Model Realistic Regulation
Our kids are flooded with our capability. They watch us tie our shoes effortlessly, pour milk without spilling, cope calmly with disappointment. Resilience comes from tolerating struggles and failures and, yet, kids watch their parents, over and over again, succeed with ease.
How can we do a better job of not doing such a good job?
Here’s an idea: model Realistic Regulation. Here and there, pick a time when you know your child is nearby and then just “happen” to struggle around her.
1. Read something aloud and mess up a word or two.
2. Struggle to put your shoes on: “Ugh!!! These are so tight!!” and then pause and say, “Ok deep breath… go slowly… I got this.”
3. Have a hard time losing a game and then recover: “No No No… I think I actually won it’s just that you… wait… that’s not true… I’m ok. Deep breath… Good game, sweetie.”
4. Act out trying to cope with disappointment, frustration, jealousy.
We all learn best from people who we admire but don’t feel “too far” from. If you’re a novice soccer player, you might not want to be on the field with Messi or Rapinoe. If you’re trying to learn how to do some more complex math, lessons from Einstein would feel intimidating.
Our children are novices in emotion regulation; they learn best when we model healthy emotion regulation that isn’t too perfected, that starts out looking similar to their own experience but then takes a slightly different path.
So, when you act our disappointment and recovery, make it realistic. Don’t recover too quickly, cleanly, or logically. Model what building regulation skills actually looks like – it’s challenging, it’s non-linear, it requires hard work. Model this realistic regulation in front of your child without calling direct attention to it, so your child “just happens” to witness it as a part of your day.
My kids love when I do this. They love seeing me as an emotional work-in-progress and also being able to offer calm-down ideas to me, which is a powerful role-reversal and helps them tap into their arsenal of emotion regulation skills. Try this today in your home and then come back here and drop a comment to tell us how it went!
Try This At Home:
With your child nearby, open the fridge and say:
“There are no more grapes, I wanted some! Someone has to go to the store right now! Ok, Ok…deep breath… I can cope with this… NO! I really want grapes now, ughhh! Ok, one more breath… I wish we had grapes. I can manage, today, with an apple.” Then turn to your child, and say, “I was just figuring something out …You want to take a bike ride? Sure, let me grab an apple and then I’ll be ready.”
See what else you can come up with for modeling realistic regulation – a meltdown and recovery as you build a tower and it falls down? Struggling to pull on a tight sock? Zipper a jacket?