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Understanding and Promoting Emotional Regulation

Social and Emotional Resources

This Tips for Parents article is from an exclusive Young Scholar seminar hosted by Kara McGoey, who provides advice on how to encourage healthy social/emotional development through emotional regulation.

Understanding and Promoting Emotional Regulation

Social and emotional development encompasses emotional regulation and involves the acquisition of a set of skills. These skills include the ability to:

  • Identify and understand one’s own feelings
  • Accurately read and comprehend emotional states in others
  • Manage strong emotions and their expression in a constructive manner
  • Regulate one’s own behavior
  • Develop empathy for others
  • Establish and sustain relationships

Each skill builds upon the other. Therefore, a child must master each skill before moving on to another. A child may be “stuck” at one level and need support to master it. The child might attempt the higher skill but will struggle with it. So the first step is identifying where a child falls on the developmental ladder. Once this is identified, interventions can be implemented to support the child in mastering each step.

Social and emotional learning (SEL) enhances students’ capacity to integrate skills, attitudes, and behaviors to deal effectively and ethically with daily tasks and challenges. The Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning (CASEL) presents 5 core competencies that can be taught to accomplish healthy social emotional development. (see for more information).

  1. self-awareness, Skills include: identifying emotions, accurate self-perception, recognizing strengths, developing self-confidence and self-efficacy
  2. self-management, Skills include: impulse control, stress management, self-discipline, self-motivation, goal-setting, organizational skills.
  3. social awareness, Skills include: perspective-taking, empathy, appreciating diversity, and respect for others.
  4. relationship skills, Skills include: communication, social engagement, relationship-building, teamwork.
  5. responsible decision-making, Skills include: identifying problems, analyzing situations, solving problems, evaluating, reflecting, ethical responsibility.


The first step is to determine whether your child is exhibiting a skill or a performance deficit:

Skill Deficit
Children with a skill deficit do not know what to do when asked. For example, when asked how to calm down, the child would not be able to give an appropriate answer. The intervention would begin by teaching the child appropriate coping skills.

Performance Deficits
A performance deficit occurs when the child can tell you what he or she should do but does not do it in the real situation. The intervention must create supports for the child in the real situation to perform the skills. This is VERY tough to remediate. It takes a lot of support and practice.


If the issue is a skill deficit you will need to teach your child the missing skills. Treat this like teaching any other skill (getting dressed, driving a car). Practice, Practice, Practice.

Practice skills by Role Playing, creating stories and make believe about successful interactions, modeling and creating practice situations.

In vivo practice
Coach the child during a real situation. Have a plan for the situation; practice the plan and then coach during the situation.

Talk about successful and unsuccessful situations after the situation is defused. Place as much emphasis on the positive interactions and successful play date as the unsuccessful ones.

Always remember:
Don’t Teach in Crises
When children are in the midst of a tough situation, parents or teachers can do nothing but manage the situation. We must teach strategies to prevent the situation at when the child is calm. Practice using modeling, role-play and analog situations during calm, rational moments and then encourage the skills to transfer to the times of crises



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Please note, the Davidson Institute is a non-profit serving families with highly gifted children. We will not post comments that are considered soliciting, mention illicit topics, or share highly personal information.

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