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Blog by Figen özer

One of my twin sons had a tennis match. Unfortunately, despite putting up a great effort,  he lost. At the end of the game, I was just as saddened as he was. He walked off the court, tired and upset. I immediately went to him as he sat on the bench looking devastated. As a mother, I could not bear to see him so upset. My only concern was his happiness. I sat beside him and tried to console him. I said, “It’s okay, you played well. You will win the next match.” Of course, instead of comforting him, that only made him more angry. He responded, “I do not want to win the next match.” Seeing that my attempts to comfort him were ineffective made me frustrated. 

I asked, “Should we go and get some chocolate?” Even this offer was rejected in a negative manner, which made me start to get angry as well. A voice inside me said, “I am  making an effort for him, trying to make him happy, and look at how he’s acting!” I was trying to make him happy, and he was being rude to me. I felt very worthless at that moment, and I was so angry. My body was getting hot. Forgetting how genuinely sad he was, I took his actions personally. As a result, instead of calming him down, my anger infuriated him even more.

Looking back at the situation from my current Self-Reg perspective, here is what I would do differently. First, I would not keep talking constantly as I sat by my son’s side. Initially, he would probably prefer some quiet time. The sports complex we sat in was so crowded, a significant stressor for him. I would get him out of the complex, find a quiet place, sit silently next to him, and place my hand on his leg. We would sit like that for a while, and then I would say, “You are unfortunate. You put in so much effort, and you were hoping to win the match.” He would likely respond with a yes. Then, I would ask if he wanted a hug or not. 

The graphic demonstrates co-regulation. There first two graphics are of two separate boats in rough seas, the second is of the two boats together in calm seas.

Another critical point is that I wouldn’t take his angry and rude replies personally. I would ask myself, ‘Why?’ and ‘Why now?’ and realize that his angry response was a sign that he was so sad and stressed.

Validating our children’s emotions and co-regulating with them helps them learn to regulate their emotions through co-regulation. When we co-regulate, children feel safe, and their behavior challenges fade. As parents, we must remember that children can’t self-regulate their emotions and behaviors. They don’t have that ability, so they need our help to self-regulate. We can teach them to self-regulate by co-regulating them, not leaving them alone with their emotions.


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