Self-Regulation in Preschool Children

Self-regulation is defined as the act of managing thoughts and feelings to enable goal-directed actions. It describes a set of skills that should be a part of the normal development of children as they grow.

By the time they’ve reached pre-school age, children should be developing the following self-regulation skills:

  • Recognizing a broader range of feelings in self and others
  • Identifying solutions to simple problems
  • With support, using strategies like deep breaths and self-talk to calm down
  • Focusing attention for longer periods
  • Persisting on difficult talks for increased lengths of time
  • Perspective-taking and early empathy

Adult caregivers such as parents, teachers, coaches and other mentors play a critical role in shaping and supporting self-regulation development from birth through young adulthood through an interactive process called “co-regulation.”

At Alta Head Start, our teachers and staff are heavily involved with promoting self-regulation skills in our students. Among other steps, we:

  • Deliver self-regulation skills instruction in our classrooms
  • Train our staff in co-regulation skills
  • Identify ways to support our schools’ and our program staff’s own self-regulation capacity
  • Share self-regulation information, ideas, and classroom approaches with parents/caregivers — to support their efforts to encourage self-regulation in their children, and to promote consistency across environments

If you have questions or concerns about your child’s self-regulation skills, please speak with his or her Head Start teacher, or call (330) 736-0071.

[This article draws upon a 2017 study by Rosanbalm, K.D., & Murray, D.W entitled Self-Regulation Snapshot #2: A Focus on Preschool-Aged Children. OPRE Report #2018-11, Washington, DC: Office of Planning, Research, and Evaluation, Administration for Children and Families, US. Department of Health and Human Services.]