Posts Tagged ‘challenging child behavior’

PostHeaderIcon Self-control or Self-regulation: What’s the difference?

Self-control or Self-regulation: What’s the Difference?

My fellow parent coach, Becky Fischer, just shared a powerful resource with me about Self-regulation, and I thought it would be a great topic for parents. Stuart Shanker has a new program called “Self-reg,” if you want more info.

Two types of self-regulation and self-control come into play – parents’ and children’s.  We could all, even as adults, be struggling with self-regulation and mistaking it for self-control.

Self-regulation issues come from the body’s sensitivities.  If our bodies are wired to overreact to input (compared to typical responses), then we are in the realm of self-regulation.  This comes from brain wiring, where some of us, and some of our children, are simply more responsive to input to one or more of the five senses than are other people.  The sensitivity can be to light, sound, touch, taste, or smell. It can also be to other people, which is a sixth sensitivity I’ve identified in children. We and our kids are not making a choice to react in big ways to the things that trigger us. The reactions are built in to our wiring, just as “knee-jerk” reactions are unavoidable in the doctor’s office when she uses a little hammer to check for reflexes.

Another source of these knee-jerk reactions is trauma. If we experienced trauma as children, or even in adulthood, the reactions remain, unless we’ve sought help to relieve them.  The brain’s amygdala and hormonal responses (flight, fight, flee) are constantly alert to threats to our survival, left over from actual previous threats, and they don’t give up easily, even when we’re not in danger. This is why we over-react to some events that others would not. It’s never our “fault” and therapists who specialize in trauma can definitely offer techniques that help to relieve its effects. Eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR) is quite effective for this, as are some somatic (body) techniques.  Just search EMDR and your zip code online to find practitioners in your area.

If our children have experienced trauma, often trauma that we or they don’t remember (it can even happen in utero) they will over-react to us in ways that we can easily interpret as disrespect.  This is where parent coaching and occupational therapy can be highly effective.  Parent coaching can help you identify the over-reactions as out of the child’s control.  Occupational therapy and EMDR for kids can help the child self-regulate.

Co-regulation is another wonderful tool for helping parents and kids. With small children, holding the child in a loving way and deep breathing together works like magic, if the child is able to do it. Preparing in advance will be the ticket here – rehearse co-regulation when there’s no issue, just so it’s familiar and safe-feeling to the child. Co-regulation has the effect of calming you both down. With older children, advanced rehearsal and deep breathing together can also bring about the calming effect. Take a breath in, hold for a count of four, let it out naturally. Do this slowly, as rushing can cause light-headedness.

We know that self-control is a learned response that occurs with maturity and guidance from parents. It comes over time, and requires help from adults. When we as adults are regulated, our job is much easier, which is why it’s a great idea to seek help if we have triggers that could interfere with our effective parenting.

The good news is that the effects of trauma and sensitivities can be relieved by learning ways to decrease them through occupational and mental health therapy. This can have an incredibly positive effect our daily interactions with our loved ones!

For more information on parent coaching, click here.