In my last post I wrote about the difference between parents who try to control their kids and those who are self controlled. It all depends on the “self regulation muscle”, which has three levels of strength: weak, medium and strong.
This week, I would like to share some research on self regulation that might help you on your parenting adventure. It may even help prevent conflict and disagreement in your other relationships.
Remember, it is called “self” regulation for a reason. It is not something you can do to someone else. You have to do it for yourself. This is what most parents do not understand. They try to enforce regulations, but they are an external force so it does not work as well.
Research #1: Self regulation increases with practice
Three groups of researchers were given a self regulation task. One group had to focus on sitting straight, the other group had to change their mood from negative to positive and the third group had to keep a record of their eating habit.
Within only two weeks, all three groups did their tasks much better and their self regulation ability rated higher.
Conclusion: two weeks is enough time to strengthen the self regulation muscle. Note that the researches regulated themselves.
Research #2: Our self regulation capacity is limited
Participants were invited to what they thought was a tasting experiment. Both groups were seated in front of a plate with chocolate cookies and a plate with radishes.
One group had to eat the radishes and resist the chocolate cookies while solving an extremely difficult puzzle. The second group had to eat the chocolate cookies and solve the puzzle. Those who ate the radishes quit the puzzle much faster than those who were allowed to eat the chocolate cookies.
Conclusion: When we have to resist temptation (i.e. self regulate), other things become harder for us to cope with. If we resist one temptation, it leaves us less energy to resist another. It is as if the energy of our self regulation muscle cannot be divided into too many areas at once. That is why we find it hard to focus, diet, study, etc. when we are stressed. Our energies our so focused on our stress, we do not have the energy to self regulate.
Research #3: Self regulation increases with planning
Two groups of students were asked to write an essay. One group was asked to think in advance about when and where they will physically be while writing the essay. The other group was left to write the essay without being given any instructions.
Of the group who were given instructions, 75% completed the essay. Only 33% of the other group completed the essay.
Conclusion: By creating a vivid image of the outcome we can better regulate ourselves. Planning ahead makes it easier to self regulate and requires less energy. That is why parents and kids need to know the science of goal setting, planning and even time management. It can work magic on our self regulation ability.
Join me next time for tips to work that self regulation muscle.
Your options are to pay me or to pay Telstra, I think, but I’ll respect your wishes either way and try to support you to the best of my ability.
This post is part of the series Self Regulation:
- Self Regulation: Controlling vs. Controlled Parenting
- Self Regulation: Research
- Self Regulation: Tips