Every parent should regulate their children’s behavior until they are ready to regulate their own. It will likely be a 20-year process, which starts with full regulatory control of the infant and ends with total release of all control at adulthood.
What does it mean “to regulate?” In grammatical terms, it is a transitive verb, meaning that a subject rules or governs another object by adjusting the time, amount, degree, or rate of something upon the object.
Let’s take food, for example. An infant has no idea how to handle his hunger pains, can’t make decisions about food, and can’t feed himself. It is the parent’s job to fully control the diet of the child. The twenty-year old, on the other hand, should have mature eating habits within his full control: when to eat, what to eat, how much, how to shop, how to cook, how to balance his nutrition with exercise, etc.
In all things, a parent should govern the life of a child to keep them healthy, safe, and growing up well, by adjusting the forces that are upon and within the child. It’s a non-stop task for the parent of an infant or for the parent of a disabled child. However, a parent of an able-bodied 20 year old should not have to do any governing.
In fact, a 20 year old should be able to help others regulate themselves. He should be able to be the leader and teacher. He should be the subject, not the object of the sentence. He is the doer, not the receiver.
Some people call it “the launch,” which may be between 18 and 22. Perhaps it’s later due to a disability. No matter. Parents must never forget that it is their job to one day launch their child into the world to be an independent person who can lead and teach others.
So, what is your vision for your children’s future? And what are you doing now to help them become independent? Are you letting them fly on their own in some areas? Are you training them to regulate themselves, step by step? Are you giving them real responsibilities?
As a teacher of 7th grade students, I can tell that very few of them have chores. Almost none have real jobs around the house. Their responsibilities are schoolwork, sports, and / or some kind of artistic endeavor. Those are all good things, but I believe that chores are still necessary, no matter the age, even though 99% of Americans don’t live on a farm. Kids need to do real work. For much more on how to get kids to pitch in around the house, I recommend the book Cleaning House.
Our kids need to feel needed around the house, not just for affection, but for solving problems.
May your children become self-regulators, and may you teach them to be capable, confident, and courageous in facing problems.