I Need to Self-Regulate? What You Talkin’ About Willis??

Many of you are too young to remember the sitcom Diff’rent Strokes, but in the show, some disaster could be occurring with everyone running around and the older brother (Willis) would say something, and the younger brother would stop everything, get very serious, look directly at his brother and say, “What you talkin’ about Willis?”

That is emotional self-regulation.

All joking aside, the ability to control our emotional responses is a tool that we can all benefit from.

Self-regulation, in this context means the conscious personal management of one’s own thoughts, behaviors and feelings to reach certain goals.

As parents, we want our children to be able to control their responses, their thoughts, their emotions and their behaviors. But, the truth is, individuals on the spectrum struggle with this.  Meltdowns are a perfect example of the inability to self-regulate. Meltdowns, rage responses, violent outbursts are all characteristics we would like to help our children control…but what about ourselves?

How often do we react in a way to our children that we immediately regret? Losing our temper, yelling, slamming a door, saying something we wish we could take back.

The truth is that we all need tools for self-regulation. We need to have the tools to respond instead of react.

Have you ever walked into a room and immediately felt as if there is tension in the air? That maybe there had just been an argument or some other emotional exchange? Have you ever walked into a room and felt like “I like this place, it feels good”?

As human beings, we all have this sense, but in our kiddos with autism spectrum disorder, and/or sensory integration disorder, and/or even ADHD or dyslexia, this sense is amplified. They respond more to how we are showing up emotionally than to our words and actions.

Those of you with kiddos on the spectrum know this to be true.

Empowering ourselves with tools to self-regulate is the first step in giving these tools to our children and loved ones. We can begin to help our children regulate their own emotional state by assessing and managing our own. But how?

As a Licensed Davis® Autism Workshop Presenter, I start the training by first empowering the parents and educators with tools to regulate their personal emotional state. As they progress to working with their children and loved ones, we find that their ability to work with them improves dramatically the more they use their own self-regulation tools.

The tools we facilitate in a workshop are quick to use and master.

If you are not attending a workshop here is what you want to keep in mind when looking for tools to help you show-up into your child’s space prepared:

  1. Take responsibility for your own emotional state.
    1. Remember that your emotional response is your ‘response-ibility’.
    2. Before entering your child’s presence, breathe, check your thoughts and ‘see’ your loved one in a way that makes you smile, relax your muscles (relieve yourself of tension), and flood yourself with the feeling you have when you are smiling or laughing.

This is all easier said than done if you don’t have the tools.

Find the tools to regulate your own responses and you will start to see those around you begin to respond differently to you.

Until next time…

Keep it simple.

Dr. Angie

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