Every parent has dealt with a tantrum or two from their kids. After all, that’s what we signed up for when making the big decision to enter parenthood, right? But what if I told you that there comes a point when screaming and crying is longer the appropriate response to an upsetting situation? Just like teaching your child how to walk and talk, emotional regulation is a skill that every parent must teach their kids.
What is Emotional Self-Regulation?
First, let’s break down what emotional self-regulation is. Emotional self-regulation is the ability to manage your emotions and behavior to ensure that you act in a way that is appropriate to the situation. Those who are self-regulated are able to bounce back despite the unpredictability of the world and their own feelings. In kids, this can be seen as:
- The ability to restrain from exhibiting highly emotional reactions when faced with something upsetting (i.e., not having a tantrum when mom or dad doesn’t buy you a treat in the grocery store).
- The ability to independently calm yourself down when you get upset.
The ability to adjust to a change in expectations (e.g., when a playdate is canceled).
The ability to handle frustration without an outburst (e.g., when struggling to tie your shoes).
What Does Emotional Dysregulation Look Like?
On the other hand, emotional dysregulation can vary between kids. Some may have strong instantaneous reactions to situations with no prewarning while others have distress build up over time, leading to an emotional meltdown or tantrum. Parents and teachers can often see it coming, but struggle to prevent it.
Self-regulation is a Skill That Must be Learned.
Tantrums are to be expected in young children between the ages of 18 months – 3.5 years old. However, if a child reaches school age (5 years old) and continues to have tantrums, then it’s likely that they have not yet learned the necessary skills to regulate their own emotions and need help to develop this skill.
How Do I Teach My Child These Skills?
Walking and talking are both skills that can be physically taught, whereas self-regulation requires mental effort making it even harder to explain to your child. Here are 5 tips to help make that process easier: