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Self-Regulation Doesn't Come Naturally

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Teaching our children to be curious, kind, and polite helps our children succeed in life. Yet there is one skill adults overlook that children need to have and that is self-regulation. The majority of successful adults have an understanding of how to respond to different situations and are able to adjust their emotions in those situations.

Self-regulation is not necessarily a natural skill children develop. Some recognize the need to self-reflect, while others have struggles dealing with their internal feelings and social demands they feel are placed on them. Their frustration will be displayed through shutdowns or meltdowns, most often incapacitating them at that point in their activity. This is not a teaching moment, but recognizing the behavior signals you that the child may need some support with self-regulation. Self-regulation is becoming aware of your own emotions and thoughts. Helping your child become aware of feelings and options they might have in dealing with those feelings provides a foundation that will last their whole life. Children who learn self-regulation often are better at understanding the importance of taking time and evaluating their own feelings, behaviors, and actions.

Fostering self-regulation skills in kids is not as hard as you would think, and everyone can use practice with self-regulation/reflection. Start with the child having a good experience, then afterward, discuss with them how they were feeling and what made them feel that way. Consider asking them about a time during the day they were frustrated or mad. Asking them what they thought made them mad allows them to begin to recognize their feelings. One great time to do this quick discussion is at bedtime, reflecting on their day.

Helping your child become aware of their feelings can foster their ability to recognize situations that would have triggered an outburst and allows them to make adjustments where they are able to express their feelings in a better way than having a meltdown or tantrum. Part of the process is to help them understand that the tantrum behavior won't achieve what they were hoping but having hurt feelings or being upset is normal and should be expressed through calm communication.

In self-regulation, the child needs to build social awareness, interpretation, and problem-solving to be able to know how to respond (or not) as they are experiencing their emotions during a situation or setting. This is an internal reaction that we have to become aware of and learn how to respond to in situations. In contrast, an external reaction mandates a response with usually unacceptable behavior at that specific moment.

It has been shown that children who are able to self-regulate will make a positive impact on their own learning and adult life with the ability to recognize and manage their own feelings.

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