Arjun, five, is in the bathtub with his little sister having a ‘tubby’. Saanvi, two, starts blobbing soap on to the back of Arjun’s head. Arjun does nothing. Saanvi tries a few more dollops, then stops and starts playing with her toys. “Arjun, what just happened?”, his mom asked. He stated, “I was ignoring her.”
What happened? Arjun used self-regulation. He managed his own behaviour, thinking and emotions. Previously, Arjun would have screeched at his sister and complained she was “bugging him”. The day before the ‘tubby’ incident, he and his mom had a discussion about how you can ignore some things and not let them bother you and often they simply go away. It worked for both Arjun and his sister. He learned that he didn’t need to respond to his sister’s actions and she learned there are better ways to get her brother’s attention.
Self-regulation is …
Self-regulation is the ability to consciously control your executive functions. That means developing a plan and organizing what you’re doing before starting. It also means telling yourself to stay on task, keeping important things in mind, and not getting distracted. It also involves checking to see how you’re doing and changing your plan if things aren’t working out.
Self-regulation is taking control of your executive functions and making them work for you – not just leaving things to chance.
So what are executive functions?
Executive functions are brain processes that are mainly contained in your frontal lobes (just behind your forehead). They make it possible to turn your ideas and goals into actions.
Watch Dr. Adele Diamond, Canada Research Chair Professor in Developmental Cognitive Neuroscience at the University of British Columbia. Dr. Diamond has studied executive functions for over 30 years and is the leading expert in developmental cognitive neurosciences.