I thought I knew what self-regulation meant; it’s a buzzword in education and a learning skill on the Ontario report card, and I am a teacher. After reading this book, though, I realized that I was confusing self-control with self-regulation. Dr. Shanker explains the fundamental difference: Self-control is your ability to overcome your impulses or desires, such as reigning in your temper or sticking to your diet; self-regulation is your ability to manage internal and external stresses. If you have good self-regulation (that is, you understand your sources of stress and how to mitigate them), you can often avoid the need to practise self-control.
Although the external behaviours of a child with poor self-control and one with poor self-regulation might look identical, the lens through which we see them matters. If a child demonstrates bad behaviour (intentionally doing things that hurt, offend, or are meant to test boundaries) we see it as a moral flaw. However, if a child is under too much stress, we see the stress as the problem rather than the child. The hitting, swearing, running away, fighting, or name calling might look the same, so we have to understand the difference in cause. We have to ask ourselves, “Is it misbehaviour or stress behaviour?” If it is stress behaviour, rather than punishment, the child needs to be made to feel safe, and the adult needs to work to reduce the stress.
Shanker’s book explains how to recognize stress behaviour and some basic principles about how to reduce it.
There was a time when whole communities (or certainly large, extended families) took responsibility for raising children, but now many parents feel quite alone in this journey. At Camp Kodiak, we like to think of ourselves as a village (a home away from home). In this spirit, we are starting a virtual book club to connect us despite our geographic distance. If you are interested in reading this book (or even just my attached summary) and sharing comments, thoughts, questions, or insights with Camp Kodiak staff or other parents, please join our Goodreads group by clicking the following link:
Don’t worry if it looks like there’s a problem with trying to join the group. I set it as “private” to avoid trolls, so your request will have to be approved before it is finalized. I’ll be posting a few questions to get the ball rolling, but I hope it will grow into a larger online community to discuss a variety of books on special education topics, parenting, and kids.
Happy reading, and see you online!