Self-regulation in children and adolescents (2023)

What is self-regulation?

Self-regulation is the ability to understand and control your behavior and reactions to feelings and things happening around you.

It includes the ability:

  • regulate responses to strong emotions such as frustration, excitement, anger, and embarrassment
  • Calm down after something exciting or exciting
  • focus on one task
  • Draw attention to a new task
  • control pulses
  • Behave in ways that help you get along with other people.

Why self-regulation is important

As your child grows, self-regulation will help them:

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  • Learning at school, because self-regulation gives your child the opportunity to sit and listen in the classroom
  • Behave in a socially acceptable manner, because self-regulation gives your child the ability to control impulses
  • Make friends because self-regulation gives your child the opportunity to take turns playing and talking, sharing toys, and expressing emotions appropriately
  • become more independent, as self-regulation gives your child the ability to make appropriate behavioral decisions and learn to behave in new situations with less guidance from you.

How and when self-regulation evolves

Children develop self-regulation throughwarm and welcoming relationships. They also develop it by observing the adults around them.

Self-regulation begins when children are babies. It develops most commonly in infants and preschool children, but continues to develop into adulthood.

For example,you drinkThey can suck their fingers to get comfortable or look away from their caregivers when they need a rest or get tired.

Small childrenYou may wait a while to get food and toys. But children can still steal other children's toys if they really want to. jtantrumshappens when young children are overwhelmed by strong emotions.

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preschoolersThey begin to know how to play with other children and understand what is expected of them. For example, a preschooler might try to speak softly when you go to the movies.

school childrenThey become better at controlling their own wants and needs, imagining other people's perspectives, and seeing both sides of a situation. This means, for example, that they can disagree with other children without arguing.

Preteens und TeensThey can plan better, take on difficult tasks, behave in a socially appropriate manner, and consider how their behavior affects others. For example, your teen might have your perspective in mind when negotiating lockdown with you.

Children who tend to feel things strongly and intensely find it harder to regulate themselves. For calmer children this is not so difficult. Even older children and adolescents sometimes have difficulties with self-regulation.

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Helping children and young people to learn and practice self-regulation

Here are some practical ways you can help your child learn and practice self-regulation:

It's important to adjust your behavioral expectations to your child's age and developmental level. This can help your child avoid the frustration that comes from not having the skills or understanding to do what is asked.

problems with self-regulation

From time to time, various things can interfere with your child's ability to self-regulate.

For example,Fatigue, illness and changes in your child's daily routineall can affect your child's ability to regulate their reactions and behavior. Some children also have great self-regulation in kindergarten, at school or in sports, but find it difficult at home. Other kids struggle in crowded and noisy places like malls. And as children grow up, self-regulation can be challenging if they have a lot of assessment tasks or relationship difficulties.

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Although these self-regulatory issues are quite common, it's a good idea to do sospeak to a professional if you are concernedabout your child's behavior or if you have problems with your child's behavior as they grow up. For example, talk to yourfamily doctor, it isPediatric and Family Nurse, or your child's educator or teacher.

Consider professional help if your child:

  • appears to have more tantrums or difficult behavior than other children of the same age
  • more likely to behave difficult or out of control with age
  • behaves in a way that is dangerous to himself or others
  • Is difficult to discipline and your strategies for encouraging positive behavior don't seem to be working
  • He is very withdrawn and has great difficulty interacting with others.
  • does not appear to have as many social and communication skills as other children his age.

EYour child has defiant behavior and is also autisticor have a disability, talk to the professionals who work with your child. You'll be able to suggest ways to encourage positive behavior and help your child learn self-regulation skills.


What is self-regulation in adolescent development? ›

Self-regulation is the ability to understand and manage your own behaviour and reactions. Self-regulation helps children and teenagers learn, behave well, get along with others and become independent. Self-regulation begins to develop rapidly in the toddler and preschooler years. It continues to develop into adulthood.

