure. These are all hallmarks of excellent self-control and emotional maturity.
Unlike them, people who can’t put up with frustration give up as soon as things become difficult. They get easily overwhelmed and allow their feelings to get the better of them. Instead of acting in a level-headed manner, they become inpatient, angry, or upset. They are unlikely to make their dreams come true because they sabotage themselves.
In addition, self-regulation helps your social life. People who get overcome with strong emotions, like flying into fits of rage, usually don’t get along well with others. It’s only those who are able to express their feelings in healthy ways who form fulfilling relationships.
How do children develop self-regulation?
Children are not born with this skill set. As babies, they get fussy when they’re overwhelmed. Toddlers have short attention spans and are prone to temper tantrums. In preschool, they begin getting the hang of cooperating with others and accommodating their behavior to take others into account. By the time they’re in school, children develop the ability to see the world from other people’s perspectives and make a compromise when a conflict happens.
How to help my child develop healthy self-regulation?
There are many things you can do to help at different stages:
- Help them recognize and name emotions: When you notice them becoming restless when you’re out, say something like:”Are you getting tired? Would you like to go home now?” Give each emotion a name and teach them to verbalize what they’re feeling.
- Talk about your feelings: They won’t be inclined to discuss their feelings if you don’t talk about yours. Expressing how you feel in an honest and direct manner instead of waiting for them to reach boiling point provides your child with a good role model.
- Prepare them for potentially stressful situations: If you know that you’ll be in a situation that could trigger an emotional outburst, talk to the child about it in advance. For example, they may get very upset when going to the doctor’s office. Explain every step patiently, tell them exactly what will happen, and paint it in a positive light.
- Model positive behavior: For instance, when you and your partner have a disagreement, try to resolve it amicably. This will show your little one that people can still get along even when they don’t see eye to eye on every single thing.
- Praise good self-regulation: When they behave in healthy ways, let them know that they did well and explain what you liked about this behavior. As a reward, take a trip to a trampoline park with lots of fun things to do!