“Self-regulation is often a better predictor of a child’s academic success in reading and math than a child’s IQ.”

“Children’s ability to focus and pay attention is like Air Traffic Control at a busy airport. Some planes have to land and others have to take off at the same time, but there’s only so much room on the ground and in the air. The mechanism that acts as Air Traffic Control is called executive function. It regulates the flow of information and the focus on tasks, creates mental priorities and avoids collisions, and keeps the system flexible and on time. In children, this mechanism needs to be actively geared up as early as possible (Kendall-Taylor, 2010).” It’s imperative that children learn self-regulation and executive function skills because they have a direct effect on a child’s future academic success.

Self-regulation is a set of critical skills for preschoolers and affects children socially, behaviorally and academically. In fact, self-regulation is often a better predictor of a child’s academic success in reading and math than a child’s IQ (Blair & Razza, 2007). Unfortunately, children often begin kindergarten without important skills, such as being able to follow directions, stay on task with focused attention and regulate their own emotions using concrete strategies. In fact, kindergarten teachers view self-regulation as being more essential for school readiness than academic skills, such as counting or recognizing letters. Skills, such as regulating emotions, controlling and resisting impulses and exerting self-control are essential for social-emotional competence and academic success.

Teachers believe the most essential skills for successfully transitioning to kindergarten are: communicating thoughts and ideas, being enthusiastic and curious, being able to follow directions and being sensitive to other children’s feelings (Lin, Lawrence, & Gorell, 2003). Yet, they report that over half their students start school lacking good self-regulation abilities (Rimm-Kauffman, Pianta, & Cox, 2000). In the short term, this affects school readiness. In the long term, poor development of self-regulation is linked with aggressive behavior, low academic achievement, delinquency and higher dropout rates (Raver, 2002).

Fortunately, self-regulation skills can be taught during the preschool years. Many strategies and activities promote self-regulation and the necessary skills to enable children to be more successful in school and in life. Development of these skills happens rapidly during the preschool years and plays a pivotal role in children’s long-term growth. Through the ABCs of self-regulation (Affective, Behavior, Cognitive), children are able to respond in a more purposeful and controlled manner. Children can learn the behavioral strategies necessary to manage emotions, navigate friendships, cope with stressful situations and improve cognitive executive function tasks, such as impulse control, working memory, focusing and shifting attention.

Sesame Street‘s engaging and loveable monsters and diverse human cast can help children reach their fullest potential. By modeling and practicing important self-regulation skills and strategies across all media platforms Sesame Street can support school readiness and academic achievement.

Self-regulation can best be understood when seen as a combination of affective, behavior and cognitive components. These three components are not separate from one another, but rather it is the combination and integration of these areas that allows for the development of self-regulation to occur in young children.

The Affective component of the ABCs of self-regulation focuses on children’s ability to recognize, understand and manage their feelings. Children learn to recognize and reflect on their emotions and then respond to their feelings.

The Behavior component of the ABCs of self-regulation focuses on the response associated with a child’s feeling to a situation or experience. Instead of responding to a feeling or emotion with a knee jerk reaction, the goal is to minimize this type of behavior and be more reflective and purposeful. Modeling these behaviors and strategies can enhance school readiness skills. These skills include delayed gratification, impulse control, friendship skills (such as empathy and perspective taking) and manners. In order to perform these skills, a child must be able to manage and control their emotions.

The Cognitive component of the ABCs of self-regulation is the ability to engage in goal-directed behavior which focuses on executive function skills. It is the conscious control of thoughts, actions and emotions. This area includes cognitive tasks such as working memory (connecting past experiences with future experiences), planning, flexible problem solving, attention shifting, task persistence and performance monitoring (making a new plan if the current one isn’t working). These skills are critical for school readiness and are the part of self-regulation in which children have control over their thinking. Research shows that these skills are positively linked to school achievement and other important developmental outcomes (Blair & Razza, 2007).