Hand Folding: Establishing Self-Control

How to use hand folding to help your little one gain control and stop misbehaving. This simple tool works!

child folding hands

In Toddlerwise, it talks about the idea of hand folding. This is referred to as self-control training with hands. “When you begin to see those early signs that your kids are going to lose it, physically or verbally, instruct them to fold their hands and work on getting some self-control” (p. 157).

I must admit, when I first read that I thought, “Right. Have you ever met my little guy? He is such a bundle of energy. He can’t even sit still to watch a TV show.” I know. I doubted. I doubted even though it specifically mentions this is good for those “movers and shakers.” Plus, the book refers to this situation in regards to two-and-a-half or older. So, I decided to wait to implement the idea.

Then, it sort of just happened. We were out swimming last summer. Brayden was barely two years old. My husband and he were waiting in line for a water slide. My husband was a bit concerned because really in Brayden’s life he doesn’t need to wait long for much. Naturally he needs to more now that he has a younger sister, but at the time she was two months old and he wasn’t really aware of the fact that this new phase was permanent. So my husband explained to him that he needed to wait his turn because all of the people in front of him were first and got to take their turn before he did. My husband suggested they fold their arms to wait.

So they did, and Brayden became a hand folder. Well, arm folder. I often find that when I tell him he needs to wait for something, he will nod resolutely and fold his arms and wait. He gets it. He has skills to cope with the need to wait. Let’s be honest, nobody likes to wait. Have you ever noticed how grown adults think they need to be ahead of everyone else in lines? The majority of people think whatever they have going on is far more important than what anyone else has going on. We cut each other off in traffic. We get very agitated when kept waiting in the doctors office. I could go on.

The skills to patiently wait are not only beneficial for your child as a toddler, but for the rest of his life. If he can patiently wait now, then imagine how amiable he will be as an adult! Now, if you will excuse me, I need to go teach myself to fold my arms and wait.

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8 thoughts on “Hand Folding: Establishing Self-Control”

  1. I am a new mom and I am inspired by your blog. I am looking for a sample BW schedule to follow. I did read the book and I am not sure how long for the waketime periods. Is there any way you can contact me with some ideas? Thanks in advance for any [email protected]

  2. I’m thinking of starting the self control folding hands soon with James (also 13 months). Just wondering if you’ve tried it with Kaitlyn yet?? Any tips?

  3. Whoa, Montag, I am sorry. I didn’t even know your comment was here. Hopefully you have seen my posts with sample schedules…please don’t hesitate to ask questions if you have them. I wasn’t ignorning you 🙂 (on purpose anyway)

  4. Salina,I haven’t tried it with Kaitlyn. She honestly is never in a situation where she needs to do it because she is just so patient already. I have to say, it is so nice having this calm, happy girl. Brayden was so busy that hand holding really helped him channel that energy. I am sure you could do it with him. Kaitlyn will fold her arms on her own for prayers and keeps them folded the whole time (most of the time). So, it is something he is old enough to have some success, though I wouldn’t think he would do it for very long at a time.

  5. Well, it’s many months later. James is 21 months now and after a few attempts in earlier months the hand folding has just now stuck. We’ve made it something that we use while waiting at the table for food to come, or when he’s about to lose it when he doesn’t get his way. At this age he obeys very well, so when I ask that he does it, he will and that refocus on the hands has helped tremendously with whining.

  6. Hi there,I would like to know if you have any tips for starting hand folding late. My son is 25 months and he has started to whine and fuss for things, or will start throwing toys out of frustration. We’ve been showing him appropriate ways to show anger (we ask him to fold his arms and stomp his foot and say “I’m mad”.) but so far he doesn’t seem to get the idea.

  7. Keep working with him. Try the ideas from Salina who posted just above you. Have him sit and fold his hands before a meal or before something he really wants. Be an example yourself and show him what you want him to do.Also, be sure his whining never gets him what he wants. Require him to communicate appropriately before you respond. Another idea, if he can’t verbally express things, teach him signs that can communicate what he wants.


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