Stuart Shanker's New Book

In the first paragraphs of this book, Stuart Shanker states "There isn't a single child who, without understanding and patience, can't be guided along a trajectory that leads to a rich and meaningful life. But stereotypes of the 'difficult child' color our views, as do our own hopes, dreams, frustrations, and fears as parents. Don't get me wrong: Some children can be a lot more challenging than others. But often our negative judgments of a child are just a defense mechanism, a way of shifting the blame for the trouble we're having onto the child's 'nature'. This can make a child more reactive, defensive, defiant, anxious, or withdrawn. But it doesn't have to be that way. It never has to be that way." 

And so a book that at first seems to be about managing children's "behaviour" begins. But as I have learned more about self-reg and read through this book, I first began to see self-reg is is related to "stress" and then, through digging deeper, it seemed that even under that, self-reg actually creates a framework of healthy development across a life span... for everyone (not just children). The five domains of self-reg are all areas that we need to be aware of and attend to when it comes to the healthy development of children but also to our own healthy development.

In the book, Stuart Shanker outlines the five steps of self-reg.

Step 1: Read the Signs, Reframe the Behaviour
Step 2: Become a Stress Detective
Step 3: Reduce the Stress
Step 4: Reflect to Develop Self-Awareness
Step 5: Respond to Figure Out What Your Child Finds Calming 
If we, or others are functioning in a state of hyper- or hypo-arousal, we will not be in a position to grow/develop/learn. By figuring out the unique stressors of ourselves or an individual and working ourselves or with the individual to find ways to return back to a state of calm and focused, we are positioning ourselves and others to develop, grow, and learn. The barrier to growth/development/learning is ultimately "stress" in any one (or usually a combination) of the five domains. Scaffolding then becomes about setting up the conditions to ensure that stress is healthy and productive rather than inhibitive.

In the book, each of the five domains (biological, emotional, cognitive, social, and prosocial) are explored. What are the potential stressors unique to that domain? What does healthy development starting at birth look like in that domain? What can we do to reduce stressors and position our children for growth in that domain?

The book helps with gaining a deeper understanding of the unique stressors (both obvious and hidden) that we and our children experience moment to moment and it looks at what we can do through the lens of the growing awareness of how our brains work.

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