Parent to Parent: Teaching kids to self-regulate | Parenting | #parenting

Q • I’ve heard a lot about training children to learn to self-regulate to cool down and self-center instead of melting down or acting rashly. Can you explain it a little better to me? I think it would be very beneficial to every family and to teachers as well. What do others say about it?

Self-regulation refers to how we manage stress. Stress is anything that requires us to burn energy to keep our internal systems running smoothly. Babies are born with a number of self-regulating mechanisms: for example, they fall asleep when overstressed, or cry boisterously to get rid of excess stress hormones. As children grow older, they acquire behaviors to manage their stress, which are often quite dysfunctional. An example of this is when the child or teen turns to a dopamine fix when they’re tired, rather than resting. The problem with maladaptive modes of self-regulation is that they lead to a buildup of stress, rather than its release. The results are just the sort of behavior and anxiety problems that are so widespread today. To nourish their well-being, parents have to help their kids recognize when they’re over-stressed and identify and reduce the stresses that they can, and learn how to self-regulate in healthy ways. It’s a lesson that all of us need to apply these days.” — Dr. Stuart Shanker in Peterborough, Ontario, Canada

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From Jodie Lynn • Although there are many ways to help children, teens and even ourselves to self-regulate before speaking out in anger, I think you may be referring to the system that Dr. Stuart Shanker  put into place after years of studying children and their behavior, ages and stages. His new book, “Reframed: Self Reg For a Just Society” is available on Amazon as well as his other books.

Some key points in his book is that there is no such thing as a bad, lazy or stupid kid. All people can learn to self-regulate in ways that promote rather than constrict growth. There is no such thing as a “fixed outcome”: trajectories can always be changed, at any point in the lifespan, if only we have the right knowledge and tools.

I get a ton of books sent to me, and it’s hard to choose which to refer to my readers when the time is right to help with a question, but this one really stands out. I think you’ll find it incredibly helpful in helping your family.

Why is it so important to take away the toddler’s binky? I don’t see the big deal. My wife wants our son to stop using his by the time he’s 3, and I think that is an unreasonable time frame. Is it really so bad? How do you do it anyway?

To share parenting tips or submit questions, write to: Parent to Parent, 2464 Taylor Road, Suite 131, Wildwood, MO 63040. Email:, or go to, which provides a secure and easy way to submit tips or questions. All tips must have city, state and first and last name or initials to be included in the column.

Jodie Lynn is an award-winning parenting columnist, author of five books and mother to three children. She and her family live in Wildwood.

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