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Do it yourself

Self-regulation. A term mentioned to me by a fellow Grade 5 parent. In the short time we had to chat she told me to look this up and see what I thought.

A hug and a bag of Hugs for this newswoman on “Hug your newsman/newswoman day.”

I have a great respect for this person as a parent and friend so I followed her advice and this headline from an article in the March 22 edition of the Ottawa Sun caught my attention, “Transforming tiny terrors with ‘self-regulation’ might change the makeup of Canada’s classrooms.”

So what exactly is self-regulation?

Research professor of philosophy and psychology at York University Dr. Stuart Shanker, who piloted a successful program in Yukon and British Columbia schools explained, “The concept of self-regulation identifies how well a child is able to cope with stress factors, and how much energy is expended in the recovery from stressful situations.”

I know it sounds complicated, but it basically means helping a child recognize when they are in a stressful situation and allowing them to calm down in their own way. Some causes of stress can include too much noise in the classroom, being too sleepy or too hyper. Children who are under stress can’t concentrate which leads to a lack of productivity. Some children may go for a run to calm down, others need headphones to block out the loud noise and others may need to sit alone on a special seat. Every child copes differently.

Shanker maintains that Canadian children don’t know how to feel calm anymore — there is too much stimulation in their lives.

That is not to say kids won’t be kids and be loud, noisy and boisterous, but self-regulation will help children determine when the stimulation becomes too much to bear and they need to de-stress.

Back to the original question — what do I think of self-regulation?

Well, I think it’s a good idea. I say that cautiously because there are always two sides to every story. I completely agree that kids are over stimulated. I have three children close in age and believe me, I have bore witness to the “tiny terror” aspect of them and the “stressed out child” aspect of them.

For example, I won’t use names to avoid embarrassment, but child X at the tender age of about three years-old went to a store with me one day.

When suddenly their little eyes caught sight of a toy and when I said, “No.” The tears started to flow, the cheeks turned red and the wailing ensued. That, my friend was a severe case of  “tiny terror.” My child wasn’t over stimulated or stressed — they were angry because I wouldn’t give them their own way.

On the other hand, when the time comes to do homework child Y needs quiet, television off, siblings tucked out of sight and their only companion — peace and quiet to help them. If there’s too much noise child Y gets frustrated and overwhelmed. A few deep breaths and reassurance that they have quiet and the homework train choo-choos ahead.

Therefore, I can see why children need to learn to identify the stressors and learn to deal with them before they get out of control. The fact is my children and your children are faced with pressures and problems that we as 30-something parents never encountered.

Body image, peer pressure, bullying, just to name a few are everyday occurrences just like hopscotch, Barbies and dinkies were for us.

We, as parents, grew up with Nintendo (the original) on days when you couldn’t get outside to play, but today my kids have a Nintendo 3D ds XL that they can connect on and play together with one game, iPods, laptops and I can’t omit the “game of all games” Minecraft.

Try shutting off an iPod while the new Minecraft update is downloading and I promise you will see the unholy combination of “tiny terror” and over stimulated epically combined.

With all that said, its not just children that need to self-regulate. Have you ever had road rage? Terrible service in a restaurant? Rude cashier at a retail store?

Dr. Shanker, I think you’re on to something with your idea of self-regulation in schools and when you’re done with the kids let some of us parents be first in line.


Last week I wrote a column celebrating “Hug your newsman/newswoman day” on April 4. Last Friday I was pleasantly surprised when Cyril Peckford of Lewisporte dropped by the Pilot office with a hug for me and a bag of Hugs to share with Karen and Kim. Thank you Cyril. Your act of kindness will long be remembered.


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