You want your child to know how to manage his emotions and control his impulse to throw a tantrum. A child with self-discipline, for example, understands he needs to wait after dinner to have dessert. How can you teach him patience and self-control? Here are concrete tips from the Harvard Graduate School of Education, and psychologist and author Dr. Laura Markham: 1. Acknowledge what your child is feeling. Whenever your child is upset, point it out to him. Say something like, “I know you're feeling angry because you don’t want to go to bed yet.” Then, encourage him to talk to you about why he’s feeling that way. Your child needs to know he’s experiencing these emotions of anger, frustration, and sadness, and he can control them. Think of it this way: fixing a problem is easier when you know it’s there.
2. Teach your child these three steps to self-control. Adults and children can both benefit from learning this three-step technique to letting go of difficult feelings: stop, take a deep breath, and count to five. Practice this with your child when she’s calm. Then, whenever she’s starting to get upset, remind her to do the three steps, advises Harvard.
3. Don’t make a fuss when your child fails. Don’t be so quick to get mad, or, worse, fix your child's failures for her. Instead, encourage her to try again no matter how long it can take. Spilling water when trying to fill a glass or being unable to tie shoelaces are just some examples of things little children try then fail to do at first. When your child fails, she feels a range of emotions. By experiencing them, she will learn to overcome them and move on, instead of letting anger or frustration get the better of her, says Dr. Laura Padilla-Walker, associate director of Brigham Young University’s School of Family Life. 4. Make sure your child understands your house rules. Set clear boundaries (be consistent!), and make sure your child knows them. For example, tell your child she can’t use her tablet before bed because you want her to get enough sleep at night. When she follows this, she’s showing that she can control her behavior. You don’t have to force her to follow you because she understands the rules. “Every time we set a limit that our child accepts, she's practicing self-control,” says Dr. Markham in an article for Psychology Today.
5. When you’re feeling upset, describe what you’re going through with your child. Imagine you’re angry that your child is late for school because your alarm clock didn't ring. You see that she’s noticed your anger and is concerned. Tell her what you’re feeling -- you’re upset because there’s little time left to prepare. Then, talk to her what you’re planning to do about it -- you’re going to try to calm down and do things a little quicker.
6. Do role-playing and re-enact fights. Practice how to resolve conflicts with your child, says Harvard. Show him that things don’t need to get out of control when he gets into a misunderstanding with a classmate. Take a situation or a fight your child has experienced himself or one you’ve seen in a show or read a book. Do a role-play of the different ways to deal with the situation. Make sure you practice listening to what each other has to say.
7. Encourage your child’s interests. Before your child starts playing with other kids, explain to him that he has to learn how to get along with different kinds of people. How can he start? By being able to manage feelings and control impulses. He can’t just grab toys from other kids, for example.
If your child is into baking, support him as well, says Dr. Markham. Making cookies will teach him how to wait until the cookies bake. Practicing a sport or a musical instrument teaches him discipline by requiring your child to repeat things over and over again until he masters them.