Your Child’s Self-Regulation is Not Just Self-Control

Self-regulation relates to your child’s ability to successfully participate in the classroom, take turns, understand social cues, make good decisions and be a good friend. Defined as the ability to manage one’s behavior, emotions, thoughts and impulses in the pursuit of long-term goals, self-regulation requires a level of self-awareness and maturity that is capable of delaying gratification.

A child’s social-emotional development is cultivated only after they have an experience of connection through caring relationships with adults. It begins with co-regulation, meaning a child experiences the adult’s sense of calm, understanding and connection. A child’s trust of their world and the adults around them is fundamental to their healthy social-emotional development which supports self-regulation.

In a sense, we become our children’s regulation until they are mature enough for self-regulation. If you’re pouring a new sidewalk in the yard, you’ll first set up the wooden forms to establish the borders before you mix and pour the concrete. Only when the concrete is set and can stand on its own will you remove the protective forms. Similarly, children will let us know by their behavior if they are able to regulate on their own. We should not assume that when children are not able to regulate that something is wrong, but rather that they still need the boundaries and form of their adult support until their maturity develops.

Focus of attention and regulation of emotions are related. A child who has difficulty with focus will also have challenges with self-regulation. While they are related, the abilities to focus and self-regulate develop differently. Focus correlates with the sensory-motor functions of the brain. Self-regulation, however is a function of the brain’s frontal cortex which does not mature until about the age of 12!

Caulbridge School pays special attention to the social-emotional and sensory-motor needs of students, developing the ability to focus as a precursor to self-regulation, higher thinking and ethics.