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One of the most frustrating moments in my interactions with my son are those moments when his behavior is completely out of control. No matter what I say or do nothing seems to really get to him and help him calm down.
I can clearly see that he is struggling to manage his emotions but his chaotic behavior makes it very hard for me to connect with him. The more agitated or overwhelmed he becomes, the more difficult it is for me to manage the situation.
So I decided to do my best to prevent them from happening and focus more on teaching my son how to control his emotions and reactions.
At his age, he is still learning about self-control and emotional regulation, so it’s impossible to completely avoid these challenging moments. But I noticed that teaching him how to get better at controlling his impulses and managing his emotions had a great positive impact on his behavior.
Self-regulation is one of the most precious skills that we can teach our kids because it impacts their lives in so many ways! Their ability to regulate their emotions and behaviors plays a huge role in their relationships with other people, their success in school (and later in life), and most of all, their ability to overcome challenging moments in their lives.
It takes time and guidance for kids to develop their self-regulation skills, so they need plenty of opportunities to practice these skills and learn new strategies they can use.
This is why I’ve gathered here a list of self-control activities for kids that worked great for us and I hope they will inspire you to try them with your children as well!
1. The best tool for teaching kids to regulate their emotions
When kids are overwhelmed by emotions and their behavior is completely out of control they are not emotionally available to listen to our guidance. So no parenting methods will really work until they manage to calm down and reconnect with us.
The best way to help them learn to regulate their emotions is by creating a calm down corner (or toolkit) for them to use anytime they need.
The way the toolkit looks like depends on the child’s age and needs.
The Time-In Toolkit includes everything you need to create a calm down corner for your child:
- My Calming Strategies Poster
- 32 Feeling Faces Poster
- PeaceMakers Feel Many Emotions Poster
- My Calming Corner Poster
- Calming Steps Poster
- My Feelings Card Set
- Calming Corner Activity Mat
- PeaceMakers Mindfulness Card Game
- 35 Resealable Animal Stickers.
The calm down corner is one of the best positive parenting tools for helping kids manage strong feelings and learn how to regulate their emotions.
If you want to try this approach with your kids, check out the Time-In Toolkit here.
Another great tool for teaching self-regulation is the calm down toolkit (or box). You can easily create it at home and it works great, especially for older kids.
2. Self-control activities for kids: Practice self-control with easy games
Using a playful approach is one of the most effective ways to teach kids new skills.
Here are some easy games that you can play at home with your kids to help them develop their self-control:
- red light, green light
- freeze tag
- Simon says
- freeze dance
- musical chairs.
Also. family games are great for having fun with your kids, but they are also perfect for teaching them new skills.
Here is a list of games that can help you focus on self-regulation skills and teach kids how to take turns, follow rules, handle frustration, and control impulses:
- Jenga, Operation, Suspend (great for improving focus, patience, and concentration)
- board games for toddlers (perfect for teaching them to take turns, follow rules, and handle frustrations)
- board games for preschoolers (that teach them how to interact with other players, follow directions, improve their patience and attention).
3. Use visual reminders at home to help kids manage their emotions better
When emotions run high kids can’t really control their behavior because the emotional part of their brain takes control over the rational part.
To prevent things from getting out of control, you can use visual reminders to help kids keep track of their emotions. When you observe that your child is starting to struggle with controlling their feelings or behaviors, invite them to an “emotion check-in” using a visual reminder.
Here are 2 ways to do this:
- use a picture of a traffic light as a visual reminder and display it in your home
Invite the child to tell you if their emotions are in the green zone (feeling calm and happy), yellow zone (feeling a little bit angry or upset) or in the red zone (their behavior is out of control and they feel overwhelmed by anger or other strong feelings).
If the emotions are in the yellow zone the child needs to “slow down” and find ways to shift their state to a calmer one (with your help, if necessary).
If the emotions are in the red zone the child needs to “push the break pedal” and focus on managing their strong feelings using one of the self-regulation strategies they learned (with your help until they learn to use them on their own).
- use a picture of a superhero to remind kids they have the power to control their emotions
When emotions run high remind your child that they can be a self-control superhero and regain control of their emotions. Offer them your support by suggesting different calming strategies and encouraging them to put them into practice.
4. Use brain breaks to help kids calm down
Sometimes the daily schedule can become overwhelming for kids, especially at an early age. When they get tired or overstimulated their behavior reflects this in a negative way.
This is why offering them opportunities to relax and regain control of their behavior using physical activities is very helpful for their emotional development and mental health.
One easy way to do this is to implement “brain breaks” or “movement breaks” in your home.
Brain breaks are a great tool that many teachers use in the classroom, but using them at home brings many benefits as well.
The easiest way to implement this idea is to create a list of brain break activities for your child and use it anytime you need it.
(I downloaded these brain break cards and adapted them for my son, so we always have activity ideas at hand when we need them.)
5. Discuss different scenarios that teach kids self-control and improve their self-regulation skills
One effective way to teach kids how to control their emotions and behaviors is by offering them easy strategies to use when facing challenging moments.
You can do this by reading books that focus on self-regulation skills and use the stories to teach your child how to react in different situations.
Here is a list of books that are great for approaching topics like self-control and self-regulation:
- What Should Danny Do?
- My Mouth Is A Volcano
- The Way I Feel
- What Were You Thinking?: Learning to Control Your Impulses
- Argyle Fox
- Listening to My Body: A guide to helping kids understand the connection between their sensations and feelings
Also, you can share short scenarios with your child and ask them how they could act in those situations.
These conversations are a great opportunity to encourage kids to open up about their struggles and suggest possible solutions for them to use when they face challenges.
More resources for helping kids develop their emotional skills
⭐ The Time-In Toolkit – a positive parenting tool for building a calm down corner for your child
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