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Home > Living Well > Health Library > Preschoolers: Building Self-Control
Gaining self-control is one of the biggest challenges that children face between the ages of 2 and 5. Children need guidance, clear limits, and patient parents during this time of behavioral and emotional struggles. They also need interaction with other children and adults to help them learn self-control and self-confidence.
Here are some tips that parents and caregivers can use to help children learn to control their emotions.
Children learn by example.
Children who are rewarded for behaving well learn to get attention in positive ways. For example, by hearing "Great job! You used your words when you were angry instead of hitting," a child feels good and learns that this attention is better than being reprimanded for aggressive behavior.
For example, asking "How do you think your friend felt when you were teasing her?" helps your child understand that their actions affect others. Parents and caregivers help them learn this important trait.
Finding a replacement activity for a misbehaving child works well during the first year or two. For example, a child who is bothering a pet may be distracted with a toy. The technique may continue to work with preschool children. But its effectiveness will gradually fade.
Time-out works best when children do something that they know is not acceptable and just won't stop, such as hitting or biting. Time-out is not effective if it is used too often or if it is used for behaviors that are not within a child's control. For example, time-out is not appropriate for children who accidentally wet their clothes instead of using the toilet.
Children, especially preschoolers, crave acceptance and attention. Completely ignoring a misbehaving child is effective in curbing minor behavior problems, such as whining or complaining. This technique takes patience on behalf of the parents, but when it is used repeatedly, it can be very effective.
Physical punishment is not an effective method of managing behavior. This type of discipline teaches children:
Current as of:
September 20, 2021
Author: Healthwise StaffMedical Review: John Pope MD - PediatricsKathleen Romito MD - Family MedicineLouis Pellegrino MD - Developmental Pediatrics
Current as of: September 20, 2021
Author: Healthwise Staff
Medical Review:John Pope MD - Pediatrics & Kathleen Romito MD - Family Medicine & Louis Pellegrino MD - Developmental Pediatrics
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