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Self-Regulation Newsletter

Early Childhood Period


During the early childhood period (2-6 years), children become more aware of their feelings and
develop the language necessary to verbalize those feelings, which is an important step towards
regulating their emotions. Children in this age group develop a sense of self; a solid awareness
that they are separate and unique from one another, as well as an interest and understanding of
others, including the formation of friendships and anticipation of how a peer may behave based on
his or her emotion, such as hitting when angry (Berk, 2013). During early childhood, children also
begin to empathize and attempt to console others using language and physical contact, such as
hugging. A childs temperament will, of course, serve as an influential factor for his or her
emotional development. A highly active child is more likely than less active children to engage
socially with his or her peers, as well as more likely to cause conflict (Berk, 2013).
There are a variety of strategies that can be utilized to promote the development of emotional selfregulation skills in children during this period. One strategy is maintaining a consistent and
supportive environment; one that offers a predictable and structured, but flexible routine, which
allows for both independent exploration and organized activities and interactions. Modeling
behaviors, including the use of language, turn-taking, and other pro-social behaviors is also an
important strategy to assist children to develop this skill. Interactions with children encouraging
reflection is also useful; helping children to understand their emotions and what caused their
reaction to certain stimuli is useful in redirecting those behaviors in similar future situations.
Encouraging and assisting with the use of language in response to emotional cues helps the child to
develop the problem solving skills to overcome reactions that may otherwise present themselves
either physically or emotionally aggressive way.
Children who are struggling with self-regulation might benefit from adult-child interactions either
prior to an potentially difficult experience or following an emotionally trying experience; offering
strategies to children as to how to cope with those emotions and redirecting when necessary (Berk,
2013). These children may also benefit from having a safe space when they become emotionally
over-stimulated, such as a quiet area that allows them to express their emotion without hurting
anyone or causing too much disruption to the class.
Good emotional self-regulation skills are important because children who have successfully
developed this skill are less likely to demonstrate behavior problems in the future, as they have
achieved a better understanding of socially acceptable behaviors. They are able modify their
reactions and behaviors in a way that is in alignment with social expectation and increases the
opportunity to meet goals. The development of self-regulation promotes independence, social and
emotional acceptance, as children who have developed this skill are more likely to be at ease and
gain acceptance in a group setting.

Berk, L. E. (2013).Child development. (9th ed.). Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson.