Adult Practices

This section outlines a collection of core principles, and associated practices, to support children’s self-regulation. Each principle is described (e.g., engage children in problem solving), contextualised in a real-life scenario to illustrate its importance (e.g., a child reticent to engage in an activity for fear of being incorrect), and specific practices are provided related to the principle (e.g., open-ended questioning).

How and when should you implement these practices? It is preferable to embed these practices daily and in routines. The more you do these, the more pronounced the benefit is likely to be.

Who should engage in these practices? To promote consistency in practices within ECEC services, it is recommended that at least two educators from each service engage in the program. Preferably, a whole-centre approach will be adopted as additional educators engage in the program. Further benefit would be expected where these practices also occur in the home. These practices have been developed to support educators working with children aged 3-5 years, but could be of interest and benefit to all educators.

Are there any supporting materials for these practices? These principles and practices are supported by a series of nine brief, online professional learning videos (see the PRSIST Talks page) that expand on these principles and practices. 

Why do adult practices matter to children’s self-regulation?
Increasingly, children’s self-regulation is being recognised as fundamental to their success in education and later life. Self-regulation refers the capacity to control urges, impulses and natural reactions, as needed, both by stopping something (even if one does not want to stop) or by starting something (even if one does not want to start). By the end of the pre-school years, well-regulated children can wait their turn, resist the temptation to grab a desired object from another child, tidy up after play with little prompting, and persist with a challenging activity. In later life, well-regulated adults (who were often well-regulated children) tend to have finished school, be employed, and have fewer problems with their health, substance abuse, financial difficulties and the law.

When considering the range of early-life factors that can influence children’s developmental trajectories and later-life outcomes, the influential role of adults is clear. While the most significant influence is the home-learning environment and experiences, it is followed closely by the quality of out-of-home early childhood education and care experiences. While much has been written about what constitutes quality, the short story is that adults matter! Many of the things that are important for later life do not develop naturally, but rather benefit from adults’ guidance, modelling, support and instruction. Children depend on adults to learn to talk, to read, to count ... and, of course, to self-regulate.

Links to the Early Years Learning Framework
Given its significance for children’s development, self-regulation and persistence both feature throughout Australia’s Early Years Learning Framework (EYLF). These terms are explicitly mentioned as sources of evidence within three of the five learning outcomes in the EYLF (Learning Outcomes 1, 3 and 4).

  • Demonstrate an increasing capacity for self-regulation (from Outcome 1.2)
  • Persist when faced with challenges and when first attempts are not successful (from Outcome 1.2)
  • Show an increasing capacity to understand, self-regulate and manage their emotions in ways that reflect the feelings and needs of others (from Outcome 3.1)
  • Persist even when they find a task difficult (from Outcome 4.1)
There are numerous adult practices, referenced in the EYLF, which can support children’s developing self-regulation. In the following pages we summarise these EYLF links for each of the pedagogical principles contained within this section.

The question is no longer whether self-regulation is important, but instead how to optimally support its development. Research suggests the early years of life may be a particularly crucial period for supporting the development of self-regulation, as any changes are likely to be more pronounced, longer-lasting and will have more opportunity to alter other related developmental trajectories (e.g., school readiness and academic success). While effective practices that yield positive outcomes for children are many and broad, in this first section of the handbook we have isolated those that are not only central to quality ECEC provision, but can have a specific impact on the development of children’s self-regulation. Two ingredients are important for any approach to supporting children: dose (how regularly children experience these practices and activities) and duration (for how long these practices are continued). To be optimally effective these practices should be embedded within everyday routines and pedagogical approaches.