Emotions influence behavior. Part of growing up is learning how to manage our emotions and exercise self-control so that we can treat ourselves and others with respect. Four-year-olds can view situations from another’s perspective ― a useful tool in helping them make choices that are respectful to others, like taking turns or resisting their impulse to grab, hit or yell if they become frustrated. They also have a better sense of time and sequencing and can learn to use strategies to wait patiently (e.g., "I can play on the slide while I wait my turn for the swing").

Encourage your child to practice self-control:

Acknowledge When They Exercise Self-Control
When your child is tempted to respond one way but resists, acknowledge their self-control. This might sound like: "You were mad and wanted to hit, but you stopped yourself! Good work!"

Teach Them Simple Strategies
Kids of every age feel overwhelmed by emotions or impulses, and they need simple tools that they can use to regain their equilibrium and make good choices. For example, "Daniel Tiger's Neighborhood" provides memorable musical prompts about how kids can respond to emotional stress, such as:

"When you feel so mad that you want to roar, take a deep breath and count to four."
"When you wait, you can play, sing or imagine anything!"
"You can take a turn, and then I'll get it back."

You can help children develop with similar simple, memorable strategies. Help them verbalize both what they can't do and what they can, such as, "When I'm mad, I can't hit my brother, but I can stomp my feet or squeeze my ball." You can also model the connection between moods and healthy eating, exercise and sleeping: "Sometimes when I'm frustrated, I eat a healthy snack or take a nap to help me feel better."

Redirect and Change the Situation
For young children, redirection can help them calm down and regain their focus. For example, if it feels hard to wait patiently, encourage your child to play with something else, sing a song or count objects in the room. Teach them simple ways to change a situation, such as sitting at the opposite end of the couch so they won't be tempted to poke a sibling or having fewer toys out so clean-up feels more manageable.