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How To Teach Self-Control To A 5-Year-Old


Hi, I'm Nicholeen Peck and I teach parenting, communication, and self-government all over the world and in this article, I'm going to be talking about how to teach self-control to a 5-year-old. Do you have a 5-year-old? The age of 5 is amazing.

This is a time where they can learn so many things but also emotions are riding a little bit high, their anxiety levels are a little bit higher because they're still young children so, because of that, they do need to start having lessons in self-control. 

What Does Self-Control Look Like For Children?

In this article, we're gonna be talking about what self-control looks like for a 5-year-old and what lessons you can focus on teaching them now. What does self-control look like for a 5-year-old? What should a 5-year-old be able to do if they truly have self-control? Well, they should be able to do the 4 basic skills that I teach in my Teaching Self-Government Course. 

Those 4 basic skills are followed instructions, accept "no" answers and criticism, accept consequences, which means calmly, and disagree appropriately. That's right, children can start to learn these 4 basic skills even as young as 2 years old. 

So, definitely by age 5, they should be able to say, "Okay, do a task immediately, come back to mom or dad and say I took out the trash. Is there anything else?" or "I put the clothes away, is there anything else?" or if mom says no, you can't play on that video game, then the child would say okay and then drop the subject. Always keep a calm face, voice, and body through all of these skills and they would also learn how to voice their opinion appropriately by using the 7 step process with the disagree appropriately skill. 

Is It Possible To Teach Children Self-Control?

Good Self-Regulation

If a child truly has good self-regulation or self-government when they are age 5, they should be able to also see when they are calm versus not calm. They should be able to see when they're happy versus not happy and choose to be calm and be happy. 

They should be able to stop themselves from overreacting and course correct. I know that seems like a tall order for a 5-year-old but I promise you it is completely possible. All of my children by the time they were toddlers were able to do this. 

In fact, you know they can do it because when they're having a tantrum at the store and you say something like, hey, if you choose to stop crying, I'll give you a cookie and then immediately go, okay, I'm fine, that shows you how fast they can self-regulate if they want to. 

What we need to do is instead of bribing them which definitely was that store experience, bribing is no good. No good on bribing. We need to teach them the skills that they need for self-government success. 

Set Things Up To Teach

Before I get to my process for how you want to set things up to teach your 5-year-old self-control, I would like to know what types of misbehaviors specifically that you're dealing with at your house. It could help other people as well so in the chat, how about you tell me what types of concerns you have and what specific ways you're hoping to learn self-control for your child. And if there's some other idea you have for an article that would get more specific on this, be sure to put that in the comments too and I'll get to that. 

How To Teach Self-Control To A 5-Year-Old

Let's get into the process of teaching our 5 years old how to control themselves. The first thing you have to do is you have to decide which skills your child needs. Now, just a little hint, if you teach your child the 4 basic skills of self-government which are following instructions, accepting "no" answers and criticism, accepting consequences, and disagreeing appropriately, then that child actually has all the skills that they need to conquer 99.9% of their behavioral problems so it might be a good idea to start there and I do have some amazing children's books that each teach 1 of those 4 basic skills which are really fun, definitely geared to the 5-year-old age. 

How To Learn Problem-Correcting Skills As A Parent

I think you'll really enjoy them. So then what you do after you learn those skills, you have to also learn those skills that you need to correct the problems so, what skills do you need as a parent to be self-governed and in control of yourself as well so that you don't fall into old habits. So, that's important for you to understand. 

How To Pre-teach Self-Control To Your Child

After you have those skills in place and you've learned those, by the way, you can learn those parenting skills in my Teaching Self-Government course and on, there's plenty of resources there also that you can choose from to teach you some parenting skills. 

How To Prep Your Child For Self-Control

Pre-Teach Your Child

Then after that, you're gonna want to pre-teach your child so prepare them for success by teaching them the skillsReading them the books, practicing the skills, and talking about how you'll correct them and how you'll praise them when things go right or when things don't go right so that they are ready for the future. Then, what you do is in the moment, when they're gonna need one of those skills, maybe you're gonna give them a "no" answer or something like that, then you do an additional pre-teach. 


This type of pre-teach is called a prep. The prep would sound something like this, I'm going to give you an instruction. Do you remember the steps to following an instruction? And then they might list those 5 steps to you. 

At that point, you would praise them, tell them they've got it, and say here's your instruction. I need you to go clean your bedroom, okay, or whatever it happens to be, and hopefully, they follow right along with those 5 steps to following instructions.

How To Correct Children Properly

They should because you prepared the space. That pre-teaching is key for the 5-year-old. Now, if they don't follow the instruction, they don't keep a calm face, voice, and body, they don't say okay, they don't clean their room or check back, then you're going to need to correct it. 

This is where you're correction skill comes into play. You would correct them and they would get the opportunity to earn an extra chore after this calm and descriptive technique that I teach and then as part of the correction, there is additional pre-teaching for future success. 

So, you would have moments of role play where you teach your children again, the appropriate skill, how to handle the situation the right way so that they don't have a problem the next time. So, pre-teaching is heavy for all ages but especially for young children, and that type of consistent pre-teaching, correcting, and praising is going to lay the foundation for that child to learn self-government. 

What Is Self-Government?

What is self-government? Self-government is being able to determine the cause and effect of any given situation and possessing a knowledge of your own behaviors so that you can control them. Now, at first, we have to teach our children self-government.

They don't automatically learn self-government or self-control all on their own. We have to teach them it's possible by consistently following through with teaching, correcting, praising, learning cause and effect now so that they will remember that cause and effect for the future. 

Importance Of Having Self-Government As A Parent

A big factor in your child learning to have self-government is if you have self-government too. Do you lose control because if so, your child might learn that losing control is okay, especially if a parent rationalizes why they lost control? If you lose control, own up to it, do your interaction again the right way and with calmness, and then your child will see the example of self-government, the self-government that you want them to have now and for the future. Self-government is possible for people of all ages, even age 5. But it really does hinge on calmness.

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