Emotions & Self-Awareness Self-Control: How to Help Your Six-Year-Old Make Responsible 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. Six-year-olds can articulate the difference between appropriate and inappropriate behaviors and can often change their behavior with reminders (e.g. “Remember, we don’t run in a grocery store”). They can see how their behavior affects others and control their impulses, but will still need support from parents — particularly when they feel overwhelmed by emotions.

Help your child develop self-control:

Change the Situation

A simple and effective strategy for self-control involves changing the situation to reduce temptation. For instance, if you're trying to eat nutritiously, not having sweets in the house makes it easier to make healthy choices. Teaching kids this strategy involves helping them thinking about in advance and what they could do to "change the situation." For example, ask them, "It sounds like sometimes you and your friend get silly and loud during quiet reading time at school. What could you do to change the situation?" or "You get frustrated when it's time to clean up your toys and go to bed. What could you do to change this situation?"

Practice Cognitive Control

The area of the brain in charge of focus and attention and continues to grow into early adulthood. Encourage kids to read books, play games that require attention to detail, build complex block structures or jigsaw puzzles or practice a piece of music over and over again — these are all activities that will strengthen children's capacity for self-control. 

Code Breaker

Oscar built some traps and then forgot where he put them! Your child can help identify number patterns to show the Odd Squad where they can walk safely.

Play This Game

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: "When your sister bumped into you, you were tempted to yell at her, but you stopped yourself! Good work!"

Teach Them Simple Strategies

Kids of every age sometimes feel overwhelmed by emotions or impulses, and they need simple tools that they can use to regain their equilibrium and make good choices. You can help children develop with similar simple, memorable strategies. If a child is struggling with a particular aggressive behavior, 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 stomp my feet or squeeze my ball." You can also model the connection between mood 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."

Help Your Child Manage Emotions with Arthur

Whether facing down a bully, worrying about a new teacher or being the very last person on earth to lose his baby teeth, Arthur and his friends manage to solve their crises with imagination, kindness and a lot of humor.

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Activity Finder: Learn With Your Six-Year-Old

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