The most valuable lesson for a student to learn inside the classroom is not science, or math, or communication skills, or artistic inclinations – but how to deal with others and society in general. Children and their emotional development at this time shapes the rest of their lives. Encouraging self-management over their own emotional impulses will help them in their studies and the formation of lasting friendships.
For teachers, teaching children to manage their own behaviour frees them to spend more time teaching and less time dealing with disturbances in the classroom. Here are five tips for teachers about how to students can manage their emotions. Exercising their independence can be a rewarding experience.
Self-management is about teaching children how to engage in appropriate behaviour, independently and without monitoring. The first thing to learn is to report correctly whether they did or did not perform a task that the teacher asked them to. Question your students about their behaviour, such as “Did you wash your hands?” before they sit down to eat a snack and note if they can assess their own actions as appropriate.
Encourage the habit of being cognisant of their own choices. Tantrums and demands are their own decisions, and show that there are better choices that actually give them what they want.
Identify Specific Behaviors for Self-Management
After noting which behaviours you want the child to self-manage, instruct with clear steps about what they do should do. Display these actions with visual media that are interesting and easy to remember. Pictures and photographs help, but teacher resources like video and songs also help.
Give a reason beyond “Because I say so.” for performing these activities. For children to become responsible for their own actions, they need to feel it’s something worth doing without duress.
Create a Reporting System
You could try an easy-to-use checklist or chart for the child to report on their behaviour. For example, you could have reusable chart done on whiteboard or a box to be filled with cardboard cutouts. Say “If I put the toys on the shelf, I will mark this box with an X” or “If I share with someone, I will have this coloured star.”
Through your daily activities, remind the child about the system and review if they did do as the checklist asked. Monitor their activities and comment where appropriate. Assist your student in marking the chart, or make two copies of the chart that you and the child can both fill up and compare.
In step two and three, children should have learned already why these tasks are expected of them. Let self-sufficiency be a rewarding activity by letting them feel there are incentives for completing the routines, which will help motivate them. Reading a favorite book aloud with the teacher, being allowed to play certain toys, or spend time on the computer are some incentives you can use. Make it clear that to perform these activities is the fastest route to getting what they want.
Even as part of the daily routine, filling up the self-management chart may be an important step before they can move on to another activity. If the child misses a step, gently direct the child to re-attempt the activity or try harder the next day.
At first you may help your students fill up the chart and review their behaviour. The goal is to get the child to use the chart independently until the time when the behaviour asked for is done easily and without the need for a displayable self-management system.
Provide feedback each time they complete the chart. Praise students for engaging without being prompted and for their accuracy in reporting their self-management. Being someone that can be relied upon makes them a better friend to know. Encourage parents to remark upon their self-sufficiency and better self-control as constructive qualities to be emulated.
Control over their own impulses may then transform into a positive feedback loop, in which the more they exercise being responsible for their own behaviour, the more they are trusted and given better access to more interesting advanced activities; and the more they earn praise for displaying desirable conduct.