Perspective-taking is an important self-regulation capacity, and the ability to integrate multiple perspectives is a hallmark of mature thinking. An integrative map reminds us to pay attention to all of the factors that influence self-regulation, and the connections among them:
Perspectives in action
Here’s an example. An integrative lens on self-regulation helps us to see beyond behaviours, to inquire into the inner life of the child. Is Maria a flexible thinker? Are Avi’s outbursts connected to lagging cognitive skills? Is Gurminder sad? Does Michael make empathic connections with his classmates? Can Shen focus on math a little longer when he’s feeling calm and grounded? Integrating a child’s mental and emotional experiences with observations of their behaviour can be both insightful and instructive. It gives us more to work with.
We’ve also noticed that most approaches to self-regulation are focused on the individual. While this is important, it’s not sufficient. Our efforts become more effective and more sustainable when we recognize the collective factors that influence self-regulation: the systems and structures in which we work and learn, for example, and the culture of our organizations and communities.
Let’s start with systems and structures. Many schools are exploring ways that classroom design can enhance self-regulation. And there’s a growing awareness that self-regulation gets a real boost when the whole school is involved, and not just a ‘problem’ kid or classroom. Similarly, self-regulation capacities are strengthened when the family is on board, when kids experience consistent expectations and support at home and at school. And, as the self-regulation movement grows, we see how policies and programs in other sectors can foster self-regulation capacities in kids and adults: early childhood education, health prevention & promotion, recreation, child and youth care, suicide prevention programs, mental health services ... even municipal planning. Each sector can make an important contribution to promoting self-regulation, especially when there are opportunities for collaboration.
Culture is equally important. This dimension of self-regulation is harder to pin down and measure; nonetheless, it exerts significant influence on our approach to self-regulation. This dimension is the gathering place for our shared attitudes, values and beliefs, our assumptions, our taken-for-granted’s. When we pay attention to the cultural factors that influence self-regulation ... that make it easier to talk about mental health challenges, for example, and to ask for help ... we create new norms, and new possibilities. And we can agree to a shared purpose: building a culture of self-regulation in our school, our organization, our community. We’ll know we’ve had a significant cultural impact when we can say “self-reg? It’s just the way we do things around here.”
Thriving Kids, Thriving Communities
At CSRI, we believe that by working together to foster self-regulation in kids, and the adults that support them, we can change lives and build healthier, more sustainable communities. We also believe that this work will be most effective and most sustainable when we take an integrative approach, attending to all of the factors that influence self-regulation: individual and collective, interior and exterior.
These four dimensions are interconnected, interdynamic and irreducible. By building self-regulation assets in one area, we’re actually strengthening self-regulation capacities in each of the others. Reconnecting seemingly separate parts into a more inclusive and integrative whole, our change efforts generate higher levels of learning, mental wellness, positive relationships and healthy development.
Tam Lundy, PhD
Canadian Self-Regulation Initiative
2 Siegel, Daniel J. (2012). Pocket guide to interpersonal neurobiology: An integrative handbook of the mind. New York: W.W. Norton & Company.