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Co-regulation, a term that has become popular over the past 25 years, recognizes that young children haves limited ability to regulate themselves.  They need to be regulated and gradually develop self-regulation within the context of responsive, caring relationships with parents, teachers and caregivers.

In Self-Reg, co-regulation is what happens when a caregiver regulates a child’s (or other person’s) behaviour and feelings through interactive, bi-directional signals: soothing words, adjusting their tone of voice, facial expressions, body language, and gestures. A parent soothing a crying baby by cuddling, rocking and comforting words or soothing sounds is a classic example.

Co-escalation is the opposite of co-regulation. And sometimes adults co-escalate (often inadvertently) when we are upset or overstressed at the same time as a child, or when we’re angry and focussed solely on correcting behaviour. It is important (and helpful!) to recognize when we are co-escalating, stop the cycle so we can calm ourselves and adjust back to soothing mode. The question posed in this graphic—Am I co-escalating or co-regulating? — is a really good one to ask yourself when you’re struggling with an upset child.

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