What is Self-Regulation?

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.

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.  

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.

Did you know that research indicates that self regulation in children is a predictor of academic abilities? Children with higher
levels of self regulation have achieved higher scores in reading, vocabulary and math. In addition, some research has shown that the ability for young children to self regulate is associated with higher, future education levels.

Self-regulation involves the whole person/child

What is the definition of 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.

Activities to Help Children Develop Self Regulation

How can you help a child develop self regulation? Here are some suggested activities to help develop self regulation skills. Keep in mind the definition of self regulation as you think of activities:

 teach self regulation at a young age – children develop the foundation skills for self regulation from birth to 5 years old.

 demonstrate and model proper behaviors – this allows children to observe how to choose an appropriate response in different
situations. Partner children who lack self regulation with children who exhibit better self control to act as role models.

 help children to regulate their attention by providing hints and cues by verbally and/or physically pointing out important aspects of a
academic or physical activity.

 provide verbal or physical cues to help children to self regulate their emotions such as “let’s stay calm” or allowing a child to go to
a quiet area to relax.

 Continually monitor children to determine when adult support can be withdrawn so that the children can learn to be independent in their responses.

 play games that require start and stop skills such as: Red Light – Green Light, Freeze Dance, Simon Says, etc. Read about 10 super fun games (no equipment needed) that require self regulation skills.

 participate in dance activities where the child needs to move to the rhythm

 play any games that require turn taking

Don’t forget, you can always ask an occupational or physical therapist if you have questions about the most appropriate activities for a specific child.

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

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.