As an educator, you understand the importance of teaching your students more than just academic content. One skill that can make a big difference in their long-term success is self-regulation.
Self-regulation is the ability to manage one’s own thoughts, emotions, and behaviors in order to achieve a goal.
Students who can regulate themselves tend to have better outcomes in school, as well as later in life. But how can you help your students develop these skills?
In this post, we’ll explore 13 tips for helping your students develop strong self-regulation skills.
Self-regulation refers to the ability to manage and control your emotions, thoughts, and behaviors to respond in a positive and constructive way. It is the foundation of emotional intelligence that allows children to manage stress, develop healthy relationships, and make effective decisions. It is a crucial life skill that every child should learn and apply in their lives.
Research indicates that self-regulation leads to better academic and social outcomes. Students who have high levels of self-regulation perform better academically and have better mental health outcomes. Moreover, it is an essential skill for emotional resilience, which can help children deal with stress, anxiety, and depression.
Incorporating self-regulation skills into the curriculum can be beneficial in helping students lead successful lives. Teaching about emotions, social skills, stress management, decision-making, and problem-solving can promote self-regulation. Teachers can utilize a multi-tiered system of support, which includes implementing universal, targeted, and intensive interventions.
However, recognize that some children may experience challenges with self-regulation due to different factors, such as mental health disorders, traumatic experiences, and other underlying conditions. Therefore, teachers should work collaboratively with healthcare providers, specialists, and families to support students with self-regulation challenges.
When students learn self-regulation skills, they are better equipped to handle challenging situations and make positive choices.
Here are a few ways you can build self-regulation in the classroom, no matter the age or ability of the students you’re working with.
Playing games is a fun and effective way to build self-regulation skills in students. Games like Simon Says, Red Light, Green Light, and Freeze Tag require students to listen, follow directions, and control their bodies.
As students play these games, they learn how to manage their impulses and emotions. These games also provide an opportunity for students to practice taking turns, which is an important part of self-regulation.
Board games and card games are other ways to help students build self-regulation skills. Games like Chess, Checkers, and Monopoly require students to think before they act and plan ahead.
Routines provide structure and predictability, which are important for students’ emotional stability.
When students know what to expect, they are less likely to become upset or overwhelmed. Incorporating routines into your classroom can be as simple as having a consistent morning routine or a predictable end-of-day routine.
You can also create routines around specific activities. For example, if your students struggle with transitioning from math to reading, you could create a routine that includes a brain break or a calming activity in between.
Share journals are a great way to help students develop self-awareness and self-reflection skills. A share journal is a notebook that students take turns writing in. Each day, a different student writes about their thoughts, feelings, and experiences. The other students in the class read the journal entry and respond with supportive comments or questions.
This activity fosters a sense of community and empathy and encourages students to think about their own emotions and thoughts.
Movement breaks are a powerful strategy for students who struggle to stay focused or regulate their emotions. Giving students a break, especially if they haven’t been moving around much, helps them release energy, reduce stress, and recharge to improve focus.
Movement breaks can be as simple as stretching, jumping jacks, or taking a quick walk around the classroom.
Mindfulness and meditation are practices that can help students become more attentive, learn how to focus on the present moment, and improve their self-regulation skills. Mindfulness and meditation activities can be simple and quick, such as deep breathing and stretching exercises.
Encourage your students to take a moment to be present, focus on their breath, and let go of any stressors.
Literature or social stories can help students learn about self-regulation in an entertaining and engaging way.
You can use children’s books such as “My Mouth is a Volcano” by Julia Cook, “When Sophie Gets Angry – Really, Really Angry” by Molly Bang, or “The Way I Feel” by Janan Cain to teach emotional awareness. Social stories can also help children recognize that other people experience similar emotions and that it is natural to have different feelings.
Role-playing enables students to practice managing their emotions and behavior in a safe and supportive environment. You can use real-life scenarios or create situations that challenge specific skills like empathy or frustration tolerance.
You could also ask students to take on different roles, such as teacher and student, to help them develop a better understanding of different perspectives.
When students become overwhelmed or emotional, it can be beneficial to provide them with a safe space to calm down. Creating a designated area with comfortable seating, calming music, and sensory materials like stress balls or aromatherapy can help students self-soothe and de-escalate when they need to.
SMART (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, Time-Bound) goals are an excellent way to support self-regulation and help students develop a growth mindset.
Encouraging students to set goals based on their strengths, weaknesses, and interests can increase their motivation and sense of self-efficacy. You can also help students develop a plan for achieving their goals and provide regular feedback and encouragement.
The first step to building self-regulation skills is to teach students about different emotions. Use an emotions scale to explain different emotions that students can feel. This will help them identify and express their emotions accurately. When students understand their emotions, they can better regulate them.
Emotional awareness is about knowing what you feel and being able to express it healthily. You can use techniques like “name it to tame it” to help students identify and recognize their emotions.
Encourage them to use I statements like “I feel _____ when _____” instead of accusatory statements such as “You make me _____”. Encourage them to name their emotions correctly by using a chart or a list of emotions. Through this technique, students will learn to identify their emotions and feel empowered to manage them.
Building in time for self-reflection is crucial in helping students regulate their emotions. Encourage your students to take a few minutes each day to reflect on their thoughts and feelings.
This will help them identify triggers that cause certain emotions. Ask them to write in a journal or talk about their feelings with a peer. Reflecting on emotions is a powerful tool that students can use to build self-regulation skills.
The way you arrange your classroom can make a huge difference in building self-regulation skills. Encourage independence by arranging your classroom in a way that allows students to move around freely.
Provide choices for seating arrangements or let students choose their own seats. This gives students a sense of control and encourages self-regulation during class activities.
As mentioned earlier, explicitly teaching self-regulation skills is critical to help students master these skills.
For example, teach students calming techniques such as deep breathing, counting to 10, or taking a walk. By explicitly teaching these skills, students can better understand how to control their emotions in different situations.
By incorporating these tips into your teaching, you can help your students develop strong self-regulation skills that will serve them well in school and beyond.
Remember, teaching self-regulation is a process that takes time and effort. But with patience and persistence, you can help your students become more independent, resilient learners.
The child who is ‘left behind’ most is the one who leaves school without transition readiness.
Dr. James Stanfield, Ed.D.