Meet your regulation tool box! (Or 19 things you can do right now to back it up when angry)

29 June, 2017

This morning four year old Juno was circling one of the chairs in our lounge. She’d been doing it for a few minutes, muttering to herself, with the slightest manic touch.  Curious, I asked, “whatchyou up to Juno?” She answered “Practicing being a mummy… walking around and around, picking up dishes.”

Ohhhh. How I laughed. (On the inside, outwardly I simply left her to her circling, and got on with picking up dishes manically.)

She had plucked out one of the things I do and was, you know, practicing it. Of course, the thing she chose could have been better- I mean, imagine if her answer had been “practicing being a mummy…mindfully tending herbs” or “practicing being a mummy…actively listening to my babies” or “practicing being a mummy…building a chair out of old planks”  I would have been like YEOW I AM A KICKASS MINDFUL EMPATHETIC FEMINIST ICON OF A MUMMY! but it could have been worse too, it could have been “practicing being a mummy… shouting at everyone and then crying under the duvet”

‘cos the honest truth is I have done all those things in as a mama.

These days, I reckon I do less angry rampaging, and I have a lot of things to thank for that, but one of them is DEFINITELY because I have recently gotten real up close and personal with my regulation tool box.

This is something I touched on in my post “There are no “cool moms” or “mean moms” but I wanted to expand on it a bit more.

In that post I was discussing a recent workshop I went to with Ruth Beaglehole, founder of Nonviolent Parenting. At one point Ruth began; “And this, THIS, is the work of the parent” – we all shuffled to the edge of our seats, desperate to hear the silver bullet. “The work of the parent is REGULATION.”

If we focus on one thing, if we can only focus on one thing, our job is to keep ourselves regulated – in our higher brain. Because if in the face of our children’s emotions, actions and words, we can keep our empathy neurons firing (and they are ONLY in our higher brain) we will be able to provide what our children (and the world!) need from us.

Once we have entered a disregulated state, it is hard to come back from.

So actually we need to get really good at listening to our bodies and trusting the signals we are getting, the warning signs that tell us we are about to sink into disregulation.

The tricky thing is that we all have different warning signs and different ways to regulate ourselves. There is sometimes a clue in what people do when they are in a disregulated state.

My own warning signs are a fastly beating heart, short breath. This tells me I need to tap into my Regulation Tool Box pronto. I tend to head straight to Spotify and a carefully curated playlist! Your regulation Tool Box

Auditory regulator

I am an auditory regulator. My warning signs tend to come from my mouth – gritted teach, short breath.

Your regulation tool box includes:
Making a “regulation playlist” – music that lifts your spirits
Having a mantra that you say or listen to
Listening to affirmations.

Movement regulator

If you want to fight and move your body when overwhelmed, you are possibly a movement regulator.

Your regulation tool box includes:
Going for a run
Doing some yoga stretches
Punching a pillow
Having a bath
Swinging or rocking

Oral regulator

If you swear and scream or sigh then you may be an oral regulator.

Your regulation tool box includes:
Taking a deep breath in, holding for a few seconds and then breathing out through a mouth pursed, as if through a straw.
Repeating a mantra

Touch regulator
Do you pull at things, your hair or your top? You may be a touch regulator.

Your regulation tool box includes:
Stroking your pet
Getting under a soft/ weighted blanket
Having a bath/ shower
Using a stress ball or ones of those new fidget spinners.

Visual regulator
If you do a death stare or need people to look at you, “LOOK AT ME you may be a visual regulator.

Your regulation tool box includes:
Looking at your favourite painting on the wall
Looking at photos of your children when they were tiny
Looking at photos of your favourite people or places


Getting our heads around what is in our own and knowing when we need to turn to it, can save some really hurtful parenting from happening. Understanding the importance of those early warning signs and recognising the power of something as simple as having a shower can be a game changer in our families. For we can turn our anger into something useful, and we can show our children how to as well.

Imagine a generation growing up able to get the creativity and wisdom from their anger, rather than letting it be a source of shame or hurt.

