February 24, 2024

One evening, my children and I watched “The Iron Giant,” an animated movie about a robot from outer space who crash-lands in Maine in 1957, befriends a young boy, and fights against a G-man and his robo-programming. The boy, Hogarth, and his mother, Annie, get by with her income from waitressing. One night, Annie comes home from work to find Hogarth missing. Frantic, Annie looks and finds Hogarth in the woods, talking about the big metal alien he claims to have seen.

Annie snaps and tries to restore her composure. The immediate question for today’s parents is, is Annie co-regulating? While not paragon parenting, Annie is trying to self-regulate when her son is agitated and modeling the composure she hopes her son will eventually attain. The ideal script would be to communicate her feelings honestly and try to co-regulate.

Parenting experts suggest that maintaining a state of calm is one of the most important goals when raising a child. Coaches encourage caregivers to resist reacting and help kids self-regulate. The quest for self-regulation can be achieved only through co-regulation.
Parenting gurus maintain that the emotional well-being of a child is crucial. They also emphasize the need for a parent to self-regulate before co-regulating.

The main thing that the co-regulation conversation lacks is any acknowledgment of the sociocultural and socioeconomic factors that make it difficult for stressed-out parents. There is research highlighting the link between socioeconomic status and children’s well-being. There is a direct correlation between affluence and calmness in parents, which means they have less need for parenting guides compared to non-affluent parents.

The current concept of co-regulation is based on well-established insights. It traces back to the emergence of attachment theory in the nineteen-sixties. Some of the most influential books on parenting also cover the core ideas of co-regulation.

It is important for competent caregivers to put aside their own emotions to help a child in times of distress. Co-regulation fosters intimacy and attunement.