Children are impulsive by nature. Unlike adults, when they are young they are not able to measure the consequences of their actions and act without thinking too much. This is because at an early age the connections of the prefrontal lobe, related to the ability to think and act rationally, have not matured enough. Therefore, children tend to respond to stimuli almost instantaneously, until the age of seven or so, they will not be able to consciously regulate their reactions.
However, turning seven is not a guarantee of self-control. In fact, even though the brain’s mechanisms are already ready, if parents don’t encourage this ability, children won’t have the cognitive tools they need to properly regulate their behavior. Therefore, it’s important to teach them early on some strategies that promote self-control.
5 exercises to stimulate self-control in children
Time-out exercise is one of the most popular methods of building self-control in children. This is a very effective training that stimulates the ability to contain impulsive responses and calm emotions, outside the environment that has triggered the problem. It consists of creating a space in which the child can calm down whenever he feels his anger rising. This place can be anywhere inside or outside the home, but it is important that it be a neutral space that promotes relaxation, so that the child can calm down. The idea is for them to change their environment to reduce tension and regain their calm… and for the adult to accompany them.
2. Blowing bubbles
It is curious how a game as simple as blowing bubbles can stimulate self-control in the child, but the truth is that its results are excellent. This strategy helps regulate the child’s impulsive responses through their breathing, producing an effect very similar to that obtained with the diaphragmatic breathing technique. The mechanism is simple: while the child blows to make the bubbles, their breathing slows down, blood pressure It goes down and your heart rate normalizes. In this way, the child feels more relaxed and can control his behavior better.
3. Practicing martial arts
Physical exercise brings enormous benefits to the brain, especially when it comes to aerobic activity. However, a study published in the journal Applied Developmental Psychology ensures that training in martial arts is more effective than traditional exercises and can enhance self-regulation in children at a cognitive, emotional and behavioral level. The secret is that Martial arts exercise the mind and body, promoting balance, while teaching children to control their impulses.
4. Offer supportive hugs
The affection that is expressed through a hug can be much more effective than we think. In fact, it is known that when we hug children we stimulate the release of oxytocin, a hormone that inhibits tension and provides a feeling of well-being. In this way, the little ones not only feel loved but also more relaxed and calm. Therefore, a good strategy to help them gain self-control is to try to hug them when they have lost their temper, in this way you will not only be containing them but you will also calm them down and transmit your love to them. That hug should be affectionate, but also firm.
5. Become their role model for self-control
The best way to teach children self-control is to become their role model for self-regulation. Children tend to imitate the behavior of adults and if they have a good pattern of self-control, they will surely end up applying those same strategies to regulate their behavior. The explanation for this phenomenon comes from the hand of the “mirror neurons”, a type of cells whose function is to imitate the behavior of the people around us and that lay the foundations for learning by imitation. In this way, if you become an example of behavior for your child and are able to maintain control and regulate your behavior in front of him, you will be stimulating him to act in a similar way.