Help Your Child With Self Control

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When I tell parents in class that we are going to work on inhibitory control, which helps their child learn to control their bodies, they smile, nod their heads, and some say, “boy does my kiddo need help with this!"

Control of the body is the first kind of control children have over themselves and is the first step toward development of internal control or “self discipline.” Activities that encourage the child to focus, listen, then react through movement or non-movement develop a strong sense of internal control.
— — Dance for Young Children by Sue Stinton

Self control is a learned behavior that develops over time.

Teachers know first hand the importance of healthy self-regulation in a classroom full of children. A child with mature self-regulation abilities patiently waits his turn, raises his hand to ask a question, and uses his “inside” voice to talk.

This takes practice because young children have a hard time controlling themselves (telling their bodies what to do, when and how to stop, etc.)

One aspect of self control is inhibitory control, or the ability to stop oneself and to wait.

We like to play with Stop and Go in our Kindermusik classes because your babies, toddlers and preschoolers love Stop and Go games. These games allow your child to practice control over his physical body and to revel in his mastery of this control.

Music lends itself to learning inhibitory control so beautifully because by just matching the music or chanting and stopping when the music stops, we are not only learning the beginnings of great musical ensemble play, but self control.

Self control is also about listening.

When children are challenged to respond to a change in a musical cue by moving in a different way (fast and slow, smooth and bumpy, or high and low, for example), we are helping them coordinate their auditory and motor skills on cue.

Inhibitory control is also important in social interactions where taking turns is involved, conversation skills are involved, and as such is an important skill for success in school.

Ideas for enhancing inhibitory control in your child

  1. Try singing your transitions at home to encourage inhibitory control development. For example, " toys away” ( sung to the same pitches as “Star Light, Star Bright”) or "this is the way we change our diaper” (to the tune of "Here We Go Round the Mulberry Bush”) Singing to your child to put his toys away, may help him make a choice to stop his play, even when he is enjoying what he is doing. That's inhibitory control - choosing to stop a natural impulse.

  2. Have a family dance party. Find a way to stop the music in the middle of the song and freeze your bodies when the music stops. Repeat this over and over until the song is finished. You’ll be sure to instill some inhibitory control in your child all while giggling and having engaging family time together. If you have a baby - you get to hold them while dancing and freezing - they will learn inhibitory control by feeling it from you first.

  3. Gather some home made instruments (baby wipes containers make great drums!). Say tap tap tap and STOP (freeze your music making). Add in other words that fit the chant: shake, rub, slide, etc. Turn on some music and play along as in the dance party - have the music stop and see if your child can stop their playing.

So much to be learned while learning to stop and go with music!