Developing Self-Regulation In ChildrenMay 19, 2021
“Maturity also can't be hurried up nor is it guaranteed. Only growing older is guaranteed. And I think many of us could think about adults in our lives who are incredibly immature, who maybe are on a maturity level, not much beyond a five or six or seven years old. And it may be that they are not very developed when it comes to their integrative functioning, their mixing of conflicting feelings.”
This week on the 3D Parent Podcast, I’m going to dig in a little deeper on developing self-regulation in children. I’m going to provide parents and educators with signs to look for when the self-regulating skill is already developing and how to encourage its development even further.
Some of the topics covered in this episode include:
- Exposing facts and fiction when it comes to self-regulation and its development in children.
- The role of integrative functioning in children’s self-regulation skills; when this usually develops and why sometimes it doesn’t develop on schedule.
- Unpacking the five steps of emotional maturity by Dr. Gordon Neufeld and its role in self-regulation in children.
- What to do when your child loses their ability to self-regulate.
Understanding how self-regulation develops in children is an integral concept in parenting. Knowing the facts behind self-regulation helps ease anxiety for a lot of parents out there. In this episode, I hope that I can help parents nurture an environment that is needed so that self-regulation can develop in your child.
Things You Will Learn
[00:58] For this episode, I’m going to share key insights with regards to Developing Self-Regulation in Children. Today’s topic was inspired by the article I received last week which claimed that there is a skill out there that is more valuable for kids than reading and math. This particular skill could even lower children’s anxiety and tantrums. As I dug a little deeper into the article, the so-called skill was referring to self-regulation.
[02:23] Unfortunately, the article was an advertisement rather than an educational article. And it’s not just this one article, there are lots of products being sold to parents, educators, and therapists that promise to teach self-regulation skills to kids. However, the idea that these products are the key to achieving a child's ability to regulate their own emotions is at best misguided. These reinforcement products might be helpful but only for children who already developed self-regulation at some level.
[07:08] Remember, self-regulation is not a skill that can be taught. Rather, it is the product of maturation. Us parents should understand that there is no magic trick that suddenly helps your child achieve true maturation.
[08:26] Now, you might ask, where does self-regulation come from? Developmental psychologist Dr. Gordon Neufeld tells us that self-regulation comes from our integrative functioning, which is the ability to mix feelings. And it is something that needs to develop internally.
[11:45] The key to this emotional maturity is meeting your children’s needs and nurturing your parent-children attachment. Remember, maturity cannot take place if a child is actively working to meet their needs. Dr. Neufeld also provided five steps of emotional maturity which could help us support our children with their emotional health and maturity. These five steps of emotional maturity are: expressing, naming, feeling, mixing, and reflecting.
[23:22] When your child is in the right age of developing integrative functioning, you can start explaining the concept to your child so they can make sense of what mixed feelings are all about. This does not mean that they can magically have mixed feelings once you explain it to them, but they can have the opportunity to celebrate it once it happens. It is worthy to take note of this moment as it is evidence that your child is getting unstuck from immature behaviors.
[25:23] I have to emphasize that not all children develop integrative functioning right on schedule. Some children may even lose their integrative functioning, even if it is already developed due to several factors such as stress, anxiety, adolescent development, and more.
[28:59] When your child loses their mixed feelings or if it’s not yet developed within them, your goal is to hold a safe space for them to express the five steps of emotional maturity and co-regulate with them. Help them walk through those steps of emotional maturity before they can do it for themselves.
Quotes From Episode 51
“Maturity cannot take place if a child is actively working to try and get their needs met.”
“It's essential that parents make it safe for children to feel all their emotions, especially those that are most vulnerable.”
“Some feelings may not be pleasant, but they’re essential. And children have to be able to feel those unpleasant feelings and not avoid them to be able to reach emotional maturity.”
“Celebrate the moment when your child can mix their feelings, it is evidence that your child is maturing.”
“Understanding the reason why children lose their ability to self-regulate helps parents to recognize that this is not necessarily intentional. And it helps parents to have more empathy for what’s going on with their child.”
“As a parent and caregiver, it is our role to help our child walk through the five steps of emotional maturity before they can do it for themselves.”
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