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Part Three: Emotional Regulation

As part of CalTrin’s Nurturing Parent and Child Development training, we look at the features of temperament, emotional regulation, and attachment styles in the context of children’s social and emotional health.

Building on the discussion and resources shared in CalTrin’s child development blog series, this post explores the features of temperament, emotional regulation, and attachment styles in the context of children’s social and emotional health. Revisit the first two posts in this series:

The information in this series draws from the CalTrin-hosted training, Nurturing Parent & Child Development, led by Dr. Pradeep Gidwani, MD, MPH. In this post, we highlight information Dr. Gidwani shared and additional resources to support the healthy development of emotional responses in children.


Temperament is an essential feature of social and emotional health. Temperament describes the way we approach and react to the world. It is our own personal “style” that is present from birth. The three general types of temperaments are often referred to as easy-going, slow-to-warm, and active (CECMHC).

Every child is born with their own temperament and should be accepted for who they are. It’s important to remember that temperament is neither something a child chooses nor something that parents create in their child. Parents and caregivers can learn how to tune in to their child’s temperament to anticipate how they will react in certain situations (ZERO TO THREE).

An article from the ACF Child Care Technical Assistance Network described how learning about temperament can help us understand and explain a child’s behavior, which in turn can lead to more responsive, individualized care for infants and toddlers. While this article looks at temperament through the lens of a child care provider, the overall premise is that the better we understand a child’s temperament, the better we can support them. Child- and family-serving professionals can use this article as a discussion guide for parents and caregivers. Read Understanding and Adapting to Individual Temperaments.

Center for Early Childhood Mental Health Consultation 

The Center for Early Childhood Mental Health Consultation (Center) translates research in healthy mental development into materials tailored to the needs of each audience and makes them available on its website.

The Infant Toddler Temperament Tool (IT3) was developed for the Center and includes a short online survey that allows parents and caregivers of infants and toddlers (up to 36 months) to recognize and explore their own temperament traits and those of a child for which they provide care. Along with the results, the IT3 generates simple best practice tips adults can use to foster the unique temperament of each child in their care. All versions of the IT3 tool are offered at no cost:

Science of Parenting

Science of Parenting is an Iowa State University Extension and Outreach program that connects parents with research-based parenting information through a podcast, blog, social media, and virtual parent training. Get started with their What is Temperament video and explore all resources online here!


Emotional Regulation

Learning to regulate emotions is a complex process and a key milestone in child development. Research has shown that children’s ability to effectively manage their full range of emotions—also known as self-regulation—is one of the most important factors for success in school, work, and relationships in the long term (ZERO TO THREE).

According to Dr. Gidwani, caregivers model how emotions are identified and coped with, which can affect the range of emotions and the nature of an infant or young child’s emotional reaction. Self-regulation is a skill that must be taught and practiced at home, which is why parents and caregivers play such an important role.

In his presentation, Dr. Gidwani also discussed how emotional regulation problems vary between different stages of development. For example, during infancy, problems may manifest as difficulty soothing, irritability, lower activity levels, and developmental delays. While a three-year-old may display behaviors such as acting out, aggressiveness, lack of compliance, withdrawing, guilty stories, or decreased inhibition to unusual situations. If not addressed early on, emotional regulation problems can lead to difficulty developing secure social relationships, friendships, and even adult support.

This article from ZERO TO THREE looks at the difference between cooperation and compliance. True cooperation means a joint effort—a give-and-take that is mutually satisfying. To develop a cooperative spirit in children, we need to help them understand how our requests and rules are good for everyone (ZERO TO THREE).

Knowing how to support a child through strong emotions is extremely important and helps them develop the skills to address their feelings. Below we highlight resources to support parents and caregivers in this development phase:

Center on the Developing Child at Harvard University

Child Mind Institute

First 5 California

Positive Psychology


Additional Resources:

Russell A. Barkley: Defiant Children: A Clinician’s Manual for Assessment and Parent Training (Third Edition)

American Psychological Association: How to Help Kids Understand and Manage Their Emotions

The Gottman Institute: An Age-By-Age Guide to Helping Kids Manage Emotions

The Hanen Centre: Why Self-regulation Is Important for Young Children

Connected Families: 50 Self-Regulation Activities to Empower Your Child To Calm

MLA Counseling Services: Understanding Dysregulation: How to Support a Highly Emotional Child

Parenting For Brain: Emotional Regulation in Children | A Complete Guide

Sesame Workshop: We Have Self Control (en Español)

Teaching Brave: Self Regulation In Children; Why Is It Important?

