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Parents’ Expectations around Children’s Self-regulation and Self-control

Recently parents in our Whanau Marama Parenting Courses have asked us questions about children’s self-regulation and self-control. From my point view, both self-regulation and self-control are life-long processes. Even us as adults, the ability may not be successfully developed. We know that it is not good to lie down and play with our mobile phone, but we are still doing this and we know that we should do more exercise but we only go to the gym for one month.

For our children, every single thing needs to be patiently taught by us hundreds of times (need more…….. patience). Children’s self-regulation and self-control tends to develop best in a warm and supportive environment throughout their childhood and adolescent years. However, parents’ expectations around self-regulation and self-control sometimes exceed their children’s age, ability and competency, our expectations for them maybe even higher than those that we have for ourselves. For instance; we ask our children to talk nicely when they are angry, but when we are grumpy or frustrated, we yell at our children or other family members.

It may help us to be more relaxed about it by thinking about how we are behaving our self. This is also helps us set our expectations for children about self-discipline and self-control in a more reasonable and realistic way. For example, we may want our children/teen to do their homework at a certain time or willingly practice playing the piano without having to remind them. And when they did not do what we expected, we may be angry and frustrated with them and even punish them.

We suggest it’s better to wait until the time when both of us are calm, and then have an empathetic conversation to get their agreement. After this, we still may need to remind them to do such things repeatedly. (This is the hardest part). This especially happens when our children have boring, repetitive, difficult tasks to do. They may find that it is extremely difficult to stick at it and complete it. If we put our self in our children’s shoes, how many of us will be willing to keep doing all the boring and difficult jobs?

Functioning at a higher level of self-regulation and self-control can bring many positive outcomes for our wellbeing, but there may be a down side as well. Continually living at this higher level of expectation may possibly take more energy from us and create huge pressure on us at same time. Perhaps our learning needs to also be around being kind and supportive of ourselves and our children as we travel together on this self-regulation and self-control journey.

Other helpful articles:
1. How Can We Help Kids With Self-Regulation? – https://childmind.org/article/can-help-kids-self-regulation/
2. Trouble With Self-Regulation: What You Need to Know – https://www.understood.org/en/learning-attention-issues/child-learning-disabilities/sensory-processing-issues/trouble-with-self-regulation-what-you-

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