Tuesday, June 20, 2017

“Can you just tell me what to do?”: There is NO Recipe for Self Regulation

“My most productive and happy days are those where I am calm and successfully self regulating. Self reg starts with you” Liz Shepherd

Self regulation is not only important when supporting our students, but ultimately it is critical for educators to understand and use in their own practice with themselves. Without this practice, we are unable to co-regulate with others. If we are in a state of stress or hypertension, we really can’t go through self regulation steps with our students. 

“A child responds intuitively to the change that he sense in you” Stuart Shanker

When we view behaviour as a stress behaviour and become detectives looking for hidden or obvious stressors we let go of the fear of losing control in the classroom and seeking compliance from children. Instead, we become partners with the children in understanding their needs and we view their behaviours with a different lens. 

We begin to look for signs of stress in children with an objective lens, our eyes immediately soften and we can approach behaviour differently. While taking the Foundation course this year, we learned about using “soft eyes” with children. We were fascinated in learning that you cannot “fake” the way that your eyes and body appear to the children. We have to truly view behaviour as a stress and with that lens, otherwise our body language sends children a different message.

This YouTube video is such a powerful example of how adults tone and body language impact children, even from a very young age:

Children are very intuitive and feed off of our energy as educators. If we are seeking compliance in our demands and body language, we have noticed that the children respond differently. However, when we are regulated and we approach a situation with curiosity and a sense of calm ourselves we see the children respond very differently. The children are more relaxed, calm, and focused. They seem to be more at ease when our intentions are genuine. 

But…this isn’t easy. There are some days that are much harder than others for us, just like for the children. We bring to our jobs so much passion, but we also have to take care of ourselves mentally and physically. As educators we need to ensure that we are looking at the five domains for ourselves.

When we have moments where we step back and recognize, “I didn’t deal with that how I wish I could have”….that’s ok. Those moments will happen. What is important is that we are not hard on ourselves, but we do take those interactions as opportunities to learn and reflect. 

Some prompts that may help in the moment to reflect and reframe are:
  • What might it be about this situation that makes me respond like this?
  • Why am I responding this way? and why now?
  • How might it influence how I teach?

Negative Bias
A negative bias effects our perception and how we appraise a situation. With a negative bias, we seek control, “I am the teacher, they should respect me”. However, our empathy is often suppressed and therefore our ability to experience and appreciate what the child is undergoing declines. Essentially, our desire to help that child diminishes and we see their actions as intentional misbehaviour.

Positive Bias
When you have a positive bias, you are more more able to support children. You have a desire to give and help. We see the child very differently through this lens and when our own stress levels are lower we are better able to help children. This is the foundation of relationships growing and provides a structure to build trust and respect. 

It is so important that we take care ourselves as educators in this fast paced and challenging role that we embrace everyday. When we are disregulated, it become harder to be patient and work through things with our students.

We will make mistakes, it’s human nature. But if we be conscious and kind to ourselves we can continue to build our capacity and shift our negative stressors into positive ones resulting in being our best selves. 

“It is understandable that educators might be drawn to programs that promise a “quick fix” to problems in self-regulation, but our experience has been that there really is not such thing. All too often, the “quick fix” in question turns out to be trying to teach the children about self-regulation, as opposed to helping them learn how to self-regulate” - Dr. Stuart Shanker




This blog was written as a part of our Foundation Program through the Mehrit Centre. For more information about their programs, conferences and learning opportunities:




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1 comment:

  1. Mindfulness is so important whenever working with children!

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