How To Build Self-Management Skills In Early Childhood

Taking the time to teach and build self-management skills is so important for development and life success.

Tired of giving the same instructions over and over again? Wish your elementary-age children were better at self-managing?

What is self-management and how do we learn it? 

What is Self-Management

Self-management is the ability to manage ourselves emotionally and in the pursuit of tasks and goals. It is how well we manage stress and our impulses. And elementary-age children can be impulsive. Their brains are still growing and developing at a rapid rate. But learning self-management is crucial because these are skills that will determine in a large part whether or not someone experiences a successful life. 

It involves self-awareness, social-emotional intelligence, confidence, and a strong character. Self-management skills teach students how to have a growth mindset and take control of what happens to them and chart a good course rather than feeling like they cannot control themselves or the things that happen to them. 

Why is Self-Management Important?

Self-management skills help students not only at home and in everyday life but also improves academic performance and even resilience. They can learn how to contribute more, how to be productive and on time, and all of these contribute to confidence and greater success. 

This leads to helping reinforce good behavior and lowers the potential for behavioral problems. This helps not only parents and teachers but the child too as they will feel more self-assured in life. In fact, Psychology Today says, 

“It’s estimated that 85% of people who can’t self-reinforce may experience a lack of self-esteem, self-approval, and self-confidence. Positive reinforcement works by presenting a motivating/reinforcing stimulus to the person after the desired behavior is exhibited, making the behavior more likely to happen in the future.” 

It’s a positive loop that builds more and more skills and this leads to greater confidence and assurance. Self-management skills affect physical, intellectual, and emotional health. 

How Do You Build Self-Management Skills in Children?

  • Time

A great place to start is with time management. You can get children involved by tracking time for chores and different tasks with them. Then you can begin to have them estimate how long they think a task will take. You can also teach work and break sessions. For instance, you can help them focus on homework for 20 minute periods and then let them know they get a break.  You can make the work periods shorter for younger children or a little longer for older children. Make the breaks fun by putting on music and having a dance session or going outside for a stretch. Then do another homework focus session. This teaches healthy work and break habits. 

Being consistent with daily and weekly schedules will help too. 

  • Health

Another area to teach self-management skills is through health and hygiene. Regular shower and bath times, making sure children brush their teeth, and healthy regular meals can all teach children how important their physical health is. Daily exercise improves physical well-being but can also help children get out that extra impulsive energy for better emotional management too. Stretching and quiet times are great for helping children think about and manage their emotions while getting the tension out of their bodies. 

  • Environment

A big part of helping children learn how to manage their stress is creating an environment that is peaceful and brings awareness and also one that encourages self-regulation. If you are having a busy home day or you know school has been stressful, you can encourage your child to go spend a few minutes alone. Encourage this anytime you see the stress and frustration building. This teaches kids to remove themselves and soothe themselves before emotions escalate. You can let them know when emotional responses are not appropriate but always give an alternative.

You can also teach breathing exercises and journaling. And give each child the space and time they need to encourage it. For elementary children, it is also very important to encourage play. Play is a child’s work. It is when the brain is developing and problems are being solved. Create an environment for play too. 

  • Goals

Learning early how to set and achieve goals is another part of self-management. You can encourage children by asking questions about what they want, helping them choose goals, and then helping them break those goals down into smaller steps. 

Help children get to the root of why they want to achieve a goal and remind them of that if the process gets challenging. For goals that will take a while, it is really helpful to create a visual element of the goal progress. This can be a chart where the child can mark something each time they work towards the goal. A jar where they can put or remove small items. Some way for them to visualize that it is happening little by little. 

For older children, you can also help them brainstorm obstacles that may get in the way of meeting their goals with some solutions. 

Taking the time to teach and build self-management skills is so important for development and life success. Each of these areas will go a long way in serving children through to adulthood. 


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