Self-Reg: The Book

Self-Reg: The Book 2016-10-31T22:09:21+00:00

Self-Reg: How to Help Your Child (and You) Break the Stress Cycle and Successfully Engage with Life

The foundation of self-regulation is the feeling of calmness and safety that children experience with their parents. Children’s ability to deal with stress in life, whatever its source, stems from the security they experience in their families.

In Self-Reg, Dr. Shanker helps us begin to recognize, not just when our child is becoming dysregulated, but what to do about it: the process that will enable us to experience that calmly focused state where learning and growth can occur.  Learning Self-Reg has an unexpected benefit for us parents: as we come to understand our own hidden stressors and how those impact our brains and bodies, we find science that answers many questions and invites us to have a new gentler lens on ourselves as parents.

Self-Reg begins with distinguishing between misbehaviour and stress-behaviour, recognizing that something that we automatically assume is due to a lack of self-control is, in fact, a sign of an excessive stress-load. Important examples of when we may need to reframe behaviour are things like: restlessness; a negative outlook; emotional volatility; sudden outbursts; heightened impulsivity; low frustration tolerance; aggression; oppositional behaviour; social withdrawal; a lack of empathy.

I was recently asked when I first started to write Self-Reg: believe it or not, the answer is over 40 years ago! Already as a teenager, I had a deep sense of the extraordinary potential of science to realize the ancient Greek dream of eudaemonia: i.e., to uncover those hidden secrets of the mind and brain that would enable each and every child and youth to realize their full potential and enjoy a life full of meaning and wellbeing.— Stuart Shanker

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Reviews and Praise for Self-Reg

My son has been diagnosed with anxiety, sensory processing disorder and ADHD at different times in his life but these labels do nothing to help explain what is going on inside of him and the behaviors that manifest from this inner turmoil. This book does just that! It is hands down the best book I’ve ever read on the subject and I think I’ve read them all. I was not surprised to find that the author worked under the great Stanley Greenspan and even co-authored a book called the ‘First Idea’ with him. The wonderful thing about this book is explains all the research in such a simple straightforward way. I feel like it answered every question I’ve ever had about my son. I think if you read this along with Ross Greene’s new’ Raising a Human Being’ you have all the tools you will need to successfully parent your stressed child. Dr. Shanker, thank you so much for writing this brilliant book!! –A UK Reader

“I purchased your book yesterday for our family. I have been devouring the pages with my yellow highlighter. This is the answer we need so desperately. My step-son Max (age 9) has yet to attend a full day at school because of his loud crying and disruptive, aggressive behaviour. He left his regular school to attend a special school to support him. They identified ways to help him return to baseline and interactions that are triggers. They adjusted his medications and returned him to his home school. Although his behaviour is officially diagnosed ADHD, I now understand that he is very stressed. His father and him are stuck in a cycle of stress with each other. We need to identify his stressors and change our response to his tantrums. This book is what I’ve been praying for. Thank you and I hope the next time you hear from me it’s because I have a wonderful success story to share. Thank you so much for caring about children who want to engage in life but can’t figure out how.Melissa M.

“Though this book takes children’s needs as its focus, it is really focused on providing guidance—and even a degree of consolation—to adults as they navigate the often tricky parent-child relationship. Shanker gives readers clear explanations of even the more complex neurological information, such as the role of the limbic system, as well as ample diagrams. And the discussion does not stop at the early childhood stage, moving ultimately into adolescence. If the stressed populations most in need of this book’s lessons can find the time to read it, they will appreciate its potential to bring the minds of both parent and child to a state of heightened attentiveness with minimal anxiety.”— Publishers Weekly

“In this important and timely book, Stuart Shanker encourages us to see our children in a whole new light and gives us the tools we need to help nurture our young in order that they can better manage stress, build resiliency and improve their emotional health. Today’s pupils are under serious pressure to perform; by helping children recognize, identify and talk about their emotions, we can help them find balance and ultimately realise their true potential.”— Sir Anthony Seldon, Vice-Chancellor of the University of Buckingham, co-founder of Action for Happiness and best-selling author

“Capping a lifetime of studying and thinking about children’s emotions and behavior, the brilliant Stuart Shanker presents us with this stupendous gift, a true tour-de-force, in which he dismantles and elegantly reassembles, so that the layperson can understand, one of the most complicated mechanisms of the mind: self-regulation. Parents, rejoice! Read this book and you will be able to teach your children (and yourselves!) the practical, immensely valuable, and enormously satisfying skills of self-regulation.”—Edward Hallowell, M.D., author of Driven to Distraction: Recognizing and Coping with Attention Deficit Disorder

