It was in couples training that I was told this odd but evident truth. The reason why kids play up in the back of the car is that no one is watching them. The parents are there but they are facing forward, not looking at the kids, so the kids are ‘un-regulated’. When parents look at their children they are assisting the child’s regulation.
Regulation? Unregulated? What the???
Regulation describes how we modulate our behavoiur according to our emotional mood and the demands of the environment. It is the process by which we balance the needs of our inner state with the demands of the outer world. For example, Sitting in a church reverently requires a high amount of regulation - inhibiting the desire to drink, cross your legs, make a comment, yawn or giggle. All behavioural impluses need to be held back.
Regulation also occurs when we have to alter our emotional state. For example perhaps we have been upset by a nasty comment by someone, say, a work colleague. However, to continue working we need to put on a happy face for the next client even when we would rather spill out our annoyance and how upset we are with our insensitive colleague. So we withhold our impulse to moan about the injustice, or better still, we rationalize it out of existence by telling ourselves they didn’t mean it and it had nothing to do with us anyway.