I would love to hear from you, about what kind of regulator you think you are and what you have discovered works for you in bringing you back from the brink. (That should be called “brinking” don’t you think? Like, I’m getting real good at brinking these days…”


I have a new video up today – one about parenting in the tough times.

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  • Reply Sarah 29 June, 2017 at 8:59 pm

    I love this idea that regulation is everything in parenting. I think I am probably an oral regulator (when I lose my cool I berate my kids – no name calling or anything, I just loudly say what I am feeling and why, but I think it’s still too intense) and maybe a bit visual too because I do want to be looked at (and listened to, and if I can, drawing certain designs and shapes helps me calm down). Sometimes one of my kids comes to hug me and another comes to stroke my arm and look in my face when I get really frustrated, which is really touching (and clever of them!). What I most want to do is actually walk outside and hear the sounds of nature and look at something bigger than me. I can’t though, I have too many small children that can’t just be left to their own devices while I cool off. And actually the reason I am keeping my cool better at the moment is that they are getting older and less constantly demanding, so I am generally calmer. I don’t have to referee every single interaction, they don’t cry whenever I move one step away anymore. The only things that would have helped me stay regulated during those years would have been permanently having another adult around helping, regularly having decent amounts of time alone and regularly getting two four hour stretches of sleep per 24 hours. I hope any parents in really intense situations reading this don’t blame themselves for finding self regulation difficult to achieve. It’s hard to stay in your higher brain when you’re physically depleted and emotionally drained.

    • Lucy
      Reply Lucy 30 June, 2017 at 10:32 am

      Hey Sarah, yes I agree, there are som basic needs that need to be met before higher brain stuff. Ugh. It can be so hard!

  • Reply Belinda 29 June, 2017 at 10:51 pm

    Just reading this comment made me feel better! Mum to a 3.5 year old and 5month old and not getting enough sleep or alone time. Regulation can feel impossible some days. I know when I am reaching my limits, I feel like my head is spinning, I want to run away and my triggers are too much loud noise i.e. Crying baby AND tantruming toddler and physical attack from said toddler.
    Sometimes I have to lock myself in a room as the toddler follows and just calm myself before I can deal with the situation. Unfortunately door slamming gets used as a release for all the tension building up. I hope I can find more calm soon xx

  • Reply Lorna Fowkes 30 June, 2017 at 4:58 am

    Definitely oral and touch here. I tend to want to be left alone in the quiet (or nature) which can be difficult with three children here 24/7! I find walking and gardening while humming a favorite song helps me out. I just wish i didn’t get to this point and could find ways to avoid my triggers (or somehow reduce my triggers!)

    • Lucy
      Reply Lucy 30 June, 2017 at 10:35 am

      Yes, nature should be on every one I think!

  • Reply Diana 30 June, 2017 at 6:08 am

    Thanks for the article! I relate to all regulator types except visual regulator.
    It is hard with a toddler, because many options of the tool box are not possible with a demanding little child 🙁 I’m struggling when I am alone with my 1y6m old and she is not giving me any space.

    • Lucy
      Reply Lucy 30 June, 2017 at 10:37 am

      Hey Diana. Love to you, it is hard when you feel you don’t have any space. Do you have a way of getting some?
      I would disagree about the tool box – the point is that they are available to anyone – I would say 80% of the 19 up there are doable with a toddler. xx

  • Reply Sarah 30 June, 2017 at 4:48 pm

    Just reflecting on this post some more and wanted to share some ideas that I know can be done with (certain!) kids – when my kids get too loud for me with un-meet-able demands and complaints at home sometimes I get out the vacuum cleaner. It drowns out the noise and they either take turns vacuuming or sit on the sofa and watch. I get to move and regain a bit of a feeling of control over my environment by getting the room a bit cleaner and tidier and I usually feel more patient after. I have done this with a baby on my back. Also on Instagram I have seen a few videos of mums doing at home yoga practice or flow with their babies/toddlers right next to them and interrupting them but they say it’s worth persisting for their sanity. We just found kids yoga on YouTube called Cosmic Kids that my 2×2 year olds and 5 year old really like and I am going to start joining in too. A friend of mine has a crochet project in her hands while waiting for her 7 and 9 year old to get ready etc and she says it makes her a nicer person because she holds off hurrying them up by letting herself do a couple more rows.

