How to: Help Our Children With Self Control

One of the key things we focus on in our Citywise School Projects with the young people we mentor is Self-control.

Our impulses are very much related to our emotions, that’s something that parents know altogether too well. Sometimes children can seem to be able to do very little about their impulses and their emotions, even when the consequences of their actions are very clear!

But something is going on deeper inside, two parts of their brain are actually battling one another: 

The amygdala (just above the ear) controls our impulses and emotions – for example, urging us to eat a whole box of chocolates, but the pre-frontal cortex (at the front of the brain) is thinking through the consequences, telling us for example that eating a whole box of chocolates may not be good for our diet! This all happens so quickly that often we can decide in seconds only to regret it later. Want to learn more? Click here.

It is the same for our children! Watch this video to see it in action for yourself!

So how can parents support their children when they are facing this battle for self -control?

1. Realistic Expectations

Well it may be helpful to know that children may experience a significant growth in the ability to show self-control around the ages of 5 and 6. After this their ability does not greatly increase without help and practice. So, it is helpful to have realistic expectations about the age of the child and be willing to help them grow.

2. Change the Situation

It may seem obvious, but you can help your child change the situation to reduce temptation; encourage them to put their electronic device away during homework time, or walking away from a situation where they feel angry. Allowing them to make this decision teaches them to identify temptations and empowers them to change it for themselves.

3. Some Activities to Try

Our brains are a muscle and so like any other muscle they need training! Help your child to train their self-control muscle with these 6 Citywise recommended activities:

  1. Teach kids to save money for something bigger they really want
  2. Create an end of the day reward if kids complete all their chores
  3. Play freeze tag
  4. Teach your kids to put a toy they really want on their birthday or Christmas list rather than buying it right away
  5. Have a staring contest
  6. Use your other (non-dominant) hand to do tasks like brushing your teeth for a week

You can find more activities here.

So enjoy watching your child train their self control muscles, and share their victories with us in the comments!