SELF-REGULATION | 5 DOMAINS OF SELF–REG: Prosocial Domain
- The crux of Self-Reg is that we are born with a brain that expects social engagement. Antisocial behaviour in a child is not the norm.
- Clearly there are biological mechanisms that, in the wrong circumstances lead to antisocial behaviour.
- Equally clearly there are biological mechanisms that in the right circumstances lead to prosocial behaviour.
- Instead of asking how you compel a child to behave prosocially, through a lens of self-regulation we ask: what sets a child on an antisocial path?
- The answer lies in stress overload: Fight-or-fight shuts down digestion, cellular repair, immune system, and PFC systems that subserve mindreading and communication.
- Stress overload shuts down the very systems that enable us to experience “cognitive empathy”: not just being affected by, but aware of what someone else feels.
- When social engagement shuts down, ancient systems run the show: systems that predate the Social Brain relying on aggression or escape to deal with threat.
- Some children are born susceptible to limbic arousal, or something happened that kindled the limbic system. If hyperaroused, impulses intensify while social and self-awareness decline: the child can’t share, sympathize, or communicate. Someone else’s arousal is so stressful that it triggers fight-or-flight or freeze.
- What is critical in such situations is how we respond to the child’s anxiety, which can manifest in acts of aggression.
- Chastising a child for his lack of empathy, shouting when a child needs to be soothed, escalating when the child needs to down-regulate, can make things worse. Instead we have to do Self-Reg, on ourselves as well as with the child.
- Early Learning centres and schools provide us with the perfect opportunity, not just to explain, but also to model this behaviour for parents.
Click here for a printable info sheet about all 5 domains.
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.