Myth 1: Scientists all mean the same thing when they talk about “self-regulation.”
In fact, Jeremy Burman documented 447 different uses of “self-regulation” in the scientific literature, which he grouped together into six distinct “concept-families.”
Myth 2: “Self-regulation” is just another term for “self-control”
Self-regulation is concerned with how we manage stress, not inhibiting the impulses that arise from excessive stress.
Myth 3: Self-Reg provides a more effective way to manage behavior than traditional behaviorist approaches
Self-Reg is about understanding, not managing behaviors, and ameliorating the conditions that result in challenging behaviors.
Myth 4: A child’s ability to self-regulate, like intelligence, is genetically determined.
Neither is “genetic,” although biological issues can make it more challenging for some children to learn how to manage the stress in their lives
Myth 5: Self-regulation is set in the early years of life
Excessive stress in the early years can have a strong effect on a child’s “stress-reactivity,” but there is never a point where it is too late to learn how to self-regulate
Myth 6: Self-regulation is solely concerned with handling powerful negative emotions (e.g. anger, fear)
Self-regulation is as much about up-regulating positive emotions (e.g., interest, love, happiness) as down-regulating negative emotions
Myth 7: Self-regulation promotes permissive parenting
Self-regulation is about recognizing and reducing stressors and structure plays an important role in this regard. Permissive parenting has, in fact, been shown to be as great a stress for children as authoritative parenting.
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.