What my son taught me about Self-Regulation

self reg

Yesterday, I was schooled by my five-year old son.

Coming down the stairs early morning yesterday, my son was already in an assertive mood. Always the self-advocate, he expressed how he didn’t want to attend a new sports program I enrolled him in. His very stern dismissal of the program did not come from his disliking of such activities. He thrives in such a setting and loves being part of any team sport. In his words, he was “tired.”

Regardless, I carried on with the morning and at 8:45am started to get him ready for the activity that began at 9:30am. As he changed and brushed his teeth, he continued to express his discontent for the activity. Whereas, I challenged his thinking and tried to sell him on the value of such an program, he responded with “you did ask me if I wanted to do it.”

He was right, I didn’t ask him.

Out of my own sense of what he should be doing, I enrolled him without consultation. As he expressed to me yesterday, “Sundays are for church, family and rest.” Again, he was right. This comes from a five-year old who arrives at his school’s before school care at 7:30am, comes home at 4:30pm, engages in post-dinner learning activities, practices Taekwondo twice a week (a hour each lesson) and swims for an hour on Saturdays.

The kid is tired – I would be at his age as well.

So, as tears ran down his face, we sat down and talked about what he wanted – not what I wanted. He asserted that he wanted Sundays to be a relaxing day – a day he can rest in the morning, go to church and be lazy in the afternoon. Basically, he just wanted to be a kid free from expectations.

Yesterday morning, provided me both with a real dad moment that speaks to the world of education itself and my current Masters of Education Course specifically on Self Regulation. In this course, as with the goal to infuse self-regulated learning in a classroom and beyond,  learners, kids and adults, need an opportunity stop, reflect, rationale and advocate. Specifically, in reference to celebrated academic Stuart Shanker and his work in self-regulation and mindfulness, yesterday’s narrative speaks directly to his Shanker Method: 5 Domains of Self-Regulation.

  1. Read the signs of stress and reframe the behavior
  2. Recognize the stressors
  3. Reduce the stress
  4. Reflect: enhance stress awareness
  5. Respond: develop strategies for responding to stress and returning to calm

In regards to my son:

  1. His morning began with concern over the program, wanting to “chill out” at home after a busy week and day/night before. I failed in reading his assertiveness – first thinking he was just being lazy and disinterested.
  2. He was adamant – and releasing his stress through crying. The tears weren’t passive. They were real.
  3. Although I first challenged and dismissed his tears, I stopped and started a positive conversation where I asked him what he wanted and thought.
  4. I asked if he was crying because he was frustrated – he asserted “yes.” From this he was very articulate in regards to what he wanted.
  5. Moving forward, he asked that I consultant with him about activities etc. As he shared, “If I’m too tired, then I won’t like what I’m doing.” As such, consultation is so important.

In the end, my son provided me with a real parenting and teacher lesson in self-regulation. If we want to foster self-regulation in young people, then we also have to empower. We have to ask the right questions, encourage reflection and promote self-advocacy. Importantly, we (whether a parent or teacher), need to be ready to respond.

So, how did I respond?

I’ve removed my son from the Sunday program with the understanding (as directed by him) that he will try the activity in the Spring once his Saturday swimming is completed at the end of March.

In respect to his self-regulation, this is an effective compromise. He feels empowered by the conversation and also encouraged to try something new when he is ready. 

Needless to say, as a parent and teacher, the learning never stops.

This entry was posted in Education, Educational Leadership and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.