When Self Regulation is a Challenge: A Response to Current Events
Self-regulation as an answer to racism and violence. When I am driving, I can become a different person. You see, I am a courteous driver. I follow the rules, drive the speed limit and I let people over when they are attempting to merge. I think about other cars and how I can contribute to the safe flow of traffic. I watch for bikes, joggers, and erratic jaywalkers. Sometimes, I drive too slowly.
Maybe we all think we drive this way. My problem is that I expect the same level of mindfulness and courtesy from all drivers. I believe that driving is a privilege and we should all be grateful each day for the systems and human contract that allows a painted yellow line to provide us all with safety when driving 45 miles per hour in opposite directions. The point is that I can get dysregulated by a lack of driving courtesy on the part of fellow drivers. When someone lets you over, you should give a wave of thanks. When you can’t figure out why the car in front of you is not moving, maybe it is because there is a pedestrian just out of your view. Stop, at stop signs! Don’t drift out into the intersection so as not to leave enough room for vehicles to pass…as if to say, “I’m goin’ if you’ll let me”.
See, it’s happening just writing about it. I’m becoming dysregulated.
You are either relating to me or you are thinking, “Wow, he’s kinda going off”.
Dysregulation is the opposite of self-regulation and can lead to frustration, anger, and violence. While many of us rely on the attentive ear of a caring person, therapy, or sedation of some sort, self-regulation comes from within.
Self-Regulation is defined by Merriam-Webster as:
control or supervision from within instead of by an external authority
the bringing of oneself or itself into a state of order, method, or uniformity
Self-regulation techniques include meditative or mindfulness practices such as breathing, retreat, reflection, and gratitude practice.
In many ways, self-regulation relates directly to the ways in which we control our impulses. Impulsivity can be viewed as a dimension of normal personality (Eysenck & Eysenck, 1977), but high levels of impulsivity are associated with psychiatric disorders such as ADHD, mania, substance abuse, and personality disorders, indicating that this personality trait can be maladaptive (DSM IV, 1994)
Dysregulation as it relates to a lack of impulse control can result in disastrous consequences. Students who struggle with impulsivity can be easy targets for dares or other dangerous behaviors. They might come across self-absorbed and seem disinterested in even social conversations. Later, they might make poor split decisions while driving or navigating an offer for drugs or alcohol. They are at risk of making life-changing choices in just a few moments. Impulsivity can be triggered. Students are encouraged to engage in self-regulation practices which include those above in addition to regulated and consistent diet, sleep, and exercise.(Altena, Van Der Werf, Strijers, & Van Someren, 2008)
My driving experiences above indicate that adults are far from removed from dysregulation. In fact, we can be quite effective at reinforcing behaviors that fail to model effective self-regulation for our kids. Even if we could be perfect parents, there are plenty of current demonstrations in our communities and on our screens that demonstrate and occasionally justify dysregulation and impulsivity to our kids.
The impact of a lack of self-regulation has ever rippling effects. Self-regulation as an answer to racism and violence. One of our more recent examples has incited outrage and become world news. As I write this, George Floyd is being laid to rest in his family grave. The words of his family were emotional and powerful. I am moved by their messages of mourning as well as their strength. In this situation, the impulsive actions of an authority figure have led to grave consequences and our cities are in dysregulation.
Self-regulation as an answer to racism and violence.
In an effort to concretely respond, J2 is organizing webinars for all of our – coaches in Nonviolent Communication. While many of our coaches already employ these techniques in their work, there is always a need for skill refreshers. J2 has always been committed to our outcomes. We believe we must do our best to be a model for all of the children, teenagers, and college students we coach. Adults must be able to effectively model self-regulation in order to expect the same of our youth.
We too, like many of you and like many organizations, are concerned about racism and its impact on our children. We stand in solidarity with our African-American community and are committed to providing exceptional academic services to students of all races. J2 does not discriminate based on race/ethnicity, religion, sexual orientation. Beyond protesting and activating those who represent us, we believe the best way to effect change is by being the thoughtful and supportive adult we needed when we were kids. We have found our methods of nonviolent communication to be one tool to manifest that change. Many parents report a more peaceful dialogue at home as a result of our work.
We have also gathered resources (at the bottom of this email) with additional information, ideas, and tools that may help you approach current events with our children and families. We hope you find these helpful.
Are you interested in knowing more about how J2 and our work with young people can have a positive impact on your student and family?