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T-SEL Competencies: Self-Management

The Transformative Social and Emotional Learning (T-SEL) competency of self-management is the ability to harness one's emotions, thoughts, and behaviors effectively in different situations and to achieve goals and aspirations.

The Competencies, developed for voluntary use, complement the California Transformative Social and Emotional Learning Conditions for Thriving. For background on the development of these competencies and guidance on their purpose and use, please visit the T-SEL Competencies and Conditions for Thriving web page.



Description of the competency, key ideas, and examples.

The abilities to harness one’s emotions, thoughts, and behaviors effectively in different situations and to achieve goals and aspirations. This includes the capacities to delay gratification, manage stress, and feel motivation and agency to accomplish personal and collective goals. Self-management includes abilities such as:

  • Managing one’s emotions
  • Identifying and using stress management and self care strategies
  • Exhibiting self-discipline and self-motivation
  • Setting personal and collective goals
  • Using planning and organizational skills
  • Showing the courage to take initiative
  • Demonstrating personal and collective agency
  • Cultivating resilience and overcoming adversity

(Adapted from the Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning 2020 External link opens in new window or tab. )

Potential Pitfalls of Self-Management 

A potential pitfall of teaching self-management is an over-emphasis by educators and other adults on controlling or suppressing emotions and behavior, compliance to adult-determined expectations, and disregard of the cultural, linguistic, and behavioral norms of each individual. Recommendations to avoid this pitfall include listening to and genuinely valuing the student’s experience and perspectives to build empathy and understanding. When teaching self-management, focus on adopting a culturally expansive and sustaining approach to supporting students so they learn to harness their emotions to further build agency, self-advocate, and grow into adults with the internalized capacities to achieve their self-determined goals (National Equity Project, 2021; Paris & Alim, 2017).


Research-based reasons for developing this competency.

Developing self-management skills in young people and adults is integral to:

Harnessing one’s emotions and behavior in productive ways:  When people of all ages are practiced in self-monitoring, adapting, and expressing their emotional responses and behavior in ways that are authentic, respectful, and productive, they have stronger relationships, experience greater mental well-being, and engage in less risky behavior. Students are also more successful learners, perform better academically, are more likely to graduate from high school, and are less likely to be involved in the criminal justice system (Durak et al., 2011; Jones, Greenberg & Crowley, 2015; Darling-Hammond et al., 2020; Fine et al., 2003).

Coping with stress, adversity, and building resilience:  Students and adults who develop coping skills to navigate interpersonal challenges and personal setbacks are better able to bounce back effectively from those experiences. For those whose culture and lived experience do not reflect the dominant culture, cultural mismatch can sometimes occur in learning environments leading to acculturative stress. Further, many students growing up in today’s world face significant adversity, such as trauma caused by discrimination and poverty. Recognizing and acknowledging these stressors and knowing how to care for oneself can be one critical contributor to healing (Ginwright, S., 2018; Jagers et al., 2018).

Building agency and hope and setting and achieving personal and collective goals: Cultivating self-management ultimately supports the capacity to successfully participate in community, collaborate with others toward advancing common causes, and lead self-determined lives. In addition to organizational and planning skills, key to achieving goals is cultivating hope, which is linked to greater academic achievement, creativity, and problem-solving skills, as well as less depression and anxiety (Dixson et al., 2018). Students who are hopeful “know how to create a roadmap to reaching a goal, including alternate routes when obstacles arise, and also have the belief, motivation, and confidence to achieve their goals” (Greater Good in Education, 2019).

Student and Community Statements

“I Can" and "We Can” short statements about the competency.

Student Statement: I can use strategies to express my emotions in helpful ways. I can notice and harness my thoughts and emotions to improve my well-being and the well-being of others. I can set goals and reach them by planning the steps it takes to achieve them.

Community Statement: We can develop and demonstrate self-management skills that help us achieve our goals and stay hopeful, as well as cope during moments of high stress, fear, loss, anger, and frustration. We can self-monitor our words and actions to ensure that everyone is treated with respect and dignity.


Self-Management Resource Collection External link opens in new window or tab.


