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Provo City School District

Lakeview Elementary School

Teaching Self-Regulation

Self-regulation is controlling our emotions or actions. Self-regulation is a skill that is not something we are born with but needs to be taught and then practiced. 

It is important to not avoid hard situations but to coach kids through tough situations, without regulating for the child. If you regulate for the child it can cause resentment because instead of recognizing that the task is frustrating, the child will see the adult as frustrating for “making” them do it.

What helps students learn self-regulation?

  1. When kids act out, encourage them to slow down and reflect. Kids can learn to ask themselves: What went wrong? Why? How can I fix that for next time?
  2. Kids can get upset because they have failed before and are afraid of failing again. Practicing mindfulness can help because mindfulness teaches kids how to focus on the present instead of the past or future.
  3. Breaking an activity into smaller, more doable parts can help. If a task is overwhelming and results in a tantrum or meltdown, break it down into easier steps and slowly add more steps until the child feels confident in doing it independently.
  4. Another similar strategy is Scaffolding, or providing a supportive framework. This could look like helping the child with one problem and then expecting them to try the rest. The parent or teacher would check in on them at intervals and offer praise for their effort.
  5. If a student feels frustrated, they might give themselves short breaks to stop themselves from feeling overwhelmed. This could look like getting up to get a drink. They might use a timer to give themselves regular breaks to do a different activity that is less stressful for a period of time.
  6. Try a “Practice Run”. If you know your student will have a hard time with an activity, practice it first when it is low-stress.  For example, if the first day of school is scary, then visiting the school, teacher, and classroom before other students are there can help the student feel calmer or ready to ask for help before an extremely stressful event.
  7. It’s easy to get discouraged when things don’t go well the first time your student tries to build better regulation skills, but consistency and starting at a level that is appropriate for your student are key. 

Rather than giving up, try the suggestions above to help your student feel more success. Seeking further help or training for extreme situations can also be appropriate. 


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