7 Myths of Self-Reg

Self-Reg for parents, photo of man and son sitting on the grass together

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 behavior, 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.

Dr. Stuart Shanker is a Distinguished Research Professor Emeritus of Philosophy and Psychology from York University and the Founder & Visionary of The MEHRIT Centre, Ltd. Stuart has served as an advisor on early child development to government organizations across Canada and the US, and in countries around the world. Dr. Shanker also blogs for Psychology Today
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