Many children, especially younger ones, have difficulty controlling their impulses, and this is quite normal. It is nonetheless an essential ability that may be developed and honed at any time. A lack of self-control is a major contributor to many behavioral issues, thus this is crucial. Impulsive actions can become routine if not addressed, and they can deteriorate over time if not treated.
An impulsive five-year-old might slap or throw a tantrum if they don’t get their way; an impulsive fourteen-year-old might post or do something dangerous, like consume alcohol, without considering the consequences.
However, as your child develops, you will be able to help him or her learn to better manage their impulses. Interventions targeting impulse control (and other aspects of executive function) have been shown to be effective in helping to strengthen these abilities.
Impaired decision making and the emergence of mental health disorders have both been linked to poor impulse control. Your child’s mental health and the mental health of others around them will improve in proportion to how well they are able to regulate their impulses.
Acquaint your child with the concept of emotion labels.
Impulsive behavior is more common in children who struggle to identify and express their feelings. If a young child is unable to express their feelings through words, they may resort to physical means, such as hitting. A youngster may also act out physically if they are unable to express their emotions through words, such as “I feel sad” by throwing themselves to the ground and crying out.
Help your kid name their emotions so they can express themselves verbally instead of physically. Your first step should be to help your youngster learn to recognize and name different feelings, such as anger, sadness, excitement, surprise, worry, and fear. Then, explain to them how their emotions are distinct from their actions.
Make sure kids understand that it’s OK to get upset sometimes, but that it’s never acceptable to act out physically or verbally. It is more likely that they will feel heard and supported, and so less inclined to act out, if they have an outlet for discussing their feelings.
Have your kid recite the instructions.
Children, especially those with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), might exhibit impulsive behavior when they refuse to follow instructions. Keep them on track by checking to see if they’re paying attention. If you don’t slow down, they can rush into action before you’ve completed giving directions.
Asking your kid to repeat your commands before acting is a great way to teach them to pay attention. Say something like, “Before you move, I want you to explain the directions back to me,” just before giving instructions. If you’re still confused after that, just say, “OK, what did I just instruct you to do?”
If you want them to do something, like clean their room or put away their homework, they won’t be able to until they can first repeat back what you said.
In addition, you should strive to make the instructions as straightforward and as few in number of steps as possible. It’s important to think about whether or not your child is ready to follow multi-step directions at their developmental stage. Writing down instructions gives them something to look at if they get confused.
Instill the Capability to Solve Problems
Solving problems through brainstorming may seem easy, but it’s actually one of the best ways to control impulses.
Instill in your youngster the idea that there is more than one answer to any given situation and that it is wise to weigh various options before making a final decision. So, whether your kid is attempting to figure out a math problem or the chain on their bike, tell them to come up with at least five different solutions and then pick one.
After generating options, you should advise them on which one has the most chance of succeeding. They can develop the habit of pausing to consider their actions with repetition.
Provide Training in Managing Anger
Someone with a low frustration threshold may react rashly. Help your child deal with their feelings in a positive way by teaching them anger management techniques.
Demonstrate concrete techniques, such as taking a deep breath or taking a trip around the home to burn off some excess energy. You may even put together a “calm-down kit” with items that will help them unwind. Instead of responding on impulse, it’s better to show them how to relax, help them make better decisions, or put them in a quiet room.
Home Regulations Should Be Established
Make your guidelines easy to understand and justify your reasoning. When a youngster knows what is expected of them, they are better able to manage their impulses and act accordingly. The stability and predictability provided by family rules has been shown to be beneficial to children.
Get your youngster used to your expectations before letting them into unfamiliar situations. They’ll be less inclined to act out in public places like the library or the grocery store if they know they need to keep their voices down.
Predictably highlighting the repercussions of rule disobedience is a great idea. Then they will be able to modify their actions based on more accurate information.
Maintain order and constancy.
Be firm with your youngster, and stick to the same routine each day. When things are more orderly, people are less likely to act rashly.
Every time you go shopping, remind your child with phrases such, “You need to hold my hand in the parking lot when we get out of the car.” Your youngster will become used to your rules and the results of disobeying them with consistent repetition.
Start a Rewards Program
Children must be given the chance to practice self-control. Create a system of incentives that makes waiting satisfying. Tokens and a token economy could be a great method to do this in a creative way.
Tokens are a great way to encourage excellent conduct in your child. After that, they can trade in their tokens for more substantial benefits, like a trip to the park.
Make little awards that only take 1 or 2 tokens and big ones that demand 20 tokens. Then, teach your kid the value of saving money for more expensive activities like going to the movies. They will learn the value of patience by saving for future, larger benefits, and will be better able to avoid making hasty decisions as a result.
Act as a Positive Example
How you handle impulses is a great example for your child to follow. Show others how it’s done by practicing patience and self-control. Use phrases like “I’d really like to buy that new laptop but I’m going to save money for our trip next summer” to demonstrate your ability to control your impulses.
Your child can learn to control his or her impulses by developing an inner conversation, which can be taught through practicing self-talk. The University of Toronto studied the effects of self-talk on children’s ability to control their impulsive conduct and found that it was significant.
To Motivate People to Get Moving
Make sure your kid goes outside and plays a lot to keep them active. A child who has had the chance to run, leap, and climb will have a greater capacity for self-control.
Put an end to your kid’s over reliance on electronic devices and push them toward more athletic pursuits. It’s a good idea to look for outdoor activities that everyone can participate in. Games like tossing a ball, hopscotch, and tag can help kids channel their excess energy in constructive ways rather than in harmful ways.
Practice Games of Impulse Control
Your youngster can exercise self-control by taking part in games like Simon Says, Red Light, Green Light, and Follow the Leader. Your kid can pick some useful information while having fun.
Your kid’s brain can be rewired for better self-control with time and effort. Make sure, though, that rehearsals are enjoyable. The opposite of what you intend could happen if you have children sit still or focus on dull things for too long.