Emotions & Self-Awareness Self-Control: How to Help Your Two-Year-Old Make Good Choices

Emotions influence behavior. Part of growing up is learning how to manage our emotions and exercise self-control so that we can treat ourselves and others with respect. Sometimes that means resisting what we want to do in the moment (like throwing something when we’re mad) and making a more thoughtful choice instead. Two-year-olds can easily become overwhelmed by “big emotions” – including anger, fear and excitement. They often need our direct intervention to help them “cool down.” 

Try the following strategies to help your child learn to exercise self-control:

Acknowledge When They Exercise Self-Control

When your child is tempted to respond one way but resists, acknowledge their self-control. This might sound like: "You were mad and wanted to hit, but you stopped yourself! Good work!"

Go Stop Go

Playing a game of freeze dance can help your child develop self-control skills.

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Teach Them Simple Strategies

Kids of every age feel overwhelmed by emotions or impulses sometimes, and they need simple tools that they can use to regain their equilibrium and make good choices. For example, "Daniel Tiger's Neighborhood" provides memorable musical strategies about how kids can respond to emotional stress, including:

  • "When you feel so mad that you want to roar, take a deep breath and count to four." 
  • "When you wait, you can play, sing or imagine anything!"
  • "You can take a turn, and then I'll get it back." 

You can help children develop self-control with similar simple, memorable strategies. Help them verbalize both what they can't do and what they can, such as, "When I'm mad, I can't hit my brother, but I can take deep breaths or squeeze my ball." You can also model the connection between our moods and healthy eating, exercise and sleeping: "Sometimes when I'm frustrated, I eat a healthy snack or take a nap to help me feel better."

Story Book Builder

Your child can design his own storybook featuring favorite Sesame characters in this pick-your-own-adventure game.

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Distract, Redirect and Change the Situation

For very young children, distraction and redirection can help them calm down and regain their focus. For example, it may be too hard to simply sit quietly and wait their turn for a toy ― so engage them in playing with something else, singing a song or pointing out objects in the room that may attract their attention. This could also mean sitting on the opposite end of the couch so they won't be tempted to poke a sibling or having fewer toys out so clean-up feels more manageable. 

Help Your Child Manage Emotions with Daniel Tiger

Through imagination, creativity and music, Daniel and his friends learn how to manage big and overwhelming feelings using strategies grounded in the teachings of Mister Rogers.

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Activity Finder: Learn With Your Two-Year-Old

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