Saturday, January 23, 2016

3 tasks to developing self-regulation

There are three tasks to developing self-regulation children (people in general) need to develop in order to achieve self-control. These three tasks are: brain development, effortful control and emotional regulation. The brain is making billions of connections during the infant and preschool years. The connections the brain is making depend on a child's experiences, interactions with others and emotions. Play helps a child's brain develop as they have to learn how to do different activities such as crawl, walk, wait their turn or how to hold a crayon. Interacting with peers helps children learn how to communicate, share and the rules of socialization. A child's brain has to connect the dots to know how to control their emotions. A child has to  learn how to calm themselves after feeling sad or disappointed. A child has to learn how to control their anger and not lash out at people. As the brain makes the connection that even though they may feel sad and disappointed because they couldn't get ice cream everything is still okay and nothing in life or the relationship with their parents has changed. A child needs to learn that hitting isn't an appropriate behavior to being angry and make the connection that when I'm angry I need to tell the person why and talk it out with the person and find constructive ways to vent anger. As children's brains make these connections a child's brain capacity, attention, learning, memory and reasoning develop.

Effortful control is the ability to hold back a response in order to execute a different response. It's the ability to regulate impulses and respond to a developing conscience. For example, when a child wants to take a toy from another child because they want to play with it- instead of taking the toy from a child, the child sees there is another one on the shelf and reaches and plays with that one instead of the one the other child has- this is a child using effortful control to choose a different response. It begins to develop in the preschool years as children see older children and adults regulate their emotions and behavior and begin to imitate them. It leads to self-regulation as children learn to do a puzzle and don't get frustrated when a piece doesn't fit etc.

Emotional regulation is the development of cognitive and social emotional processes. It involves a child's ability to think and consider the impulses they feel that are being driven by emotional responses to the enviornment and being able to participate in emotional, acceptable behaviors. To help develop emotional regulation children first need to participate in behaviors guided by adults. For example, when a child meets a grandparent for the first time can be a scary situation for them. If the parents help the child regulate their emotion of fear by allowing the child to warm up to the grandparents at their own pace this guides the child through their emotions and the situation.

Developing these three tasks is a difficult process that takes a lot of time and patience as it requires a parent to teach a child many different things. It is a process as it will take years to develop these tasks in children, particularly to the point of them being able to achieve some level of self-control. Be patient with your children! Remember, they're still learning and developing these tasks and they need your help and patience as the parent to achieve them. Remember too that it's your responisbility to teach these things to your children. These are not built in to a child's conscience or behavior.

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