What are the 4 types of self-regulation? ›

Four major types of self-regulation strategies are:
  • Self-monitoring (also called self-assessment or self-recording)
  • Self-instruction (also called self-talk)
  • Goal-setting.
  • Self-reinforcement.

What is self-regulation for kids? ›

Self-regulation is the process that your child's brain goes through that gives them the ability to control their behaviors and emotions in response to a particular situation.

What are some self-regulation strategies for kids? ›

How to support the development of self-regulation in children
  • Manage your own stress. ...
  • Keep the end goal in mind. ...
  • Develop realistic expectations. ...
  • Stay calm and model self-regulation. ...
  • Be supportive and encouraging. ...
  • Ensure that children's resource pool for regulation is regularly replenished. ...
  • Reduce unnecessary demands.

What are the 5 domains of self-regulation? ›

Shanker states that behaviour can be viewed as a reaction to stressors which occur in 5 domains:
  • Biological.
  • Emotional.
  • Cognitive.
  • Social.
  • Pro-Social.

What are the three types of self-regulation? ›

The individual set of self-regulation strategies that are usually used by successful students fall into three categories: personal, behavioral, and environmental.

What are the 6 components of self-regulation? ›

Therefore, it is composed of: (a) cognition, (b) motivation, (c) self-concept, (d) affect, (e) volition, (f) metacognition in the form of metacognitive knowledge, and (g) metacognition in the form of metacognitive skills.

What are examples of self-regulation? ›

In psychology, self-regulation has come to mean regulation by the self, not just of the self. For example, we actively regulate or control whether or not we go to the gym, eat a piece of cake, or have a positive attitude.

What causes poor self-regulation? ›

The most common circumstances under which self-regulation fails are when people are in bad moods, when minor indulgences snowball into full blown binges, when people are overwhelmed by immediate temptations or impulses, and when control itself is impaired (e.g., after alcohol consumption or effort depletion).

What are the two types of self-regulation? ›

Behavioral vs. emotional self-regulation: Two types of self-regulation exist — behavioral and emotional. Behavioral self-regulation involves acting in your best interest even when your feelings suggest taking a different action. Emotional self-regulation refers to controlling intense emotions like sadness and anger.

What are the developmental stages of self-regulation? ›

The processes involved in self-regulation can be divided into three broad areas: sensory regulation, emotional regulation and cognitive regulation.

Why is self-regulation good for children? ›

Self-regulation skills help children and adults achieve their goals, but they also help avoid the negative consequences of bad behavior. As kids develop cognitively, they need to recognize that bad behavior has consequences and know what those consequences will be so they can make good choices.

What techniques can be used to improve self-regulation? ›

How to improve your self-regulation abilities
  • Practice self-awareness. One of the most important steps in self-regulation is to learn self-awareness. ...
  • Meditate. ...
  • Exercise. ...
  • Align your goals with your values. ...
  • Be kind to yourself. ...
  • Keep a journal. ...
  • Engage in positive self-talk. ...
  • Seek feedback.
Oct 7, 2019

How do you promote self-regulation in early childhood? ›

Michigan State University Extension suggests the following tips to help your young child learn and practice skills for self-regulation.
  1. Be responsive. Think of it like a game of catch. ...
  2. Be patient. ...
  3. Talk about emotions. ...
  4. Sooth and help them self-sooth. ...
  5. Keep a routine.
Dec 3, 2018

What are the characteristics of self-regulation? ›

Self-Regulation is a complex character strength. It has to do with controlling your appetites and emotions and regulating what you do. Those high in self-regulation have a good level of confidence in their belief that they can be effective in what they pursue and are likely to achieve their goals.

What are signs of poor self-regulation? ›

Some of the most common signs your child could be struggling with self regulation include difficulties with transitions, repeatedly using too much force, frequent meltdowns, recurring social challenges, or persistently having trouble with daily routines.

Is self-regulation part of ADHD? ›

DESR, or deficient emotional self-regulation, is a core facet of ADHD that may carry significant consequences. However, it is not included the disorder's diagnostic criteria.

