There are lots of ways to teach kids about controlling their impulses or making good choices and one is, of course, through picture books! Below are some of my favorite children’s books about self-control plus what I like about them and how they would best be used. (Looking for activities for teaching kids self-control? I have a post about that here.)
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Self-Control in Action
Clark the Shark – I love this for showing that sometimes excitement can lead to us losing control of our body (and voice level). It also shows how sometimes others don’t like it when we get like this. Best for PreK-2nd.
What If Everybody Did That? – The beauty of this book lies in the illustrations even more than the text, and how it asks students to “do the heavy lifting” of thinking. It provides several examples of how one small misbehavior would lead to larger negative consequences if others did it as well. While it’s more community-based than school-based, it still does a great job of introducing the idea of thinking about consequences. I think this can be stretched K-4.
Hands Off, Harry! – While maybe a little wordy for the kinders this was written for, it’s so wonderful for teaching about the importance of keeping hands to yourself. It also includes some examples where Harry’s ideas of what’s fun/funny are different than his classmates. The bonus is Harry choosing on his own to make a change (and doing so!). Recommended for K-2nd, though you may choose to reword/cut down on some text for K.
What Should Danny Do? School Day – One important part of teaching kids self-control is teaching them how to connect choices and consequences. This book is the bees knees for this. My own children pull it off the bookcase regularly. It’s fun, relatable, and I love the illustrations. Great for PreK-3rd.
Sorry! – This book is incredible in so many ways. While it does include apologies, I love this most for talking about peer pressure and staying true to your values. It’s less about in-the-moment impulse control and more about responsible decision-making with an empathy element. I use this 3rd-4th and I know lots of folks who use it up to 5th. Click here for my companion lesson for it.
Self-Control in Words
My Mouth is a Volcano – I like this book for talking to kids about using self-control with their voice (by not interrupting!). There has been some rightful criticism of how the adults in this book respond to his blurting which I think is worth noting, and it is also definitely for kids who CAN wait until the right time to share their thoughts (vs. those for whom it’s not as easy as taking a deep breath and being patient). This is a 1st-2nd book for me whole group, 3rd for individual/small group.
I Can’t Believe You Said That – One of my favorite Julia Cook books about using our social filter. While it’s a little more about rudeness and not saying everything that pops into your head, I have also used it successfully in lessons to help kids be more respectful in how they talk to one another. I recommend this for 2nd-4th.
Well, I Can Top That! – Do any of your students struggle with bragging and one upmanship when they talk? This is a very specific type of self-control issue, but I’ve found it’s fairly common in kiddos who struggle with impulse control in general. This book helps kids with being proud of themselves without trying to be better than others. This is something I would use more individual or small group, with 2nd-4th graders.
Just Kidding! – One of the main ways I see students not think before they speak is when they’re trying to be funny. This is one of my favorite books of all time and it’s perfect for learning about how jokes about other people aren’t okay. I use this companion lesson almost every year. 3rd and 4th grade is the sweet spot in my opinion!