May 21

Teaching Toddlers Emotional Self-Control: A Few Practical Thoughts

2014 at 8:04 am   |   by Nicole Whitacre Filed under Biblical Womanhood | Emotions | Motherhood | Parenting Young Children

Teaching our little ones how to handle their feelings is some of the “grunt work” of mothering. It doesn’t feel fun, for us or for our kids, but it creates an environment in which we can experience wonderful, bonding, moments with our children. More importantly, we are tilling the ground for gospel seeds. Here are a few practical thoughts on teaching little ones self-control with their emotions.

Model Self-Control: Instead of panicking when they panic or getting angry when they scream, we demonstrate a self-controlled response to the situation. My husband and I often try to help our children by responding with affectionate amusement when they overreact. My husband tries to make them laugh when they cry over nothing; they feel his care and at the same time they learn how to exercise emotional self-control.

Practice Self-Control: Emotional self-control is easier when a child has learned self-control with their speech and actions. Consider: How can you make “practicing self-control” part of your daily life? Listening without interrupting at the dinner table, set times of sitting still and reading, staying on their bed at night, not grabbing toys, or holding your hand when outside—all of these practices will help your children learn the valuable virtue of self-control.

{Don’t Always} Discipline for Self-Control: We must be very careful to distinguish between childish exuberance or exhaustion and true disobedience. An over-tired or teething child who won’t stop crying is in need of a good night’s sleep. A child who is noisy or silly or gets on your nerves might need forbearance more than discipline. On the other hand, we as parents must be discerning and diligent to deal with defiant, repetitive, behaviors that reveal a concerning lack of self-control.

Teach Self-Control: There is a lot to teach your children about handling emotions, but self-control is the place to begin. In age-appropriate ways we can teach our children what God’s Word says about the importance of self-control.

~Memorize Bible verses (Prov. 25:28, 1 Cor. 9:24-27, Gal. 5:22-24, 1 Tim. 2:9, 2 Tim. 1:7, 2 Pet. 1:5-8).

~Make learning fun for the whole family by acting out a right and wrong way to respond.

~Sing songs about self-control. To Be Like Jesus and Seeds of Character include songs and Scriptures set to music that talk about self-control.

~Tell and/or read stories that show the blessings of self-control. Saturate their hearts and minds with narratives that highlight the blessings of self-control.

~ Have self-control sticker charts or contests among the kids. Encourage them to notice and encourage self-control in each other.

Helping our children build a wall of self-control is a lengthy, unglamorous, process, but the end goal is beautiful, fulfilling, and God-glorifying for our families. Don’t lose sight of it!

Related Posts:

Godly Feelings Flourish Behind Walls of Self-Control

Q&A: How Do We Deal with Our Daughters’ Emotions?