Self-Regulation: how do we develop it in our young people?

Claire Melloy, Director of Student Development

Claire Melloy, Director of Student Development

By Claire Melloy, Director of Student Development

It is now widely recognized that one of the most important skills for all of us to develop is to control aspects of the self. Self-regulation is the ability to be aware of and change aspects of our behaviour, emotions or thoughts as needed. It includes the ability to inhibit a hasty reaction in order to respond thoughtfully, to ignore unhelpful distraction, to persist with relevant tasks even when we don?t particularly enjoy them and to be able to control our emotions if they become overwhelming.

Dr Stuart Shanker Professor of Philosophy and Psychology at York University https://self-reg.ca states that ?self-regulation is the foundation of healthy human development; adaptive coping skills, positive parenting, learning and safe and caring schools.? Other studies have found that self-regulation correlates with various positive outcomes for children and adolescents, including better academic performance, problem-solving skills, more satisfying interactions with peers, higher levels of intrinsic motivation, perceived competence and ethical behaviour.

Self-regulation is an important skill for everyone to acquire

At this point, some parents might be thinking ?How can I help when my child feels like this?? [overwhelmed by emotion]. The good news is that the adolescent brain is malleable and parents and teachers can help young people develop the skills of self-regulation. When young people feel overwhelmed by emotion, one of the most helpful things we can do is to acknowledge the emotion so that they feel heard. Then, when you can see that they are ready to try to problem solve, encourage them to engage their brain and their logical thinking in order to reframe the problem. Encourage them to answer ?What am I worried about? What can I control? What can I change? What can?t I change? What is the worst that can happen? What is the most useful thing for me to do in this situation??

We need them to get their brain to control their emotion, rather than than let their emotion control them.

The Center on the Developing Child at Harvard University recently released a a practical collection of activities and resources, some examples of which include:

  • Encouraging young people to talk themselves through the steps of a difficult activity or mentally narrate what is happening. Talking out loud can bring thoughts and actions into consciousness and can help teens identify negative thinking or behavior patterns.
  • Helping young people recognize the lessons of difficult experiences or failure. Help them consider what went wrong and what might be done differently next time.
  • Talking with your child about the motivations of other people, helping them to think about why someone might have acted in a certain way and what an alternative interpretation might be.
  • Discussing the positives of keeping a journal, which can foster self-reflection, awareness and planning.
  • Helping young people become more mindful of the impact of interruptions, particularly from electronic devices. Rather than multitasking, work on ways to prioritize tasks.
  • Read the Harvard article on activities for adolescents.

Digital parenting presentation by Martine Oglethorpe

Date: Thursday 27 April 2017 (Term 2, Week 1)
Time: 6pm
Venue: Senior School Lecture Theatre


The use of devices both at school and at home is still an area that parents are consistently asking for more information about. As a result, we have arranged for Martine Oglethorpe from The Modern Parent - Helping Families in the Modern World http://themodernparent.net/author/mogletho/ to present to Radford parents in Week One of Term Two on Thursday April 27 at 6pm in the Senior School Lecture Theatre. Martine?s digital parenting presentation will equip you with the necessary information, skills, strategies and perspective in order to help you and your children navigate the digital space, which can be overwhelming. Her approach seeks to help ensure that our young people get the best that technology has to offer, while minimizing the risk.

Some of the areas that will be covered include:

  • how are our young people using technology?
  • what apps are they using? are they safe?
  • coping with inappropriate content
  • how to control gaming
  • privacy, predators and reputation
  • why parents are the key to safe and smart digital behaviour
  • how to enforce boundaries and limits and keep the balance
  • strategies to teach our young people the skills they need to make the decisions online.

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