• Take healthy choices

An authoritative approach is best because it helps kids understand the reasons for the rules. Instead of saying, “Do your homework now because I said so,” explain the underlying reason for the rule. Say, “It’s a good choice to do your homework first and then have free time later, as a reward for getting your work done.”

This helps them to understand the underlying reasons for your rules. Instead of saying, “My mom said I have to do this,” your child will understand the rules serve a purpose.

  • Be clear about expectations.

Some kids react badly when they don’t know what to expect in a situation—or what’s expected of them. Fill your child in ahead of time if an activity is going to be boring or unpleasant: “We’re going to visit Grandma, and she and I will be talking for a while. Why don’t you bring some things to play with so you won’t be bored?”

  • Help identify feelings.

If your child can learn to recognize feelings before they fester, together you can learn to prevent outbursts. You can say something like: “Boy, you were really mad when I said you couldn’t have a quarter for the gumball machine.”

  • Play at self-control.

For young kids, one of the best ways to learn something is through play. On the way to the bath, or in the supermarket, have your child stop and start different actions. For example, have your child freeze when you say “Potato!” These types of games teach kids to stop and think before acting—a self-control essential.

  • Take a break.

Create a quiet place at home where your child can calm down. It can be a pillow-filled corner or any cozy spot. This teaches kids that there’s a way—and a special place to go—to collect themselves when things get out of hand.

  • Give a related reward.

Young kids often do better at a task if they get a reward at the end. You can do this when your child shows self-control, too. For example, if your child stops playing to set the table when you ask, the reward might be choosing dessert.

  • Praise your child’s efforts.

When you see your child practicing self-control, acknowledge it out loud. This kind of positive reinforcement helps kids feel proud that they can successfully control their behavior. You might want to say things like: “I love how you waited patiently for your turn.”

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