What is Self-Regulation?

The answer to the question,what is self-regulation, can be very complex.  In simple terms, self-regulation is the ability to monitor and manage your energy states, emotions, thoughts, and behaviors in ways that are acceptable and produce positive results such as well-being, loving relationships, and learning.  

What is the Definition of Self-Regulation?

Self-regulation is the ability to monitor and manage your energy states, emotions, thoughts, and behaviors in ways that are acceptable and produce positive results such as well-being, loving relationships, and learning.

It is how we deal with stressors and as such, lays the foundation for all other activity. Developing this ability requires self-awareness, emotional intelligence, efficient filtering of sensory stimulation,  coping effectively with stress, relating well to others, and sustaining focus.  

Self-Regulation and Childhood Development

It is  one of the big developmental tasks of childhood. Sometimes, kids develop it naturally from being around self-regulating adults, from playing and exercising, from being in nature, eating healthy foods, and getting plenty of sleep.

Other times, however, kids are over-stimulated, around adults who are stressed and/or dys-regulated, and are not getting enough exercise, time outside in nature, sleep, hydration, and healthy food.  These kids struggle with attention, learning, impulse control and relationships.

Self-regulation involves the whole person/child

What is self-regulation in terms of the whole person or child? This skill involves much more than simply self control. It involves the whole person including these 4 aspects:

Physical: biology, temperament

Emotional: personality, exposure to trauma, ability to inhibit impulses,

Mental: focus, shift of focus, control, management of distractions & frustration

Social: interpersonal interactions, empathy, values

 

This 16 Self-Regulation Flash Card Set in printable PDF format includes health lessons and self-regulation techniques that combine activities based on creative movement, yoga, and Brain Gym(R).

Self-regulation takes energy.

When a child acts out or melts down, it is because s/he has no more fuel for managing stressors.  That’s why it’s important to notice what stresses your children and what soothes them; to teach them mindfulness skills; to play with them; to make sure they get exercise and plenty of sleep.

Dr. Stewart Shanker uses a car analogy to explain self-regulation, which is paraphrased below:

Self-regulation is like maintaining a consistent rate of acceleration.  If we want to go 25 mph, then we will need to adjust the pressure to the accelerator to allow for changes to the road, incline and wind. Driving requires constant changes depending on traffic conditions and speed zones, etc.  Learning to accelerate, brake, and change gears smoothly takes time and practice.  This is quite similar to children learning to self-regulate. Some children are always pushing too hard on the accelerator, while others jump between gears quickly, and some are slow to accelerate. Children need time and support to master the ability to find and sustain their optimum speed and level of arousal while dealing with a range of stimuli and stressors.

As children develop motor skills and process sensory information they start to understand how their body can move slow, fast and all the speeds in between.  Over time, children begin to learn to self-regulate and determine their “just right” body state that is ready to learn.  Too Slow, Just Right or Too Fast – Visual Supports for Self-Regulation digital document includes 11 visual supports to help children practice self-regulation skills.

Use the visual supports to have children practice moving at different speeds to determine their “just right” state.  If children have trouble processing sensory information, you can use the visual supports for them to respond and reflect on their current level of arousal.

This article was originally written by Leah Kalish, MA.

Read more on What is Self-Regulation and How You Can Help Here

Improving Self Regulation for All Students

Key Components of Effective Interventions for Self-Regulation

Self-Regulation and Early Writing Skills

Practice Self-Regulation Skills with Visual Supports and Games   

The Ultimate Guide to Self-Regulation in Children   

Self Regulation Activities for Elementary Students

Self-Regulation Rubrics

Self Regulation Skills Curriculum – Move Work Breathe

Download your FREE Self-Regulation Checklist

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Self REgulation Skills Curriculum

 

Move~Work~Breathe is a self-regulation curriculum designed by a school based occupational therapist, Thia Triggs.  This curriculum provides an effective, time-efficient structured system to provide classroom breaks, improve self-awareness and self advocacy and teach specific self-regulation skills so that kids have tools to use in their classrooms. This system will get kids moving, give them the benefits of a brain power boost [from getting their heart rate up], give them heavy work and isometrics to help them calm down, and help them learn techniques to quiet and control their bodies in order to return to their academic work.  FIND OUT MORE.

The answer to the question,what is self-regulation, can be very complex.  In simple terms, self-regulation is the ability to monitor and manage your energy states, emotions, thoughts, and behaviors in ways that are acceptable and produce positive results such as well-being, loving relationships, and learning.