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Help your kids develop self-control

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Getting your kids to make great strides in developing self-control is a good way to learn to manage their impulses in appropriate ways. While older kids are beginning to understand what is and is not acceptable and can anticipate the consequences of their actions, toddlers can begin to be taught how to develop their self-control.

According to founder Early Learners Place and early childhood educator, Glory Ubah, it is important to set and enforce consistent rules on your toddler. This she says will let children know what to expect, which makes them feel safe, secure and in control, which are key ingredients for social and emotional well-being.

Setting limits also helps toddlers learn to manage disappointment – an essential life skill. Hence, set and enforce clear and consistent limits. Daily life provides active toddlers with many opportunities to cope with challenges, negotiate, problem-solve, lose control and regain it. Though it’s natural to dread those moments your toddler ‘loses it’ or behaves in a way that is not acceptable to you, it may help to remember that these are important learning experiences as well.

The positive parenting coach noted that there should be use of words and gestures to communicate your message. Words alone may not be enough to get your toddler to stop an unacceptable activity. This is because your toddler’s ability to show self-control is limited. To help your child understand your message, use a low, authoritative voice. At the same time, use a ‘stop’ or ‘no-no’ gesture along with your words. Keep in mind your toddler may not respond the first or even the second time. It takes thousands of repetitions, hearing the words together with the actions before the words alone will work their magic.

Re-direct your child’s attention. Help your toddler express his interests or meet his goals in an acceptable way. It’s not okay to throw blocks. Someone might get hurt. We should teach alternatives. Tell and show your child acceptable ways to channel his energy. If you interrupt your child’s behaviour but do not offer an acceptable alternative, the unacceptable behaviour will probably continue.

This is because many toddlers are not yet able to identify other (more acceptable) activities on their own. So, for a little one who loves to dump his sippy cup, take him outside or put him in the tub to give him acceptable ways to play with water.

Be consistent. Consistency with rules is key to helping children learn to make good choices. If every time a child throws a toy it gets taken away, he quickly learns not to throw toys. But when the rules keep changing, it is hard for young children to make good choices. If one night a tantrum means he gets to stay up late, but the next night it doesn’t work, your child will be confused about what choice to make: Should I keep making a big stink tonight? Maybe this will be the night daddy does let me stay up if I keep it up.

Ubah added that parents should avoid negotiating. “It happens for the best of reasons. We want to make sure our children feel heard; we want them to see us as open-minded, good listeners. We want to be flexible but negotiating about family rules is a tricky road. Often, a child who is frequently allowed to negotiate will quickly learn that this is a very effective way to get benefits.

“Having consistent rules – about things like holding hands in a parking lot, sitting in a car seat, brushing teeth or taking baths – actually help children feel safe and secure. They come to understand that there is structure, logic, and consistency in their world.”


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