1. Build a relationship: self-regulation is only made possible, and proceeds from a strong relationship.
2. Keep your eyes on the target: the focus, when we’re working on self-regulation, has to be on the self-regulation itself and not some secondary problem that may have arisen from or been exacerbated by an excessive stress load.
3. Pay attention to individual differences: We need to present children with all sorts of choices, allowing the opportunity to experiment. The power of self-regulation as a process and not a program lies in the choosing.
4. Proceed gradually (paulatinamente): self-regulation takes time to figure out. Going step-by-step often requires tremendous patience: a matter of not trying to go too far too fast.
5. Don’t go too meta-cognitive: present the self-regulation concepts in ways children can fully grasp, in their body as well as in their minds. Children need an embodied understanding of what words like “calm” mean for them.
6. Don’t expect everyone to have the same capacities: Some children have less ‘gas in the tank’, or are burning too much energy during a task and so must work much harder to concentrate on a task.
7. Expect the unexpected: Expect that works beautifully for one child may have the opposite effect on another, or something that has worked beautifully will suddenly stop working for reasons that you may never understand.
8. Change a trajectory: the starting point for changing a child’s trajectory begins with our perception of that child; for this has far more bearing on how he perceives himself than we might ever dream,
9. Be culturally attuned: Successful self-regulation initiatives are culturally-relevant and driven by interest and curiosity rather than a manual. What is involved here is approaching self-regulation in different cultures with an open and inquiring mind.
10. Take it personally: self-regulation is always personal. Building relationships is the first principle of practicing self-regulation, we need to honour our own personal needs to do Self-Reg and address this in training and supports for early childhood educators.
Dr. Stuart Shanker is the Founder and CEO of The MEHRIT Centre. You can read all the posts in his “Self-Reg View of” series here. You can also read his writing on Psychology Today and The Huffington Post.