• benchmarks: the standards by which something can be judged. Benchmark behaviors are those behaviors that are typical, and against which most behaviors can be measured
  • developmentally appropriate practices: teaching and learning experiences grounded in the way in which we know that children learn, based on understanding the characteristics of a “typically-developing” child
  • executive function: all the cognitive processes that help a child behave and think in an organized way
  • self-regulated learners: children who have learned to manage strong emotions, control impulses, and stay on task with minimum distraction
  • social competencies: skills needed for successful social interaction; in young children these include making simple decisions, interacting with others in productive ways, and being able to resolve conflicts in appropriate ways (by using their words and negotiating and not being aggressive)

Develop Self-Regulated Learners

Before watching this video, read the text below. When instructed, watch the video from the beginning to end.

For a young child, self-regulation means learning to control one’s emotions and behaviors well enough to focus on tasks, enjoy activities, solve problems, and get along with others. Self-regulation is the result of a well-developed executive function—all the cognitive processes that help a child think and behave in an organized way.

Children do not become self-regulated learners on their own. In order to develop good emotional and social skills, children need a nurturing, supportive, and positive environment with rules that are purposeful, easy to understand, and enforced. When children see themselves as an important part of the learning community, they feel more confident and are better able to control impulsive and disruptive behaviors. This, in turn, helps them develop their executive function, which later helps them in school and life.

  • Model problem-solving strategies. Use role-play to help children understand that they have options for handling problems.
  • Understand and support children's emotions, fears, and frustrations that stem from their struggles for success, especially as compared to their peers.
  • Use language to support children. Ask questions and model language that encourage children to think about other people, not just themselves. (Why do you think Paloma is sad? Or, Tell Peter why you’re sad. Say, You stepped on my building.)
  • Set up activities and centers to support children’s self-control and self-regulation. Limit opportunities for distraction, conflict, and frustration. Don’t present challenging tasks at a time when children will have difficulty controlling their impulses (such as before lunch time or nap time).

In this video you’ll see how the educators model negotiating skills and nurture a spirit of independence and social competency. As you watch, look for effective strategies used by the educators in the video and jot down answers to this viewing question in your Learning Log.

  • What strategies do the educators use to foster children’s abilities to self-regulate?
  • How do the educators help children negotiate problems?


How can you provide developmentally appropriate learning that fosters self-regulation?

  • Use role-play to help children act out situations, help one another, and negotiate solutions.
  • Encourage children to think of others’ feelings, not just their own (even though their natural tendencies toward egocentric thinking may make it difficult for them to see things from other people’s perspectives).
  • Understand that children who differ in age and development have specific needs.
  • Set up activities and centers so as to limit distraction, social conflict, and feelings of frustration. Consider schedule and children’s disposition when presenting challenging tasks (e.g., children might have difficulty tackling new situations or controlling impulses before lunch time or nap time).

How can you help children learn negotiating skills?

  • Supply the words children need to express their feelings and show how using words results in a more satisfying resolution.
  • Model language to help children process what is happening by thinking aloud.
  • Role-play difficult situations and their solutions (e.g., sharing, taking turns, apologizing) to help children learn how to deal with conflicts.
  • Ask questions that encourage children to consider persons, objects, or events not immediately present and to think about other people, not just themselves.

What are some indications that children have become self-regulated learners?    

  • Children are better able to:
    • Take turns. (We can share!)
    • Ask questions to further understanding. (How big is a baby turtle?)
    • Communicate ideas clearly. (That’s why it’s called a pentagon.)
    • Plan, make decisions, and communicate. (Let’s make a doctor’s office. I’ll be the doctor and you be the patient.)
    • Control their impulses. (It’s okay that you knocked over my building.)
    • Share information about what they have learned. (The dinosaur was eighty-five feet long!)


Think about your own program as you answer these reflection questions in your Learning Log.

  • How do you develop children’s abilities to self-regulate?
  • What did you learn that you will put into practice in your learning environment?
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