Friday, July 11, 2014

Five Steps for Self-Regulation

Self-regulation is the number one skill necessary for children to be successful in school.  Did you know 40% of children enter school missing this essential skill?  Many adults struggle to teach self-regulation skills because it was never taught to them!  

I had the privilege of sharing a guest post over on Teach Preschool today about Dr. Becky Bailey’s book Managing Emotional Mayhem .  In her book, she shares the process for becoming BFF's with your own feelings.  This helps you guide children in doing the same.  Self-regulation is the ability regulate our thoughts, feelings, and actions so we can access higher levels of thinking.
In the post I shared the steps for getting started with your own self-regulation program:  Personal Awareness, Active Calming, and the DNA Process.  Now we continue the process with the Five Steps for Self-Regulation that are also shared in Dr. Bailey's book.

When coaching a child toward self-regulation, the first step is noticing they have been triggered.  Various things can trigger a child's upset.  It is helpful to be aware of your child's triggers.

When a child has been triggered, they are overcome with an emotion.  There is usually some physical indication that they are now in a Survival State.  Such behaviors include kicking, hitting, hiding, slamming doors, biting, spitting, or putting their head down.

Step 1:  I Am
Dr. Bailey wants us to recognize that it is no longer the child you are talking to.  Now you are talking to the feeling (ie: angry, scared, sad).  This is when the DNA process begins.  Move the child to a safe place in the classroom.  For infants, toddlers, and children with developmental delays you are their safe place.  You will hold the child on your chest or lap and begin to breathe with them.  Older children can be coached to use a self-regulation station that we refer to as a Safe Place.  We are very intentional about teaching children how to use the Safe Place appropriately.  For ideas about how to set up your Safe Place check out my Pinterest board.

Step 2:  I Calm

Now that the child is safe, you can use some of the Active Calming strategies that you have taught them in advance.  Dr. Bailey offers us four basic breathing techinques:  STAR, Balloon, Pretzel, and Drain Breathing.  There are free printables as well as instructions for each breathing technique on the Conscious Discipline website.

This is a video of one of my former students doing Balloon Breathing.  Give children plenty of opportunity to practice these skills.  It's like getting ready for the big game.  You wouldn't just send a soccer team out and expect them to win without practicing.  The same is true with breathing.  Children need to practice DEEP belly breathing so they are able to disengage the stress readily in moments of upset.  It takes three deep breaths to really shut off the stress response.  

Step 3:  I Feel

The next step in the self-regulation process is helping the child identify their feeling.  Young children under the age of eight don't have any internal speech.  By using the Feeling Buddies you offer children the opportunity to develop a helpful internal dialogue.  Dr. Bailey recommends that we begin with the four basic feelings happy, sad, angry, and scared.

Feel Chart

The language goes something like this:

  1. "Hello angry."
  2. "Welcome angry."
  3. "Your eyes are like this." (demonstrate)
  4. "Your mouth is like this." (demonstrate)
  5. "You seem angry."
  6. "You are safe."  (hold the buddy close)
  7. "Breathe with me." (take several deep breaths)

Acknowledging the child's emotions helps them bridge the gap from problems to solutions.  As you connect with the child, you are guiding them toward a higher brain state.  Now problem solving can occur.  By naming the feeling the child can begin to manage it.

Step 4:  I Choose

To continue the journey toward an optimal learning state we help the child make a choice.  Some ideas that may be offered as choices are writing in a journal, connecting rituals, friends and family photos, music, relaxation techniques, books, or calming cream.  Base these choices on the preference/needs of your children.

Step 5:  I Solve

This final step in the self-regulation process helps the child revisit the trigger and approach future difficulties with new life skills.  When we started this process, the child was in a Survival State.  Teaching and learning cannot occur when a child is in a Survival State.  This process helps us guide the child back to a regulated state so they are ready for teaching and moving forward with new skills.

Conflict Resolution Time Machine
There are five categories of solutions:

  1. Conflict resolution using the Time Machine Mat.
  2. Accept and manage your feelings.
  3. Learn a new skill.
  4. Structure the environment visually for success.
  5. Establish stronger connections.
At first, this process can seem very labor intensive.  You have to teach children each of the steps and coach them through the process.  The good news is that once you give them the practice and support they need, this is something they will carry with them throughout life.  

This process can seem like learning a foreign language.  Many of us were raised to ignore, dismiss, punish, or medicate our feelings instead of recognizing and managing them.  The Feeling Buddies Curriculum by Dr. Becky Bailey is a treasure trove of information and resources that leads you step by step through this process.  Its like a two for one.  As you guide your children, you also learn to manage your own emotions!  I highly recommend you check it out!!

Stay tuned for more ideas that will help you teach children how to self-regulate so they can be successful in school AND life!!!

Until next time, I wish you well!

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