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Self-Reg and Parenting Advice

By John Hoffman

Self-Reg, with its emphasis on understanding and addressing stressors that impact kids’ behaviour and development, not to mention adult behaviour, is a great addition to any parent’s tool kit.

The thing is, Self-Reg is not an island. It lives in a world loaded with advice, philosophies, programs, and maxims that influence today’s parents. So, moms and dads who want to “do Self-Reg” as Dr. Shanker likes to say, will be doing so with lots of other ideas and messages in their heads.

I thought it might be interesting to do a series of blogs that takes a Self-Reg look at some of the more influential ideas and messages in today’s parenting. What are the Self-Reg implications of each approach? Are there any disconnects with Self-Reg? Does each piece of advice, or more to the point, how it might get interpreted and implemented by parents, have potential pitfalls that Self-Reg could mitigate?

Here’s the first in the series.


This one’s easy. Relationships are at the very heart of Self-Reg, and pretty much any other good parenting philosophy, thanks to the work of John Bowlby and many others. So, no compatibility issues here.

Potential Pitfall

Some experts see parental insensitivity and unresponsiveness as the big issue in suboptimal parent-child relationships. So, they focus on trying to persuade or teach parents to be more sensitive and responsive to their child’s signals and needs. The problem is that focusing on boosting parent competence distracts from an equally, if not more, important issue: stress—parents’ stress , family stress, and heightened stress and stress reactivity in kids. I believe that excess stress may be the single biggest, and most often overlooked, impediments to good relationships, and a primary cause of parenting that gets labelled insensitive or unresponsive.

One of the biggest challenges parents face, is that excess stress can impair their ability to use good advice or parent the way they’d like to. So, if family stress (of all kinds) is not acknowledged, understood and addressed, then trying to promote or teach sensitive parenting will have little impact on many parents other than to make them feel guilty.

How Self-Reg Helps

When parents better understand the stress-related whys of children’s behaviour and learn to address children’s stress (and their own), they will have more capacity to be sensitive and responsive. In this way, Self-Reg can help solve or avoid seemingly intractable parent-child relationship problems. Sure, parents might need to learn some things, but they’ll be most able to be sensitive and responsive and have close relationships with their kids when they feel supported and are in a good state of self-regulation.

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1 Comment

Aviva Dunsiger
Aviva Dunsiger
Nov 30, 2021

John, I’m excited to read this series of posts. While I’m not a parent, I see connections here to education. I wonder if the same will hold true for all of your posts.


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