Self-regulation is a complex process where a child is required to evaluate all the information he receives from his environment through his senses (see, hear, touch, taste, and smell). With all the information gathered, the child needs to consciously process sequentially an appropriate response for the situation. Then he needs to carry out the chosen response either through language, action, or non-action.
What does it all mean? As a parent, you will need to ‘see’ your child with a fresh and objective perspective to understand why your child is behaving or misbehaving. Having a compliant child is most parents’ dream. However, if you have a behaving and compliant child, the question you need to ask yourself is, “Is he being compliant for fear of punishment or loss of reward? Are his compliant behaviors simply based on my request or direction as he is seeking for my approval to feel loved?”
Self-regulation is not a case of restraining one’s own negative behaviors or emotions and simply disregard distractions. With the many definitions and theories, self-regulation essentially means being able to consciously monitor, manage and modify one’s behaviors and emotions appropriately for a given task or in a social setting.
The mastery of self-regulation does require initial learning efforts to be intentional. Children must be provided with challenging opportunities for them to enhance their self-regulation skills. The greater the opportunities for intentional self-regulation, the more advanced the child will be at internalizing the skill.
For example, if you would like to master your basketball dribbling skills, you would need to intentionally practice dribbling as often as you can until dribbling becomes an automated skill. Similarly, if your child is easily distracted, you will need to provide your child with an environment that progressively presents distractions for your child. This would allow your child to intentionally practice his self-regulation skills to overcome the challenge of being easily distracted.
Give your child time to develop his self-regulation skills, as it comes with age and maturity, and also provide him with the opportunities to do so. Remember, removing distractions so that your child can maintain his focus will not empower your child’s ability to self-regulate but hinder his development to learn and progress.