Stories in Print: Self-Reg
In high school I became a certified diver. Funny story, I still am a certified diver. I wouldn't honestly do that without a refresher course because it's been twenty years, but nonetheless my certification is still valid.
In diving, the most important part of the gear is the regulator, the part that connects the air tank to your person. Without the regulator, diving would be short and boring. Without the regulator, diving wouldn't be any fun at all. Without the regulator, you would die. As a diver, a lot of time and attention is given to understanding how to use the regulator and manage your breathing so as to not blast through your air too quickly. Attention is also paid to accurately reading the gauge showing how much air is left in your tank. It's a delicate process. Learning to regulate during diving is essential.
::regulate: control or maintain the rate or speed of (a machine or process) so that it operates properly.::
One of the most important parts of being a grown-up is learning how to regulate oneself, which I didn't really have words for until reading "Self-Reg" by Stuart Shanker frames my role as a parent training my children in a new light. We're not just teaching our children to obey for obedience sake, to keep them from sin and pain, or to make our lives as parents easier. We're actually helping them learn to self-regulate. We parents are like the dive partner helping the child-diver read the air gauge. "Look, you're running out of air quicker than normal, you need to slow your breathing." Of course, this type of sentence isn't possible underwater, so we model and use big gestures to pantomime instruction.
Being a regulator for your child starts when they are babies. Shanker is coming from the evolutionary perspective that human babies had to be born "too early" for their brains to fit through the birth canal. Essentially, he says, human newborns are 9-month-old fetuses who finish their development outside the womb. Babies are born with no ability to regulate themselves, and anyone who's seen a baby could probably agree. Their cries and screams aren't them being bad, but rather communicating their needs. Bigger kids are similar; their "bad behavior" is actually an attempt to communicate their needs. Adults are similar as well, managing stress and self-regulating, and it makes perfect sense.
The only part that my mind is still chewing on is how this philosophy fits with the Biblical theology of inherited sin. I don't think the two principles are counter-intuitive because Jesus acknowledges the place of emotion and boundaries, and respected people. Self-Reg is the process of relying on the recognition of emotions and the holding of boundaries. Dysregulation can happens when boundaries aren't held or respected and one's emotions aren't recognized. Regulated individuals are safe in who God made them to be.
For a scuba diver, their understanding of their equipment is essential. The same is true for all humans.
"Self-Reg" might be one of my favorite books ever.