What does it mean to manage/regulate yourself (self-regulate) and others? How does it bring you towards goals? How important is communication in this process and what helps/impedes it?
I came across an interesting article about developing self-regulation in kindergarten children. The article written by E. Bodrova and D. J. Leong was titled Can we keep all the crickets in the basket? In the article a kindergarten teacher says that teaching 5-year olds is like trying to keep crickets in a basket: when you open the lid to put in a few more crickets, the others jump out.
“In today’s kindergarten classrooms, where demands for academic learning are on the rise, teachers can no longer wait until their “little crickets” simply outgrow their hard-to-manage behaviors. In fact, many teachers rate “difficulty following directions” as their number one concern about children, indicating that more than half of their students experience this difficulty” (Bodrova, 2008).
Self-regulation is a deep, internal mechanism that enables children as well as adults to engage in mindful, intentional, and thoughtful behaviors. Self-regulation has two sides, first, it involves the ability to control one’s impulses and to stop doing something when needed, and second, it involves the ability to do something even if one doesn’t want to do it. Social interactions require emotional self-regulation. Thinking requires cognitive self-regulation. Fortunately, there is growing evidence that self-regulation can be taught in the classroom. As children grow older and their brains develop, they can increasingly take control of both their feelings and their thinking. If a neural system is repeatedly exercised, it will continue to develop, just like exercising a muscle. On the other hand, if children do not systematically engage in self-regulatory behaviors at a young age, the corresponding brain areas may not develop to their full potential. Examples of self-regulation children can learn in kindergarten are to resist the immediate feeling to blurt out the answer when the teacher poses a question to another child or to delay playing outside until an assignment is completed. Suggestions for teachers to help develop these skills are also presented in the article.
Addressing gaps in knowledge alone cannot guarantee success in learning for all children. Addressing the development of self-regulation as an underlying skill is what makes learning possible. Instruction in self-regulation in the early years deserves just as much attention as the instruction in academic subjects.
Another article by Alice Boyes states that adults that have successfully learned emotional self-regulation experience personal happiness, success, and healthy relationships. The article asks ten question about behaviors that indicate emotional self-regulation:
- Can you identify which specific emotions you’re feeling?
- Can you identify which specific emotions someone else is feeling?
- Do you have the ability to start and persist with pursuing goals even when you feel anxious?
- Do you have the ability to tolerate awkwardness?
- Can you have intimate conversation rather than stonewall, avoid or flee?
- Do you crumble when someone is pressuring you?
- Can you sooth your own emotions?
- Can you sooth others?
- Can you wait?
- Do you know how to manage your positive emotions? (Boyes, 2013)
The article advises that anyone having difficulty in any of these areas shouldn’t criticize themselves, but rather use the revelation to work on improving these target areas.
Immediate gratification often impedes self-regulation. Some people rarely hesitate when offered a piece of their favorite candy, even if they are trying to lose weight. Marketing companies exploit this human weakness further by promoting impulse buying. Even the digital age has made most people feel impatient by delivering information on every topic on every device at any moment. Researchers warn that giving tablets and smartphones to children to divert their attention could be detrimental to developing internal mechanisms of self-regulation (Walters, 2015). The adverse effects of television and video on very small children is well understood, but society’s understanding of the impact of mobile devices on the preschool brain has been outpaced by how many children are already using them. “Additionally, these devices may replace the hands-on activities important for the development of sensorimotor and visual-motor skills, which are equally important for the learning and application of mathematics and science” (Walters, 2015). Although there is evidence that well-researched early-learning television programs, electronic books, and learn-to-read applications on mobile devices can help vocabulary and reading comprehension, but only when children are much closer to school age. It is not difficult to see how a child that receives immediate visual stimulus grows into an impatient adult that lacks the ability to self-regulate.
Bodrova, E. (2008). Developing self-regulation in kindergarten: can we keep all the crickets in the basket? Beyond the Journal – Young Children on the Web. https://www.naeyc.org/files/yc/file/200803/BTJ_Primary_Interest.pdf
Boyes, A. (2013). 10 essential emotional regulation skills for adults. Psychology Today. https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/in-practice/201304/10-essential-emotion-regulation-skills-adults
Walters, J. (2015). Tablets and smartphones may affect social and emotional development, scientists speculate. The Guardian. http://www.theguardian.com/technology/2015/feb/01/toddler-brains-research-smartphones-damage-social-development