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Self-Regulation Snap Shot #3: A Focus on Elementary-Aged Children

April 2, 2018
Child Care, Early Head Start, Youth Services, Head Start, Home Visiting
Self-Regulation and Toxic Stress Series | Learn more about this project
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  • Published 2018


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.”


This snapshot summarizes key concepts about self-regulation development and intervention for elementary-aged children for practitioners and educators interested in promoting self-regulation for this age group. It is based on a series of four reports on Self-Regulation and Toxic Stress prepared for the Administration for Children and Families (ACF). Visit the Toxic Stress and Self-Regulation Reports page for more information.


Self-regulation skills developing in elementary-aged children:

  • Use of self-talk to control behavior
  • Cognitive flexibility/problem-solving
  • Attentional control/sustained focus
  • Increased delay of gratification
  • Managing emotion “in the moment”
  • Goals and behavior guided by empathy and concern for others
  • Organization of behavior to achieve goals
  • Completion of larger and more complex tasks

Key considerations for promoting self-regulation in elementary-aged children:

  • Encourage a positive school climate for all students
  • Deliver self-regulation skills training in at-risk schools
  • Train teachers and afterschool staff to teach, model, reinforce, and coach self-regulation skills
  • Identify ways to support school and program staff’s own self-regulation capacity
  • Provide parent education supports that address co-regulation


Murray, D.W. and Rosanbalm, K. (2017). Self-Regulation Snap Shot #3: A Focus on Elementary-Aged Children. OPRE Report #2018-12, Washington, DC: Office of Planning, Research, and Evaluation, Administration for Children and Families, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.


The act of managing thoughts and feelings to enable goal-directed actions.
The supportive process between caring adults and children, youth, or young adults that fosters self-regulation development.
Last Reviewed: March 29, 2018