Self-control is restraint practiced over one's own emotions, impulses, or desires. It is the ability to make positive choices, to think before acting. Without self-control, students say and do things impulsively which often leads to trouble. Children need to be taught to pause and think of the consequences that may result from their various behaviors.
It is critical for educators to model self-discipline. For example, if you feel yourself losing control of your class, you may want to take a deep breath and calmly say, "When you talk out-of-turn, I feel frustrated because I can't hear what each one of you has to say." By controlling your own words and actions, you are demonstrating to your students a healthy way to react to stress.
Helping children learn to engage in self-talk increases their self-control. For example, if a child gets hit, he or she needs to stop, think and evaluate before hitting back. The student might say to him or herself:
Other coping skills include taking deep breaths, counting slowly, drawing a picture or writing down feelings, talking to someone, or asking for help.
Children who are rebellious and lack self-control are often unable to empathize with another child's feelings or point of view. They may misinterpret ambiguous social situations as being hostile. When they feel upset they may provoke others rather than think of positive alternatives like playing with someone else or choosing another activity. These children often do not understand that their anger is a secondary emotion that results from feeling misunderstood, hurt, rejected, afraid, embarrassed, or frustrated. In addition, they may have the distorted view that their aggressive behavior makes them seem tough and admired, while peers often consider them mean. An educator's responsibility is to help dispel their illusions and teach self-control by example and through a variety of methods.
The following are some ways to help children understand themselves and gain self-control. Throughout these exercises mention that:
Then ask the children to name self-defeating thoughts. For example:
Remember that teaching children self-control is an ongoing process. Be attentive to small accomplishments. Comment and encourage peers to notice when a child demonstrates self-control. If educators continually look for opportunities to help students gain control of themselves and stop inappropriate behaviors, they will be contributing to children's future success and to a positive school climate.
For further information on self-control, check out the new Kelly Bear violence prevention videos to be released in March of 2002: Kelly Bear Teaches About Bullying, Kelly Bear Teaches About Resolving Disputes, Kelly Bear Teaches About Self-Control. You can also read the following articles listed on the Kelly Bear Teacher/Counselor Tips page:
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