How to Help Children Manage Their Own Behavior

Self-management and self-control are essential skills for children so they can act appropriately in a given circumstance. Without those skills, children will act out and seem out of control with their emotions, which could continue into their adult lives. Teaching children how to manage their own behavior gives them more independence and confidence 3.

Practice awareness exercises with your child. The first step to managing behavior is realizing what you are feeling. Make different faces with your child and ask him to identify the emotion you’re feeling. Read a book about emotions or point out when a character does a particular task, such as cleaning up his toys, or show the consequences when he refuses to clean.

Validate your child’s feelings when he is upset, followed by asking him to take a deep breath and take a break from those emotions. For example, say, “I can see you’re upset because I took your toy away. Let’s take a deep breath together.”

Give time-outs when appropriate. Your child will learn how to calm himself down, perhaps with a bit of prompting from you, and he also will learn consequences for disobeying the rules.

Make opportunities for activities that test your child’s behavior, but work toward a goal of self-control 1. For example, role-play with puppets to act out a scenario in which your child wants something but cannot have it. Ask your child how his puppet would react or what options are available to him.

Teach appropriate behaviors. Rather than focusing on the negative or what your child does wrong, tell him what to do and use specific language. Say, “When I say, ‘time to clean up,’ we are going to stop playing and put our toys away.”

Give positive feedback when your child shows appropriate behavior. You can set up a goal chart with stickers or even use a simple high five or thumbs up to show your approval. This reinforcement increases the likelihood your child will repeat the desired behavior.


As children get older, they can grasp the concept of “think before you act.” Until they are ready to put this idea into practice, use activities that teach the same desired behaviors, such as deep breathing or walking away from an upsetting situation.