1st grade self-management tips: Here's how to help your child

Here's how you can help your first-grader with self-management.
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By Jamie Farnsworth Finn

Want to help your first-grader develop their self-awareness skills? Here are some basic tips that experts suggest.

Be an example of good self-management

Most parents have moments when they are upset. At these times, tell your family you need a small break to calm down. Take this time to think about how to come back to the situation in a positive manner. Your child will see you taking these steps to calm yourself and will be more likely to use this technique himself. You can also talk with your child as you calm yourself down. Head of St. Louis-based New City School, Tom Hoerr suggest saying things like, “I’m going to take some deep breaths and count one, two, three.” One of the best ways you can teach your child about self-management is to model it yourself.

Identify a place or technique to help your child calm down

Pay attention to your child’s natural calming strategies. For example, they might naturally look for comfort in a pillow or blanket, or they might try to walk away from upsetting situations. Some children may feel better simply by making silly faces or noises until they calm down. Understanding your child’s natural tendencies for calming can help you encourage those behaviors at other times. You can also help identify a special place for him to calm down, and let him choose what to call the space. Some examples could be the “safe place” or the “peace corner.” Teaching your child that it is O.K. to take some time to collect themselves will allow them to take the initiative and do it on their own. It can be best to practice this before your child is upset so that they can return to the technique or space at times when they are upset.

Limit screen time

Try not to give your first-grader a phone, tablet, or another electronic device every time you find yourselves waiting for a doctor’s appointment, picking up a sibling from school, or waiting for food to arrive in a restaurant. There’s value for your child in learning to control themselves in situations where he’s not entertained.

Make routines into an art project

On a large piece of paper or dry-erase board, work with your child to outline getting ready for bed or school. You can cut pictures out of magazines, like toothbrushes or backpacks, to add to the paper. Map out what is done first and what is done last. Do you start with brushing teeth and then getting dressed? Clearly labeling what is expected of your child helps them act accordingly. They will likely need reminding and reinforcing at times, but showing him what is expected is a good place to start. If your child has difficulty with routines, try breaking them into smaller steps.

Try role-playing with your child

For example, play grocery store and have him pretend to be the cashier. As your child pretends, they are learning self-management by acting like the cashier. Instead of doing something they might have a sudden urge to do, like pet the family dog, your child continues to scan your pretend groceries.

To learn more about self-management for your child, check out our first-grade self-management page.

Parent Toolkit resources were developed by NBC News Learn with the help of subject-matter experts, including Maurice Elias, Director, Rutgers Social-Emotional and Character Development Lab; Jennifer Miller, Author, Confident Parents, Confident Kids; and Anne Morrison, Pre-Kindergarten Teacher, Lycée Français de New York.