Are your children aware of their feelings, needs, and impulses? Can they calm themselves, control their behavior, and focus on tasks? Preschoolers who can do these things find it easier to take turns, make friends, and adapt to school routines. This ability is called self-regulation. *From Play and Self-Regulation in Preschool by Illinois Early Learning Project
Self-Regulation has been on my mind a lot these days. What can I do to better equip my children to help themselves? To help get some guidance, I asked our Inclusion Specialist, Nicole Wysong for direction.
Have a Great Week!
As the inclusion specialist at ECA, I work with both families and organizations in helping them provide quality early care and education for young children. There are many resources available to families and programs that provide information on strategies and techniques for inclusion.
One resource is Your ADD Answers, hosted by De Shawn Wert, a trained ADHD coach and early childhood preschool director. At this site, Wert shares some helpful information about self-regulation and how it can be affected throughout a child’s development. What is self-regulation? It involves a child’s ability to calm himself when upset and find ways to recover. He can then go back to his typical daily routine. Self-regulation of emotions tends to be more challenging for children with Attention Deficit Disorder (ADHD) as well as other types of social and emotional delays.
According to Wert, supporting children in learning appropriate social and emotional skills can lead to improved behavior. Self-regulation is actually just one of the functions under the category executive functions. Executive functions take place in the brain, working together to help people organize, prioritize and persist in completing everyday tasks. Six functions that are impaired in children with ADD or ADHD:
- Activation – involving organization and prioritizing
- Focus – the ability to sustain and shift attention
- Effort – a person’s ability to regulate their alertness, to sustain effort and the speed that the brain processes information.
- Emotion – the ability to manage frustration
- Memory – your brain’s ability to recall information
- Action – self-regulation or ability to “move on” when upset
With her background as a preschool director, Wert notes that a problem that occurs in early childhood education is the belief that using rigorous academic standards to “push” preschool children to become super achievers is having a negative effect. This emphasis on academic over achievement is having a negative impact on all children. It is not good to overlook the social and emotional area of development. Wert recommends a more balanced approach to supporting a child’s development. It is important that young children participate in intellectually stimulating activities but not to the detriment of social and emotional skills development: “without the purposeful development of self-regulation skills, we can inadvertently set children up for frustration that leads to the dislike of school.”
Wert’s recommendations for parents and educators to support a child’s self-regulation include:
- Help children learn the vocabulary terms that they need to develop self-control. Cookie Monster on Sesame Street sings a song about learning self-control, Me Want It, But Me Wait.
- Teach children to use the word “Yet.” A parent can review with a five-year-old who is frustrated about a challenging task, how a child’s skills improve over time. The parent can remind the child that when he was an infant that he could not walk or talk – YET. When the child was age two he did not use the restroom – YET. When the child was age 3 he could not (pick a skill and insert) – YET. We can teach children that they can persevere, and achieve their goals.
- Praise a child’s for trying. Self-control is not an easy skill to master for a young child. It is important to recognize the effort that goes into trying, not just success.
- Self-talk. Teach a child to review the steps that he needs to take to complete a task. The child can verbally state the steps to boost his memory.
- Teach your child problem-solving strategies to cope with frustration. Strategies that help children include taking deep breaths, counting to three, finding a quiet spot to rest or color, and using self-talk.
- Give directions and specific instructions. Teach, review and model classroom, game and social rules. Be aware that children need repetition – 18-35 times of hearing and experiencing – to master the rules. Do not assume the children remember the rules.
- Identify and develop your child’s own interests, which can be used to help keep your child motivated during the challenges of learning self-control. Keep in mind that your child may not necessarily share your interests. You may like sports, but your child might prefer to participate in music.
- Become the expert on your own child. Learn your child’s strengths and weaknesses in learning self-regulation. Some resources Wert recommends for helping parents and teachers understand challenging behaviors are:
Nicole Wysong is the Inclusion Specialist at Early Childhood Alliance. Through The Indiana Partnership for Inclusive Child Care (IPICC) project, Nicole impacts families of children with special needs and their child care providers. IPICC focuses on:
- Offering on-site technical assistance.
- Providing training opportunities.
- Assisting child care providers to meet criteria in Paths to QUALITY.
- Increasing awareness of and providing resources for the unique needs of all children.
Contact Nicole at nwysong@ECAlliance.org or 800-423-1498.
DeShawn VanDeWater-Wert, learned ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder) can affect adults as well as children when she was diagnosed with the disorder late in life. “It allowed me to recognize and develop my own action plan and leverage my strengths,” she says. It also allowed her to become an expert in that field. With a Bachelor of Science degree in early childhood education from Purdue University, a Master of Education degree in curriculum design plus administrative certification from Indiana Wesleyan University, she has presented at the International ADHD coaching organization and is a contributing expert various books. DeShawn can be reached with additional questions at yourADDanswers@gmail.com
Articles & Tip Sheets:
Play and Self-Regulation in Preschool by Illinois Early Learning Project
5 Tips For Promoting Self -Regulation in Preschool Children: A Parent’s Guide from Trident United Way