You’ve probably heard about self-regulation. Self-regulation is what makes some kids encounter social and academic success, and makes those who lack it struggle with lack of concentration, poor focus, and difficult emotions.
Kids who have developed self-regulation skills are more school-ready than those who haven’t. Science suggests that self-regulation might just be the key to kids’ overall well-being.
Studies on self-regulation suggest that when kids develop this skill, they are better able to listen attentively (pay attention), think, then take action. They are also more likely to become critical thinkers and to practice self-control
Fortunately, according to research, three parenting habits can foster kids’ self-regulation skills.
The only 3 things you need to know to teach kids about self-regulation
1) Become a sensitive parent
Parental sensitivity has been linked to kids’ early cognitive development. Kids, and even toddlers, consistently send us signals. How we respond to them can help them develop self-regulation skills.
Several studies have found that “sensitive parenting” helps children’s cognitive development. Sensitive parenting in the first years of life (during the first 3 years) has a positive impact in early childhood and well beyond.
Evidence suggests that kids raised by sensitive parents have richer vocabulary, are more likely to be school-ready and are also better at problem solving.
Becoming a sensitive parent means being more attuned to kids’ behavior. It means being able to perceive and understand kids’ signals and respond to them appropriately.
How to become a sensitive parent
Sensitive parenting is similar to authoritative parenting insofar as it requires parents to set high expectations but to be warm and receptive. Kids thrive when we set high expectations.
Sensitive parents support their kids in times of distress and act as their kids’ emotion coach. They provide a context where kids feel safe and are provided with resources to manage difficult feelings and events.
Sensitive parents foster their kids’ independence.
2) Become a mind-minded parent
Mind-minded parenting is similar to sensitive parenting in that it refers to treating kids’ acts as meaningful and motivated by feelings, thoughts and intentions.
Mind-mindedness is about treating kids as individuals and trying to understand what the signals they send mean. It is the belief that kids’ needs are not limited to physical needs alone. Even toddlers have emotions and desires, even though they are unable to express them verbally.
Mind-minded parents are therefore able to accurately read their kids’ signals. For example, mind-minded parents are better able to comment appropriately in relation to their kid’s behavior. For example they’ll accurately determine that their kid is thirsty depending on specific behavior.
No solid evidence has as yet determined whether mind-mindedness is innate or is a skill that can be learnt through practice, but there are a few mind-minded practices every parent can try.
How to become a mind-minded parent
Get to the bottom of your child’s feelings or thoughts. As one study suggests, it’s easier to determine what a kid is actually thinking when we’re willing to evaluate why he or she is demonstrating a particular behaviour.
Mind-mindedness, however, is not just about responding to your kid, it’s about giving an appropriate response. When we are attuned to our kids’ behavior, we are more likely to accurately read their thoughts, interests or feelings.
When we get into the habit of perceiving things from our kids’ point of view and treating them as separate people with their own needs and rights, we are more likely to develop mind-mindedness habits.
Mind-mindedness means assuming that kids understand about emotions, and thus talking to them about different emotions. Several studies have found that the earlier kids are spoken to about emotions (age 3), the better they understand and deal with their own emotions and those of others.
3) Foster autonomy
Parents who foster independence do not shield their kids from negative experiences. They provide them with age-appropriate strategies to manage those experiences. Evidence suggests that scaffolding helps kids develop self-regulation skills.
Scaffolding means providing kids’ with a supportive framework in which they can develop the necessary skills to deal with their thoughts and feelings. As one study suggests, the kids with the most developed self-regulation skills are those who have been encouraged to be independent.
How to foster autonomy
- Give your kids chores. There’s plenty of evidence supporting the benefits of chores.
- Let kids get bored. Providing your kids with less structured environments is good for them.
- Adopt habits for raising independent kids. Give kids less toys. Taming the toys can ignite creativity.
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