Self-regulation is the ability to control ourselves—it covers not only our actions, but our emotions too. In theory, the stronger our self-regulation, the more likely we’re able to act in our own best interests. And that’s a good thing, right? We’ll exercise more, eat better foods, go to sleep on time and won’t completely melt down when things don’t go our way.
When it comes to our kids, experts believe that kids who master self-regulation become masters of their learning, are more critical thinkers, and make healthier choices; and the benefits are life-long.
As a parent, you’ve no doubt observed that little kids have next-to-none of this magical thing called self-regulation (hello tantrums!) and older kids have a limited reserve of it (I can only handle so much before I explode!). While it is something that develops as we mature, should we leave the ability to self-regulate up to nature alone, or is there something we could do at home to help kids develop or strengthen this important skill? Some exciting research says self-regulation is something kids can learn. And the best part? It can be taught through play. Here’s how:
Red Light, Green Light
Most of us have played Red Light Green Light at some point. But if not, click on over to Zoom where Essence of New York, NY shares a quick recap of how it’s played. Now here’s the twist from Parenting Science that can help kids learn about self-regulation:
After you play a few rounds of the game the traditional way, switch things up. Have the kids run when you say “red light” and stop when you say “green light”. How does this simple switch help kids learn self-regulation? Now the old rules of the game have become habits to break! The kids have to actively think about and practice breaking a habit. While on the surface, it may look easy, it’s actually some pretty serious stuff.
Mother May I? and Freeze Dance
Go ahead and try this out with a variety of games like Mother May I? and the Freeze Dance. Oh, and be sure to hand the reins over to the kids after they get the hang of it. Another way to encourage self-regulation: allow for independence. You get a moment to catch your breath and the kids enjoy feeling like they’re in control. It’s a win-win!