    • Lucy
      Reply Lucy 1 July, 2017 at 2:00 pm

      Oh yeah Cosmic Kids is SO wicked 😀 😀
      Love the vacuum idea – my kids wouldnt even know what one is 😛

  • Reply Miche 30 June, 2017 at 8:15 pm

    Hi Lucy, I loved your article. I believe I’m an oral regulator and when I’m starting to feel bothered, I ask myself, “Is what I’m saying making me feel more peaceful?”…and “Is what I’m doing making me feel more peaceful?” I find this mantra very helpful 🙂

    • Lucy
      Reply Lucy 1 July, 2017 at 2:00 pm

      I LOVE those questions!

  • Reply Jannette LaRose 1 July, 2017 at 12:09 am

    Hello! I just discovered this blog and I think I’m going to enjoy it. I’ve been a touch regulator for over twenty years now and at first I didn’t manage…I just went nuts and slammed cabinets and banged things as loudly as I could…gotta let the little people know that I’m upset and they did this to me…right? But now I’m older and my last two children (came 8 years after the last of the first 8) are getting a kinder, gentler mom. I tend to try to go to my office and do something rather than slam (unless I’m upset with my husband. Not sure why that is.). I have had to explain to my older kids that the younger kids are getting different treatment than they did because I learned that it doesn’t work by trying it on them…and only a fool tries the same thing over again hoping for a different result. (That’s the definition of insanity or something, isn’t it?) Anyway, I’m older and more eager to relate to my children now.
    And, by the way, total change of subject, I love listening to you speak. I’m from the US but my ancestors are from England and Wales and I am fascinated by almost anything from that area of the world. Thanks for the video.

    • Lucy
      Reply Lucy 1 July, 2017 at 2:02 pm

      Hey Janette! Welcome to my blog, I;m so glad you found me. You sound like an awesome mama! You have ten very lucky kids!
      Also – no worries about my accent, you gotit right! I am from England : D I’ve spent 8 years IN NZ though so my accent is v strange!

  • Reply Jannette LaRose 1 July, 2017 at 12:17 am

    Just did my research and you are in New Zealand! Oops. But hey! It’s just another area of the world I’m fascinated by. Hope I didn’t offend.

  • Reply Me 1 July, 2017 at 2:52 am

    Thank you for this article and the comments ♥

    • Lucy
      Reply Lucy 1 July, 2017 at 2:02 pm

      Thanks for reading! xxxx

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  • Reply Tawnie 4 May, 2018 at 9:34 am

    Hey Lucy.
    You are an inspiration. I am surrounded by chaos. Picture, if you will a silhouette of a woman and in front of her 72 people lined up, each gradually taking a piece of the silhouette until a hollow outline is left and alas, there are fifty more people in line. I am that silhouette. I have three small children 4 and under and i work. We are currently staying at my mothers while we are looking for a new rental home. I have a puppy a cat and a husband. Need i say more? On top of that it seems that almost everyone i know has deemed me the listening ear and problem solver helper outer lady. I did forget to mention my eldest child, my almost five year old boy, Silas, is on the Autism Spectrum. I desperately want to be an ally to my children, most times though, it feels as if they are all against me. It hurts. I can feel myself becoming bitter. An ugliness creeping inside of me like cancerous ivy. When i do manage to remain calm in the midst of it all the judgmental stares and comments begin to unfurl. Ugh. Ive been called a snowflake by my husband. Whatever. Melt me. Hah. I just feel like im drowning and don’t know what to do. I follow you on youtube and decided today after prayer to check out your site. I will be referring back often. Are there any parenting/self work books you find helpful you might suggest for me? Thank you so much for what you do. The world needs more people like you in it. Much love and peace and good vibes to you. ❤

    • Lucy
      Reply Lucy 10 May, 2018 at 5:07 pm

      Hey lovely lady. I feel like it would work for you to do some inner work… perhaps an inner child journey? (Check out robin grilles a hero’s journey)
      Can you figure out a way to give yourself a couple of hours to do something you love every week?

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