What does a lack of self-regulation look like? ›

An adult with poor self-regulation skills may lack self-confidence and self-esteem and have trouble handling stress and frustration. Often, this might result in anger or anxiety. In more severe cases, it can even lead to being diagnosed with a mental health condition.

What are three components of self-regulated learning? ›

Specifically, self-regulated learning consists of three components: cognition, Metacognition, and motivation. The cognition component includes the skills and habits that are necessary to encode, memorize, and recall information as well as think critically.

How do self-regulation difficulties affect children? ›

Without the ability to regulate their emotional response children may become stressed or anxious. To deal with these situations they develop coping strategies and these may present to educators as challenging behaviours, particularly in a social environment.

What plays an important role in supporting children's self-regulation? ›

Child care providers, preschool teachers, extended family members, and other adults who spend significant time caring for children can be instrumental in supporting their development of self-regulation. During the first years of life, caregivers are particularly central to development.

What are the benefits of self-regulation? ›

Self-Regulation Benefits
  • Being able to regulate reactions based on negative emotions such as frustration, anger, and embarrassment.
  • Being able to calm down when something exciting or upsetting happens.
  • Being able to focus on a task.
  • Being able to control impulses.
Aug 29, 2022

How can teachers help children develop self regulation? ›

Establish a warm and responsive relationship with each child. Children learn to manage their emotions and behaviors better when they feel a positive con- nection with their teacher. Develop a warm relationship with every child to create a strong and essential foundation for your co-regulation practices.

How educators can help children develop self regulation skills? ›

  • develop a structured program with a consistent routine.
  • make information about the program easily understandable to all children (use both words and pictures, for example)
  • schedule staff to work on consistent days and times.
Nov 11, 2021

What is the exact meaning of self-regulation? ›

Self-regulation is the controlling of a process or activity by the people or organizations that are involved in it rather than by an outside organization such as the government. Competition between companies is too fierce for self-regulation to work.

What is self regulatory development? ›

“the ability to manage your own energy states, emotions, behaviours and attention, in ways that are socially acceptable and help achieve positive goals, such as maintaining good relationships, learning and maintaining wellbeing.” Self-regulation brings together the nature versus nurture argument.

What is the main idea of self-regulation? ›

Self-regulation requires self-awareness and monitoring of one's own emotional state and responses to stimuli. Being conscious of your own thoughts, feelings, and behavior is the foundation of self-regulation; without it, there is no ability to reflect or choose a different path.

What causes self-regulation issues? ›

The most common circumstances under which self-regulation fails are when people are in bad moods, when minor indulgences snowball into full blown binges, when people are overwhelmed by immediate temptations or impulses, and when control itself is impaired (e.g., after alcohol consumption or effort depletion).

What is the importance of self-regulation in child? ›

For children, self-regulation assists in key social and developmental milestones such as making friends and building social skills, learning and achieving at school, making good decisions and managing stress.

How do you teach self-regulation skills? ›

7 Science-Backed Ways to Teach Your Child Self-Regulation
  1. Help your child recognize the higher goal. ...
  2. Use naturally occurring situations to teach self-regulation strategies. ...
  3. Acknowledge the challenge of regulation. ...
  4. Have your child make a choice and a plan. ...
  5. Play games that focus on self-regulation skills.

What factors affect self-regulation? ›

The act of self-regulating is dependent on several different factors that interact with each other, those that are individual to the child or youth as well as those that are external or environmental, including biology, skills, motivation, caregiver support, and environmental context.


1. Emotion Regulation in Children and Adolescents with ADHD
2. Teaching children self-regulation
(Maggie Dent)
3. Building SELF REGULATION SKILLS in children and Adolescents
(Akanni Olubukola)
4. Self Regulation for Teens
(Life Skills 4 Kids)
5. Wednesday Webinar: Emotion Regulation - Strategies for Children and Adolescents
(NJ Center for Tourette Syndrome)
6. Why Do We Lose Control of Our Emotions?
(Kids Want to Know)


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