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Beyond Textbooks

What is Self-Regulation and Why is it Important?


Sari Nieminen, Vail Inclusive Preschool


Self-regulation requires a child to develop the ability to manage his emotions and control bodily functions as well as maintain focus and attention. Self-regulation is grouped with behavior, emotional and social development – all areas that affect a child’s ability to learn. 

Teachers use intentional planning in their classrooms to help children develop self-regulation skills. For example, a teacher might tell a child who runs off to a block center: “This center is full; you need to choose another one.” The child may look around the classroom, unable to make choice, and run off to the block area only to knock over a tower that a peer created. This young child may be labeled “difficult,” “aggressive,” and/or “having difficulty interacting with peers.” However, he may not have been taught how to control reactions. It is important to recognize that the ability to inhibit one’s own actions does not come naturally to children; they must learn it.

Many of the behaviors and attributes associated with successful school adjustment are related to self-regulation skills. The critical window for self-regulation takes place from birth to age five. During this time, parents, teachers, and caregivers can help children build the necessary skills that are critical to regulate thinking and behavior through modeling, realistic expectations, and scaffolding. 


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