Promote Self-Regulation among Early Learners with a Kangaroo Named MAX

Here we have a story all about how a youngster entering the classroom for the very first time learns self-regulation and learns to identify his emotions, understand his body cues and control his behavior. He learns to control behavior as a result of first identifying his feelings and framing them properly through the acronyms FADS(frustration, anxiety, desire, and sadness) to lead him to JEL(joy, enthusiasm, and love) feelings. Now, insomuch as this short story is about a young child in kindergarten, the message applies to toddlers who are known to have temper tantrums, and teens, who have tantrums of their own and are prone to impulsivity, as well. This story also speaks to educators who misinterpret behaviors that students exhibit in our classrooms. It points to the necessary, not optional, empathic awareness of teachers and others who see children within a narrow lens in which behavioral impact reigns in judgement over the consideration of intentionality.

Self-regulation is the ability to manage your emotions and behaviors in accordance with the demand of a particular situation.It includes being able to resist highly emotional reactions to upsetting stimuli, calm yourself down when you get upset, adjust to changes in expectations and handle frustratin without outbursts. It is a set of skills that enables children to direct their own behavior towards a goal, despite the unpredictability of the world and their own feelings. Let’s be careful not to rule out adult behaviors, either. Impulsivity!!

stress child bwTeachers often mistakenly determine behaviors of students as intentionally disruptive, and that may well be the impact. However, if we examine the intent, we may choose to support coping skills instead of disciplining, ostracizing and isolating them. It promotes our reflective thinking, and urges us to peer deeper than just surface when we are challenged by behaviors which, in our eyes, are counter to the norm, defy our expectations, and asks us to be mindful of the innerworld of others.

When children sit in a classroom with their heads on their desk, or seem to be distracted, in their own world of daydreaming, we think it inattentive, unfocused, and disengaged. This may very well be, but we must look to explanations tat go beyond the obvious. ‘Obvious’ is surface level, and that is the easiest route to take. We should strategize an intervention instead; one leading to best outcomes for all parties.

This is not directly connected to cultural competence or responsiveness. Rather this speaks to the need for empathy, insight, curiosity, and restorative practices. Cultural differences may factor into behaviors which may be influenced by automaticity, and as a result of emotions which may be triggered in the classroom, but we must always remember that these are young people. They are learning and growing on all fronts, academic, physical and socio-emotional. We possess a conscious awareness of our own emotional  growth, experiences and training which affords us a presumed conscious awareness and reasonable control over our responses to external and internal stimuli. Children are still wrestling with theirs at a more primitive level.


We have to help them identify, accept and recognize their feelings, control their impulses[self-regulate] and teach them coping skills-appropriate to classroom, home, work or community settings. We must teach this skill and allow ample opportunities for practice. In this story, the educator helps this youngster to identify, name and cope or respond appropriately to his feelings and impulsivity. That comes with the territory. Being a teacher, an adult, and role model for students is our job no matter the title. In fact, for teachers, this role also includes a two-generational component. We must build the capacity of parents no matter how savvy they may be, real or perceived, and help them support their ability to teach and model self-regulation, too.

Do read the attachment, reflect on the messages within, and help support positive outcomes for children. After all, they look to us for guidance, support, affirmation, encouragement as well as challenges. Help them to first identify their feelings, let them know that you understand, and help them to manage them in environmentally appropriate and socially acceptable ways. Give them the tools to be resilient while feeling that they can overcome challenges and emerge triumphant-better than before-more inclusive and address the whole child with compassion, kindness and empathic awareness of their unique diversity! Help them to recognize FADS and lead them to JEL with self-regulated behaviors!

Read MAX the Kangaroo to your child, your students and then read it again for self-reflection! From toddlers to teens, and even some adults, too, need to learn self-regulation! Get at least one tip from MAX!



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