Child impulse control can be difficult to institute. These 10 tips can help your child with impulse control.
A lack of impulse control is common among young children, and there are many techniques aimed at addressing child impulse control.
An impulsive 5-year-old may lash out when he doesn’t get his way. Whereas a 15-year-old struggling with impulse control may share inappropriate content on social media sites.
Without some form of intervention, your child’s impulse control can get worse over time. But you can teach your child impulse control techniques.
The more impulse control your child learns, the less likely he or she will be to act out in frustration.
1. Establish Household Rules
Institute an authoritative approach to parenting. Enforce clear rules and explain the reasons behind the rules.
Make your expectations known before your child enters into something new. When he or she understands the requirements to use an indoor voice in the library, they will be less likely to disobey.
Explain negative consequences as well. Then, they’ll be able to make more informed decisions about their behavior.
2. Be a Role Model
Your child’s impulse control is heavily informed by watching you. Make sure you are setting a good example with your own behavior.
Point out impulse control techniques that you’re using. Run through your thought process out loud as you utilize your impulse control techniques.
Researchers at the University of Toronto found that self-talk plays a major role in helping kids manage their impulsive behavior. Role model healthy self-talk by saying things like, “This is a long line but we have to wait patiently for our turn.”
Talking to yourself out loud may seem silly. But it will teach your child how to develop an internal dialogue that will help him manage his impulses.
3. Teach Problem-Solving
Although brainstorming solutions sounds simple, problem-solving can be a very effective impulse control technique.
Make sure your child knows there is more than one way to solve a problem. And it’s important to evaluate several potential responses before acting.
Whether your child is trying to solve a complex math problem or fix a bike, encourage them to find a few potential solutions before moving forward with one.
After identifying possible solutions, help evaluate which is most likely to be effective. With practice, your child will get used to thinking before they act.
4. Teach Anger Management Skills
A low tolerance for frustration may cause impulsive outbursts. Teach your child how to manage their anger so they can deal with his emotions proactively.
Demonstrate specific strategies, like taking deep breaths or walking around the house. You can even create a calm-down list filled with ideas that will help them relax.
Send your child to time-out when necessary, but also teach he can place himself in time-out before he gets too frustrated.
5. Teach Your Child to Label Feelings
Children who don’t understand what they are feeling are more likely to be impulsive. A child who can’t say, “I’m angry” may hit to show they are upset. Or a child who can’t verbalize that they feel sad may start to scream.
Teach your child to recognize their feelings so they can tell you, rather than show you, how they feel.
Start by teaching your child to label emotions. Understand when they feel angry, sad, or scared. Label those emotions for them so they can do so themselves in the future.
Make sure they know it’s OK to feel angry, but it’s not OK to use that emotion to lash out. When they can talk about their emotions in a meaningful way, they will be less likely to act on them in frustration.
6. Provide Consistent Structure
Make sure to be a consistent disciplinarian. Offer encouragement like, “Please hold my hand in the parking lot when we get out of the car,” when you go to the store.
With enough repetition, your child will become comfortable with your rules and the consequences for breaking them. This will help teach your child impulse control in the long run.
When possible, keep your child’s routine consistent.
7. Practice Delayed Gratification
This is an important one. Kids need opportunities to practice delaying gratification. Make delayed gratification fun by creating a system.
A token economy system can be a fun way to do this. Reward good behavior with tokens or stickers. Then, allow them to exchange tokens for bigger rewards.
Create small incentives that only require one or two tokens as well as big rewards that require 20 tokens. Encourage saving for the big rewards.
Saving up for bigger rewards will help your child learn the benefits of delaying gratification. Learning delayed gratification can be an essential skill to help resist temptations that lead to impulsive choices.
8. Have Your Child Repeat Directions
Your child’s impulse control issues may come from not listening to directions. Before you’ve finished your instructions, they take action without understanding all the directions.
Teach your child to listen to directions by asking them to repeat instructions before taking action.
When they can correctly repeat what you said let them take action.
You may need to set things up by saying, “Before you do anything, I want you to explain the directions back to me.”
9. Encourage Physical Activity
Encourage your child to play outside. Ensure that they get plenty of exercise. A child who has had opportunities to run around and jump and play will be better equipped to be self-disciplined.
Limit your child’s screen time and encourage them to play outside. Look for opportunities to play outdoors together as well. Tossing a ball, playing hopscotch, or playing tag will help exert some of your child’s energy.
10. Play Impulse Control Games
Games such as Simon Says, Red Light Green Light, Tag, or Capture the Flag will provide opportunities to practice child impulse control. And your child will have fun playing them.
With practice your child can train their brain to be more self-controlled. But make sure to make practice fun. If you force them to do something overly tiring for too long, your efforts may backfire.