I’m often asked to teach children self-regulation – “Just come and teach him how to do it.” Well, it’s not that simple.
As you’ve probably noticed in previous editions of spark* News, self-regulation is a family or whole class/group thing. “Fixing” one person isn’t going to happen unless the whole family/group takes part.
Everyone needs to be conscious of their own self-regulation. Everyone needs to remember to exercise their own executive functions. At this time of the year, that becomes even more challenging – schedules change, everyone is end-of-term tired, diets tend to change, sleep patterns change, etc.
Here are some ways to help everyone stay more self-regulated:
- Practice self-calming – do some mindful (Turtle) breathing every day with your children. Take the time to calm and center yourself. It doesn’t take long and can make the rest of the day run a lot smoother. If you find you or your children are getting stressed, take a few minutes to do some Turtle Breathing and just ‘be in the moment’. This is one of your best safeguards against some of the stress that tends to happen in daily life.
- Plan and organize activities and events carefully –
- Make sure you have enough time to do the activity or enjoy the event. Try not to run out of time and leave things unfinished.
- Make sure you and your child aren’t tired or hungry and are feeling well.
- Include things the children like and enjoy – don’t just do activities that are “good for them”.
- Inhibitory control –
- Don’t just dive into an activity or event – explain why you’re doing it and why it’s important. We all commit a little more to things when we know they have a real purpose.
- Let children try things on their own, even if they make mistakes or something isn’t exactly how you like it. Remember, it’s their effort that’s most important.
- Working memory –
- Use some of the strategies mentioned in the article of working memory and play some of the games for improving it.
- Always remember, if you or the children are stressed, tired or hungry, your working memory is probably at its lowest capacity. Ease up at those times.
- Self-monitoring –
- Monitor the hunger, tiredness, and stress levels of everyone around you so know if they’re able to self-regulate or not.
- Think out loud to model your own self-regulation for your child.
- Cognitive flexibility –
- Be able to flow with things even though they may not turn out the way you expected or your child didn’t say or do what you intended. Just do some Turtle Breathing and quite while you’re ahead.
- Use the 180 degree rule, turning negative feelings and thoughts around to positive ones. You turn “Stop that” into “You can do this”. For example, you want your child to stop running around. Instead of saying, “Stop running!”, you calm yourself and say, “We walk in the house”. Instead of saying, “Don’t grab your sister’s toy.”, say “We use gentle hands with our toys.” Often children know what not to do but don’t know what they should do instead. Using the “180 degree rule” helps your child learn positive alternatives while you stay calm and positive and focus on what you want rather than what you don’t want.