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Nothing Unsaid #05: Do You Understand The Difference Between Self-control and Self -Regulation?

Updated: Aug 3, 2022

When you see a child who is escalating or in difficulty are you quick to judge? Do you know someone who is? Sometimes, we unintentionally frown upon the adult who is trying to support the child in distress. We need to change this perception. Most kids want to do well. Most kids want to be successful at what they do.

Sometimes, these situations can be awkward and uncomfortable. Let’s put ourselves in the other person’s shoes. Too many of us assume that children have the ability to manage themselves in stressful situations. Science is showing us very clearly that not every person possesses the ability to manage stress appropriately. We all respond very differently to internal and external stressors.

Many people find these two terms - self control and self reg-confusing. They have two different meanings. Ultimately, self-regulation is the process which leads to self control. Self-control is the outcome which is achieved by practicing self-regulation.

Self-control: The outcome

  • May be falsely based on "making good choices".

  • Might encourage that intense emotions to be suppressed.

  • Might assume that kids and adults possess this skill.

  • May leave a feeling of judgment or is based in judgement.

  • May focus on inhibiting impulses.

  • Failure to achieve this can lead to unwanted punishment.

  • May suggest that one can self-managed with no practice or understanding of what is involved.

Self-regulation: The process.

  • This is based on modern brain science.

  • The focus here is on reducing the incidence and intensity of impulses.

  • This approach provides a different way of thinking about behavior or misbehavior.

  • Comes from a place of empathy and understanding.

  • This is achieved by gaining better awareness of stress responses.

  • This is not a program, it's a process.

Self-regulation is a skill that can be taught or improved through practice. One of the most effective manners to achieve this forward momentum is by working with someone who knows a thing or two about behavior and what it really means. After all, behavior is almost always a function of communication or an expression of need.

Worth mentioning: I want to point out that stress behaviors do not only occur in children. I think it holds merit to examine this topic when we are referring to adults as well.

I want you to think about the last time you witnessed a grown adult totally lose it towards another person and become explosive with anger. For me, a few examples quickly come to mind; dining in a restaurant, waiting in line at the bank or at the airport, etc... Got your visual? Great!

Now, can you see the parallels between these two circumstances? Adult and child. Very similar behavior. Very different stages of life.

The idea of practicing self regulation to achieve self control does not only apply to children. We - the adults need help too! Something worth remembering the next time someone cuts you off in traffic!

That’s all I have for now. Thanks for sticking with me.


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