How to help kids learn self-regulation skills

by | Jul 10, 2020 | Child Development, Discipline, Families, Self-Regulation | 0 comments

Helping kids self-regulate emotion and behavior

Self-regulation is an important skill to learn in order to reach our goals, manage our emotions, and lead a more balanced life. As parents, we can help our children learn these skills and express their emotions in ways other than a complete meltdown.

Both temperament and environment play a role in self-regulation.

Some children have trouble self-soothing even from infancy. They’re more highly affected by stimuli and have difficulty calming themselves down or finding their words. But environment also plays a role. If parents consistently give in to tantrums or create a chaotic environment at home, children will find it a challenge to learn self-regulatory skills.

Read on to find out how to help kids learn self-regulation skills.

Curious what coaching can do for you?

Schedule your free 30 minute discovery session to find out if coaching is right for you. 

How do we teach kids self-regulation skills?

  • Create routines. Children do well when routines are predictable because they know what’s going to happen next. It’s calming, and it’s why children like the same story read over and over.
  • Calm their “downstairs brain.” In The Whole Brain Child, Drs. Dan Siegel and Tina Payne Bryson talk about the downstairs and upstairs brain. The downstairs brain is the part of the brain where basic needs are met. It reacts to keep us safe and is where the “fight, flight, or freeze” response lies. The upstairs brain is where thinking occurs. It’s more complex, and we are able to process emotions, problem solve, and make good decisions in that part of the brain. In young children, the upstairs brain isn’t as developed, and if the downstairs brain is reacting, they can’t get to the upstairs part of their brain. Our role as parents is to help them calm the downstairs and lead them upstairs.
  • Remember to HALT. Some of the most common reasons for children’s misbehavior or tantrums are Hunger, Anger, Loneliness, and being Tired. If you can help soothe these issues, you can often stop tantrums before they get worse.
  • Provide choices. Younger kids want to have autonomy (“I can do it MYSELF!”), so we can help them feel like they have some say in the matter by giving them controlled choices. For example, if getting dressed is a struggle, you can say, “Do you want to wear the blue shoes or the red shoes?” This limits their choices to what is acceptable but allows them to feel more autonomy.
  • Allow time for free play. Children need time to reset by engaging in free play. It lets them channel their energy into physical activity and helps them to learn creative problem solving skills.
  • Give them a Quiet Place. A comfortable, low lit spot where they can calm themselves when they feel out of control will help them learn to regulate their emotions.

Provide children with a quiet space to where they can calm down.

Teaching children self-regulation skills will help prepare them for a future of goal setting, getting along with others, and managing stress. Old school games like Red Light Green Light, Mother May I, and Freeze Dance can also help (and be a lot of fun for families to do together). Here are some more ideas for how to help with tantrums.

Coaching packages big and small

If you’re ready to change how you manage change, we can work together to develop the plan and package that’s right for you.

What kind of high-achiever are you? Take the quiz to find out!

High Achievers can be broken down into different archetypes, each with their own strengths and vulnerabilities. Find out your High Achiever archetype and which coaching program might be the most beneficial for you!

Recent Posts

Wise and Wild

Wise and Wild

In this online group experience, you'll learn ways to reframe the midlife crisis as a rewilding. You're being called to reconnect with the Wise and Wild Woman within--to find out what she has to ...

How “Should” Keeps You Overwhelmed (and what to do about it)

How “Should” Keeps You Overwhelmed (and what to do about it)

The problem with shoulds is that they impose restrictive rules and disappointment on ourselves. We imply that something is inherently wrong with ourselves, and applying that shame can lead to ...

Shadow Work from the Ground(hog) Up

Shadow Work from the Ground(hog) Up

In this imaginative event, Gertie the Groundhog will take you deep into her burrow to teach you how she handles seeing her own shadow. Like Phil, she also dives down when she sees her shadow, ...

What can The Nutcracker teach me about Shadow Work

What can The Nutcracker teach me about Shadow Work

Seeing The Nutcracker is a holiday tradition of mine, ever since I was a little girl. I was even fortunate enough to play a few roles in childhood and adulthood (a soldier, a Ginger Child, and ...

How to Survive Thanksgiving as a Highly Sensitive (or just exhausted) Person

How to Survive Thanksgiving as a Highly Sensitive (or just exhausted) Person

It's Thanksgiving time, and that means family, food, and friends. It also can contribute to overwhelm for those of us who are highly sensitive to physical, emotional, or social stimuli--or are ...

Dr. Kimcast Episode: Grande Double Shot No Whip Gratitude

Dr. Kimcast Episode: Grande Double Shot No Whip Gratitude

Join us for a special Thanksgiving bonus episode where we sit down with Ron Lambert, a Market Leader for Starbucks Corporation, and hear stories of how gratitude, hope, and joy helped him and ...

Dr. Kimcast Episode: Death by Pumpkin Spice Feels

Dr. Kimcast Episode: Death by Pumpkin Spice Feels

It’s November—a time for pumpkin spice and all things thankful. But is there such a thing as too many good vibes? Listen as we talk about toxic positivity and how it can backfire on ourselves ...

Dr. Kimcast Episode: Glimmers, Gratitude, and Dance Breaks

Dr. Kimcast Episode: Glimmers, Gratitude, and Dance Breaks

Not feeling so grateful at the holidays? You’re not alone. Listen as we talk about polyvagal theory and how glimmers of gratitude can help calm the nervous system and train your brain to notice ...