“A key book for parents and teachers to help reduce anxiety in children’s lives. Self-Reg is something we can all learn and practise every day. Thanks to Stuart Shanker for his ground-breaking work.”—Raffi Cavoukian CM, Singer, author, Founder of Child Honouring

“Our digital age is stressful, frantic and over-stimulating. Raising a child today requires an understanding of self-regulation. Self-Reg is a wonderful guide for parents, a way to understand the hidden stressors facing children, and their neurological, psychological, social, and emotional effects. Dr. Shanker helps parents not just to understand the meaning of their child’s behavior with compassion, but, just as essentially, how to calm themselves in order to better guide their children toward more positively engaged living.” —Catherine Steiner-Adair, Ed. D., author of The Big Disconnect: Protecting Childhood and Family Relationships in the Digital Age

“Comprehensive data backs up a much-tested system that assists parents in getting their children to a calmer state of mind….straightforward and will be useful for any age level.”-Kirkus Reviews 

“Brilliant. In this illuminating and accessible breakthrough book, Stuart Shanker makes a powerful case for understanding children’s behavior and misbehavior using the lens of self-regulation.  I will never see children in the same way.  I recommend Self-Reg to any parent, educator, or mental health professional who wants to understand children at the deepest levels, and who wants a practical technique for helping a stressed-out child feel safe and engaged.” —Michael Thompson, author of Raising Cain: Protecting the Emotional Life of Boys

“Shanker and Barker’s book, Self-Reg, will change the way we perceive children’s behaviors and struggles. Its hopeful message is that understanding emotional regulation provides fresh ways to understand stress and to support the emotional lives of children and families.” —The Visible Parent (read more here)

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A Review of Self-Reg from TMC’s John Hoffman

Many people will know about the success of Stuart Shanker’s 2012 book, Calm, Alert and Learning: Classroom Strategies for Self-regulation. That book was an extraordinary success  for a book in the Canadian education publishing field according to publisher, Pearson Canada.

Stuart’s new book, Self-Reg: How to Help Your Child (And You) Break the Stress Cycle and Successfully Engage with Life, which comes out June 21, figures to be much more of an international phenomenon.  Commissioned by an American publisher (Penguin Press), the rights Self-Reg have already been picked up by publishers in several different countries. We should note that Dr. S had an American co-author this time out: Teresa Barker, a veteran journalist and author who has collaborated with other experts on several best-selling books for parents.

The first thing that struck me about the new book is that Dr. S treats parents like intelligent, curious, caring beings who really want to understand “what’s going on inside that little head (and body).” This will be a breath of fresh air to troubled parents who are accustomed to being told all the things they are doing wrong. And, in helping parents understand the science behind Self-Reg, Dr. S doesn’t shy away from comprehensive information. This book contains lot of detail – much more than other parenting books – about the workings of the brain and nervous system and how that all relates to the stress children experience and how that stress affects their energy, mood, behaviour thinking and social functioning.

If you’ve seen Stuart speak or read his blogs you know that he likes to talk about real cases of children he’s met. In Self-Reg he delves very deeply into the stories. These are not just anecdotes. He gives you lots of information, circling back to the same child several times during a chapter: the child’s behaviour, the parents’ concerns, his own observations, and what they all learned along the way. And, as we’d expect, he uses Self-Reg to show us what was making that child tick and how they were able to identify and deal with the child’s stressors.

Another strength of this book is that it doesn’t provide parents with pat 1-2-3 Magic type answers — You know… “Just do this  (and do it just right) and your child’s behaviour will be fixed.” Oh, Stuart does say children’s behaviour can improve. He says that very confidently. But he offers parents a journey of detective work: observation, learning, thinking, missteps and reflection. And he uses the real life cases to show parents the steps along the way. (He also devotes an entire chapter to parents and their stress.)

This will be a great comfort to parents who know from experience, that in real life, progress with parenting problems usually comes gradually and incrementally.  Few things work instantly. Things that used to work suddenly stop working. What works with one child doesn’t work with another. Strategies that “should” work sometimes don’t work. And sometimes things work and you’re not exactly sure why.

The book was written for parents, but it is equally relevant to educators, and not just because most educators are parents too. This book explores some fairly different territory than Calm, Alert and Learning. Thanks to Dr. Shanker’s ongoing learning process, he is now able to go much more deeply into the five domains and the impact of hidden stressors on children.

Above all, this book soundly deconstructs the idea that kids who are having trouble paying attention, or controlling impulses, those who have short emotional fuses or social problems, aren’t trying hard enough or simply haven’t been disciplined properly. Many exhausted, discouraged parents will find it a great relief to know that they can stop fighting for control and can instead put their hearts and minds into understanding and connecting with their children – in all their uniqueness. Because, at the heart of it, isn’t that what all parents really want to do?