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How to Teach Your Kids Self-Control

If your kids are prone to meltdowns, learn how to help them cope.


  • Step 1: Set limits Set limits and consistent boundaries at the outset. Kids don't understand the difference between wants and needs. You are the boss, and their teacher.
  • TIP: "Your crisis isn't everybody else's emergency," is a good rule of thumb to teach them.
  • Step 2: Stay calm Stay calm to demonstrate your own self-control. They need to know that their reaction is out of proportion to the problem, but they can't learn that if you're yelling, too.
  • Step 3: Enforce consequences Enforce direct consequences as opposed to arbitrary punishment. If they throw a tantrum over wanting to watch a TV program, shut the TV off, rather than say, sending them to their room.
  • TIP: Children are more intelligent than parents think they are and appreciate having to figure things out.
  • Step 4: Use teachable moments Use teachable moments to address behavior. Make them take responsibility -- guide them to identify what they did and identify better behavioral choices.
  • Step 5: Encourage mistakes Let them make mistakes. Problems are opportunities to learn better behavioral and coping skills. Comfort them, but encourage them to try self-discipline again, noting what they did right.
  • Step 6: Be a role model Set a clear example by following the rules you set. Kids emulate their parents' actions, so illustrate how gratification can be delayed and how to cooperate with others' needs in mind.
  • FACT: Some types of impulsive behavior, according to information published in 2007 by the National Institute of Health, can be a symptom of bipolar disorder.

You Will Need

  • Limits
  • Consistency
  • Boundaries
  • Calm demeanor
  • Decisiveness
  • Consequences
  • Teachable moments
  • Encouragement
  • Kindness

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