Five Tips for Helping Your Child Learn Self-Control

By Jennifer Gibson, PsyD, Licensed Clinical Psychologist

Have you felt frustrated by your child interrupting your conversations? Does your child have difficulty waiting his turn with friends? Does your child continue to touch objects in your house that you have told her not to? Learning to control oneself is something we all have to learn, and it cannot be learned in one instance, but over time with life experience and repeated teaching. The following tips can help encourage your child’s learning of self-control. 

  1. When giving your child information during this learning process, use simple and few words.  Too much information can be overwhelming to your child and the teaching can get lost.  Repeat the same few, simple words when reminding your child of information. Do not over-explain or lecture.
  2. First help your child notice his behavior. Break down what happened and help him see where he had other choices to behave.
  3. Help your child come up with alternate choices for her behavior. For instance, at a play date when sharing new toys, what other activities can your child play when taking turns?
  4. Once your child has learned to slow down his behavior and think about his choices, develop a cue phrase with your child that you can use to remind him to stop his behavior and think about his choices. An everyday phrase can work well such as, “Do you need something to do?”
  5. Be sure to give your child chances to correct a behavior in the moment. This will encourage her learning process, as she applies the information in the moment, which is the most relevant time.


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