Simple Ways to Help Young Kids Develop Self-Control
Brain development occurs rapidly during the first five years of life, but some areas of the brain mature more slowly than others during this period. One such region is the prefrontal cortex, which serves as the brain’s command centre for executive function. This helps to explain why impulse and emotional control can be difficult for young children.
Although aspects of executive function, such as the ability to concentrate attention and working memory, as well the ability to self-regulate actions, can be improved with explicit teaching, support, and practise even in preschoolers, this is not always the case. There are compelling reasons for parents and early childhood educators to collaborate with young children to aid them in the development of these abilities. Several large longitudinal studies have found that preschoolers who exhibit self-regulatory behaviours go on to achieve greater academic success and are more likely to refrain from engaging in risky behaviours during adolescence than their peers who struggle with self-regulation.
GREENLIGHT FOR SELF-REGULATION
A large number of children make significant improvements in their ability to regulate their behaviour and emotions between the ages of three and seven. By acting as “cognitive coaches,” adults can assist preschoolers in making the most of their developing brains. They can drive home the message that children can improve their listening skills, learn to focus their attention, persevere in learning tasks, and interact with peers in more positive ways if they think about and aim to control their actions.
Adoption of the following strategies can assist young children in the development of their self-regulation abilities:
Talk, simply, and often about behaviours that matter.“Reading time is a time of peace.” “Take turns with your favourite toys,” says the instructor. At this moment, it’s important to pay attention and follow instructions. “Being helpful can make you and others feel good about yourself and their lives.” Maintain a straightforward set of rules and expectations, and remind children regularly when it is time to follow them.
Make a schedule for yourself. Children under the age of five may not be able to tell the time, but they do become accustomed to the cadence of a regularly scheduled schedule. Active children may be more able to sit quietly during storey time if they are aware that storey time will be followed by outdoor play.
Make sure to schedule in time for happy movement throughout your day. Allow for the fact that young children have short attention spans by alternating learning activities that necessitate quiet, focused attention with opportunities for independent play and learning activities that incorporate movement.
Draw attention to the fact that you’re paying attention. Having the ability to maintain concentration on learning tasks is a critical executive function for future academic achievement. Newborns are drawn to the stimuli that are most visible in their environment, which is usually bright lights. Infants begin to concentrate their attention on specific stimuli that are emphasised by their parents and other caregivers during normal development. Toddlers and preschoolers can have seemingly limitless attention spans when engaged in activities that they find enjoyable, such as building with blocks, creating art, or participating in favourite playground games, for example. Presenting other learning activities in ways that elicit the same level of engagement is a challenge. Examples include reading aloud with emotion and enthusiasm, developing playful, hands-on lesson activities, and providing individual attention and support to get and keep children involved.
Make it into a game for your kids. Computer games and card games that require concentration can assist young children in the development of their working memory. Participants in more active games such as Red Light Green Light and Freeze, in which children dance while music is playing and freeze when the music is stopped, must exercise self-control to win. The teacher can direct students to play rhythm instruments such as kazoos faster or slower in time with a beat that has been established by the teacher during music class. Children are given opportunities to take control of their bodies, voices, and minds through a wide range of games and activities, and they believe they are simply having fun.
Encourage people to behave in a prosocial manner. Another method of gaining self-control is to learn to consider the feelings and well-being of those around oneself. Children interact with their peers in more positive ways as a result of this. Prosocial behaviour is defined as voluntary interactions undertaken to assist others in some way. Prosocial competence is not only an important attribute in and of itself but is also associated with academic and social-emotional skills. Young children can be encouraged to adopt prosocial behaviours by their parents and early childhood educators by setting clear expectations for them regularly, modelling those behaviours themselves, and providing each child with individual, positive attention. Incorporate the message that when we help others, we feel good about ourselves, and they feel good about themselves as well.
Of course, just like the rest of us, young children experience highs and lows. While feeling sad or angry, children can benefit from receiving positive attention from caring adults. This can help them begin to understand that they can control their emotions. Children’s feelings of anger or exclusion should be acknowledged, and they should be encouraged to talk about their feelings without being dismissed. They should also be encouraged to think about how they might cope with their feelings in ways that make them feel better without hurting others.
Young children can benefit from developing their working memory, which can assist them in making the transition from prereader to the reader and in improving their problem-solving abilities by allowing them to retain key information in their minds while calculating answers. Children’s ability to pay attention to learning tasks, remember and follow classroom rules, and positively interact with classmates are all examples of executive function skills that increase the likelihood that they will thrive as they begin school and throughout their years in the classroom.