Self-Reg: Here Are My Biggest Takeaways. What Are Yours?

Summertime has started, and so has my summertime reading. My first professional read of the summer was Stuart Shanker‘s Self-Reg: How To Help Your Child (And You) Break The Stress Cycle And Successfully Engage With Life. I was really eager to read Shanker’s new book, as his first one influenced my teaching practices more than any other professional resource. I liked Shanker’s latest book just as much, and I think that thanks to my learning from the Foundations Courses and my numerous conversations online and in-person on self-regulation, I could make even more connections to this recent read. While I highlighted and made notes about many topics discussed in the book, I left with four big takeaways.

1. Quiet does not equal calm. I couldn’t help but think about various school experiences from the past. In each of these events, a child was “misbehaving,” and after trying different approaches, an adult raised his/her voice. Sometimes the adult was me. Sometimes the adult was somebody else. Regardless of the person though, the child almost always quieted down at this point. I remember talking to others about this. It really bothered me that somebody needed to raise his/her voice for a child to “calm down,” but now I realize that this child was likely not calm at all. The child may be “quiet,” but what about his/her stress level? Have we only made a situation worse instead of making it better?

2. There is both misbehaviour and stress behaviour, and there are key ways to tell the difference. In the last year (or so), as I’ve read and learned more about self-regulation from different sources, I’ve struggled with identifying misbehaviour versus stress behaviour. Some examples are obvious, but some are less so, and I’ve gone home many times doubting myself. I’ve often wondered, is all behaviour stress behaviour? How do you know? Shanker provides some great examples in his book, and I found myself reading his ideas, comparing them to my experiences, and really starting to view things with a clearer lens. 

3. Nobody is perfect, and we have to forgive ourselves as well as our children. Shanker shares many great anecdotes in the book, including some personal experiences. I love how — on multiple occasions  he admits that he made a mistake (when he responded in a way that he wish he hadn’t), and what he did afterwards. No matter how much we may know about self-regulation, we’re still human. We need to be kind to ourselves as well as to others. It’s what we learn from these mistakes, and hopefully how they influence our future responses, that matter the most!

4. Parents and educators are on the same team. Shanker’s recent book was really written for parents. It speaks to parents. While I’m not a mom, I can’t tell you the number of times that I thought that “educator” could be replaced with “parent,” and “home examples” could apply just as much to the “school.” I think this book is a great reminder …

  • about how much we can learn from each other.
  • about how much we struggle with some of the same problems.
  • and about the importance of strong home/school connections.

This is some of my learning from a teacher perspective. I would be curious to hear people’s learning from different perspectives. What are your key takeaways from Shanker’s book? How might this impact on your practices at home and/or at school (or work)? 


4 thoughts on “Self-Reg: Here Are My Biggest Takeaways. What Are Yours?

  1. Hi Aviva,
    My name is Kelly and I teach with many of our old colleagues at Ancaster Meadow. I was wondering where I can find this excellent book. The topics you are discussing above all sound like topics I have been thinking about for a few years now.

    Thank you for your post!

    • Thanks for the comment, Kelly! I actually read and applied Shanker’s first book, CALM, ALERT, AND LEARNING, when teaching Grade 5 at Ancaster Meadow. It’s a marvellous read. The second one, SELF-REG, is just as good and just as applicable. Both books are available for purchase through (that’s how I bought them), but the first one, was also done as a Board Book Club a few years ago. Many primary teachers joined the Book Club. You may want to ask around to see if anyone has a copy that you can borrow. Trust me though: the books are both worth buying and reading. They’ve impacted on my practice more than any other professional resource. Happy reading! I’d love to hear your thoughts when you finish them.


  2. Hi Aviva:
    I attended Dr. Shanker’s symposium last summer because there were so many “take always” for me after reading Calm, Alert and Learning. On my way up on Monday for this year’s symposium and starting Foundations 1. Super excited !!!!!! I think one of the greatest understandings for me was how critical it is to be aware of how hidden stressors affect our students and impact learning. It has been such a great process to have learned a bit about reframing behaviour and looking at things with a knowledge of the Five Domains. Another take away has being more aware of how my own self regulation is a factor in co-regulating with my students, my colleagues and even my friends and family. Hoping I have the chance to meet you next week!!

    • Thank you, Liz, for your comment! These are great takeaways. I had some similar ones after reading Shanker’s first book and even more to think about after reading the second. I think that the books combined with the courses make me see almost everything now — from interactions at school and at home to book readings — through a self-regulation lens.

      Enjoy he symposium. I wish I could be there, but I’m teaching for the next couple go weeks. If you tweet, I hope that you’ll tweet out your learning. I’ll be following the hashtag for sure.


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