Naturally impulsive, little ones often reach without thinking -- and might throw all-out tantrums when they don't get their ways. That's because toddlers and preschoolers lack self-control. But before you throw your hands up in despair and assume that your out-of-control child is destined for a lifetime of control problems, rest assured that you can teach children self-control with a few simple techniques.
1. Speak in Positives not Negatives
Constantly telling a child, "No" can frustrate him. Instead, offer positive ways to maintain self-control rather than responding to a situation negatively yourself. For example, if your child is pulling pots and pans out of your kitchen cabinets and pounding on them like drums, instead of saying, "No," distract him with a favorite toy and begin playing with him, explaining, "Toys are for playing, pots and pans are for cooking."
2. Preventing the Problem
If your daughter throws a fit every time you go to the grocery store, it might be tempting to raise the white flag of surrender and simply go to the store when Daddy is home to watch the little darling; however, you can also use the situation as an opportunity to practice prevention. Yes, leaving her behind is going to prevent the fit, but think of a strategy to prevent the problem while still including her. Is she throwing a fit because she's bored? If so, make her a shopping list to help you get your items, or promise a fun activity, like a trip to library storytime, for good behavior. Give her a reason to control her behavior -- and she might surprise you.
3. Taking a Break
Time-out is often the go-to discipline tool, but you can also use it as a self-control training tool if you use it wisely. When you start to notice your child getting worked up, ask him, “Do you need a break?” Before the behavior escalates to the boiling point, turning your little angel into a puddle of tears, teach him to find a quiet spot and take a break, deal with his emotions -- and then return to the group.
4. Puppet Role Play
Because they are naturally impulsive, small children have a hard time waiting for something they want. You can use puppets to help teach them patience. Have your child draw a picture or describe something they would like to have, but cannot have right now. Then, use a set of puppets to role-play. For example, one puppet might say, “I would like to have a lollipop, but I can’t have it right now.” Then, use another puppet to discuss options for dealing with this want, like asking for it later at a more appropriate time. Have the puppet say, “I will wait until after dinner.” Do this for several scenarios so your child reinforces the idea of waiting as a positive thing.
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