Verywell Family: How to Help a Highly Emotional Child Cope With Big Feelings

Head Start-ECLKC: Promoting Children’s Self-Regulation with Tucker the Turtle  (5:09)

Attachment & Parenting Styles

What is attachment? In early childhood, attachment is an emotional bond between an infant or toddler and the primary caregiver; a strong bond is vital for the child’s normal behavioral and social development. In his presentation, Dr. Gidwani noted that early childhood attachment is about two primary aspects of a child’s relationship with their caregiver(s):

  1. A set of behaviors (natural drive to form and maintain relationships)
  2. A way of thinking and feeling about themselves and others in the world

He further explained that a child’s relationship with their primary parent/caregiver lasts a lifetime; it influences all the child’s future relationships. Attachment affects how a child sees themselves in the world, what they expect in their relationships, how they understand situations and interactions, and how they see the world around them. It’s important to note that infants will form attachments to any consistent caregiver who is sensitive and responsive in social interactions with them.

Researchers have identified four attachment styles:

  • Secure: Securely attached babies are able to use the attachment figure as an effective, secure base from which to explore the world.
  • Insecure-Ambivalent: In babies with anxious/ambivalent attachments, both anxiety and mixed feelings about the attachment figure are readily observable.
  • Insecure-Avoidant: Babies with avoidant attachments are covertly anxious about the attachment figure’s responsiveness and have developed a defensive strategy for managing their anxiety.
  • Insecure-Disorganized: Babies classified in this group appear to have no consistent strategy for managing separation from and reunion with the attachment figure.

Definitions from Infant Attachment: What We Know Now | ASPE (

Explore these resources for an overview and understanding of the four attachment styles:

Attachment develops progressively from early childhood and influences many areas of adulthood, including an individual’s ability to form healthy adult relationships. Research shows a correlation between a parent/caregiver’s personal attachment style and their parenting style. Parents’ attachment styles can influence their parenting, which in turn affects their children’s attachment styles. For example, securely attached parents tend to have an authoritative parenting style, which is highly correlated with secure attachment type in the child and is the best parenting style (Karavasilis L, Doyle AB, Markiewicz D., 2003).

Researchers have identified four parenting styles:

  • Authoritative: Parents who encourage kids to be responsible, to think for themselves, and to consider the reasons for rules.
  • Authoritarian: Parents who expect their orders to be obeyed without question and who rely on punishment–or the threat of punishment–to control their kids.
  • Permissive: Parents who are responsive and warm (a good thing) but also reluctant to enforce rules (a bad thing).
  • Uninvolved: Parents who offer their children little emotional support and fail to enforce standards of conduct.

Definitions from Parenting Styles: An Evidence-Based, Cross-Cultural Guide by Gwen Dewar, PhD.

Explore these resources for an overview and understanding of the four parenting styles:

Diana Baumrind: Prototypical Descriptions of 3 Parenting Styles

American SPCC: The 4 Types of Parenting Styles (Infographics)

Parenting for Brain: 4 Types of Parenting Styles and Their Effects On The Child

Psychology Today: Parenting Styles

Verywell Family: The 4 Types of Parenting Styles and How Kids Are Affected

Verywell Mind: Why Parenting Styles Matter When Raising Children


Extended Learning Opportunities

If you missed the Nurturing Parent & Child Development webinar with Dr. Gidwani, you can watch the replay in our Training Archive—which provides access to recordings and materials from prior CalTrin trainings. Here’s what participants said about this training and their plans to apply what they learned:

  • [This training] gave me a stronger understanding of how I can engage caregivers and help them understand their child’s development and behavior as well as ways to enhance attachment and the parent/child relationship.
  • Having an understanding of reasons why it is important to reach babies milestones. How providing the appropriate level of nurturing is important.
  • During home visits, we work with parents with intellectual and developmental disabilities who will benefit from the information provided during the webinar.
  • I am better prepared to support families in speaking with PCPs and School Districts so children can receive the assessments and support they need to achieve their full potential.

Are you interested in additional training on child development and social-emotional development? CalTrin’s Protective Factor of the Month training series begins in July 2023. This learning series is designed for anyone who works with children and families and focuses on concrete ways you can support the building of Protective Factors in your work. Each month, CalTrin will present one Protective Factor in an engaging lecture-style presentation, and learners have the ability to register for individual sessions of interest. Each session will be presented with optional Spanish interpretation (con interpretación en español). Click here to view the schedule and register for the sessions that meet your learning needs and schedule.


*Last updated September 8, 2023