References cited



Early Elementary Late Elementary Middle School High School Adult
2.A.1. Students practice noticing their emotions, where they experience them in their bodies, and using those signs to choose strategies to express feelings in helpful ways. Students practice strategies that help them to sustain joy and feel calmer, patient, focused and energized. 2.A.2. Students practice self-monitoring and harness and express their emotions in authentic and constructive ways by identifying, articulating, and using emotional regulation strategies that work for them. Students use diverse strategies to express themselves effectively in different social and cultural contexts. 2.A.3. Students explore the difference between emotion suppression and management and how to channel emotions productively. Students work on reframing feelings before acting on them. 2.A.4. Students deepen their capacity for emotional regulation by using a variety of culturally relevant practices to embrace and process strong emotions. 2.A.5. Adults use a variety of culturally relevant practices to harness and regulate their emotions toward productive goals in contextually appropriate ways. Adults continuously work toward regulating strong and conflicting emotions and at sustaining joy.
2.B.1. Students identify situations and relationships that calm them. Students understand and begin to practice how to be physically healthy in ways that are within their control. 2.B.2. Students know and use simple stress management practices. Students engage in mental and physical health promoting activities in ways that are within their control. 2.B.3. Students describe how stress affects their choices and actions and practice multiple strategies to manage stress. Students choose, take ownership of, and engage in activities that promote their mental and physical health. 2.B.4. Students proactively prepare for potentially stressful situations, recognize when they are dysregulated or stressed and know how to pause in order to effectively respond. Students regularly participate in mental and physical health promoting activities and use a variety of self-care strategies that are safe, culturally relevant, and affirming. 2.B.5. Adults observe and proactively manage stress by choosing appropriate stress management and self-care strategies that support their well-being. Adults identify and advocate for change when dysfunctional structures or unrealistic expectations are contributing to unmanageable stress.
2.C.1. Students identify and practice strategies they have used or can use to stay hopeful and “bounce back” from challenges. 2.C.2. Students describe different types of adversity and what they can learn from others’ stories of overcoming difficult experiences, resilience, and remaining hopeful in the face of challenges (e.g., current and historical characters). 2.C.3. Students consider various paths through individual and collective adversity. Students reflect on their sources of inner strength, hope, and what they look for in supportive relationships. 2.C.4. Students recognize the challenges of adverse life situations and the intersection of systems of injustice. Students leverage collective efficacy to cultivate resilience and hope. 2.C.5. Adults understand the science of adversity, how it interacts with systems of injustice, and the implications for supporting equitable student growth and development. Adults reflect on their own experiences of adversity and work to cultivate personal and collective resilience and a sense of hope in the learning environment and community.


Early Elementary Late Elementary Middle School High School Adult
2.D.1. Students understand the purpose of feedback and can listen to and accept simple, constructive feedback. 2.D.2. Students welcome constructive feedback and understand and use varied strategies to give feedback to peers. 2.D.3. Students seek out and make changes based on constructive feedback and demonstrate contextually appropriate ways of giving feedback to peers, educators, and others in their learning community and family. 2.D.4. Students engage in regular constructive feedback loops with their peers and adults. Students can listen to critical feedback with an openness to learning and offer authentic, specific, culturally appropriate feedback that is supportive and nonjudgmental. 2.D.5. Adults can receive and provide specific, contextually, and culturally appropriate constructive feedback. They listen to feedback from supervisors, peers, families, and students without defensiveness, assessing necessary changes and taking action to promote improvement.
2.E.1. Students understand and practice maintaining others’ stated emotional and physical boundaries. 2.E.2. Students perceive social cues and resist impulses in order to maintain the explicit or implied emotional and physical boundaries of others. 2.E.3. Students reflect on their changing boundaries to support their growth and well-being. Students also examine and reflect on healthy boundaries within different cultures.
2.E.4. Students recognize healthy social, emotional, and physical boundaries and use cultural norms, environmental, and social context cues to navigate these boundaries.
2.E.5. Adults model the process of determining, expressing, and enforcing their own healthy boundaries. Adults respect others’ physical, social, emotional, and cultural boundaries.


Early Elementary Late Elementary Middle School High School Adult
2.F.1. Students identify personal and collective goals and name simple steps to achieve them. 2.F.2. Students identify short- and longer-term personal and collective goals that are meaningful to them and demonstrate strategies that work for them to achieve those goals. 2.F.3. Students identify and work toward incremental personal and collective goals in pursuit of longer-term, achievements. Students identify and commit to roles in achieving collective goals. Students begin to examine how to balance personal and collective goals. 2.F.4.Students continuously strive toward meaningful,
specific personal short- and long-term goals. Students contribute to collective goal setting and achievement by identifying Specific, Measurable, Actionable, Relevant, Time-bound, Equity-Focused (SMARTE) goals. Students use their voice and choice to demonstrate personal and collective agency.
2.F.5. Adults identify and articulate individual goals and demonstrate a variety of strategies to reach them. Adults model ways to work individually and collectively toward a common goal including using strategies such as establishing SMARTE goals.
2.G.1. Students begin practicing self-monitoring thoughts and actions and asking for help to stay motivated and focused. Students are aware of their body during active listening. Students are able to identify when they are focused and paying attention. 2.G.2. Students use personally relevant strategies, like self-talk, to get and stay motivated. Students can identify distractions and know and apply simple solutions to overcome them. 2.G.3. Students can create and follow routines, independently adapt to challenges and distractions, and apply perseverance strategies that work for them. 2.G.4. Students identify and apply a variety of culturally relevant and identity affirming strategies to stay motivated and disciplined in order to persevere in achieving their goals. 2.G.5. Adults model strategies to identify their personal goals, evaluate their successes, modify their plans, and keep themselves motivated. Adults understand “paying attention” may look different based on culture and other aspects of student identity, including neurodiversity.
2.H.1. Students keep their spaces and belongings organized with guidance. 2.H.2. Students practice managing their own time, organizing their materials, and gathering what is needed for a task or activity. 2.H.3. Students take an active role in managing their time, activities, and responsibilities. 2.H.4. Students proactively use several time management strategies to organize their class work, extracurricular activities, work, family responsibilities, and other commitments. 2.H.5. Adults model time management and organizational skills for their lives inside and outside of the learning environment.
Questions:   Social Emotional Learning Office |
Last Reviewed: Thursday, February 29, 2024