Learning Together

Get answers, share concerns and join in the conversation.

Get expert insight into early childhood education today.

Self-Regulation and School Readiness

by Dr. Susan Canizares | April 7, 2016 | Child Development | Kindergarten Readiness

shutterstock_227528947The ability to self-regulate is an important skill for children to develop. It helps children as they learn to follow rules and understand limits. Recent research has found that kindergarten teachers rank the ability to self-regulate as the most important characteristic necessary for school readiness. There is also evidence that self-regulation levels have a stronger correlation to school readiness than IQ or academic readiness.

Self-regulation behaviors include having the ability to:

  • delay gratification
  • switch between different tasks
  • manage emotions
  • focus attention
  • organize behavior, feelings, and thoughts.

Children are not born with the ability to self-regulate, so their behavior is often dictated by their impulses and immediate wants. Self-regulation introduces the capacity to exercise restraint and decide a proper response before acting.

A child’s natural disposition can influence their ability to self-regulate. This means some children are born with instinctive self-control, while others need to develop strategies to help them deal with stressful situations. It takes a long time for these crucial skills to mature and they’re often not completely established until adulthood.

There are strategies you can incorporate at home to help your child on their path to developing these self-regulation skills. Such strategies may include:

  • Modeling self-control and self-regulation in your own words and actions.
  • Keeping to a predictable, structured routine; anticipate transitions and announce changes in the schedule.
  • Calming the environment by lowering the lights and engaging them in quiet activities, especially if you sense your child is getting upset.
  • Setting limits and being consistent.
  • Looking for ways to practice self-control, such as playing games that promote patience and taking turns, such a “Red Light, Green Light.”
  • Giving children a visual reminder, such as a timer, to see how long they need to wait.

These links offer additional information on the importance of self-regulation in children: