Thursday, September 22, 2011

How to help your child control their impulses..

Many children are impulsive.  Impulse control is managed in the frontal lobe, and some children are better at it than others.  But it can certainly be improved upon.  One way to do this is through age appropriate exercises and discussions that help 'flex' and strengthen the impulse control 'muscle' in the frontal lobe.  Research shows that with practice, this skill can be improved upon!  Here are some ways how:

Get them thinking!  Instead of TELLING a child what to do ("Don't touch that!"), get the child's mind working by ASKING them what would happen if they carried out the behavior in question.  Ask them how different ways of handling the same situation would result in different outcomes.  This helps exercise the part of the brain that controls executive functioning. Executive functioning includes impulse control, planning, organizing, and thinking about past consequences and future outcomes.  This functioning can be improved with your support and encouragement.  Just think of it this way: you're teaching your child how to think!

You can also play games with them.  For example, with younger children, play Simon Says or Red Light/Green Light.  This helps them take their thought processes one step beyond just reacting.  They are forced to think before they react.  With practice, they'll get better at this, and it will help them control impulses in every day life.

Develop a visual cue with your child that you can use in public that will help them 'stop and think'.

Board games such as "Stop, Relax & Think", "Look Before you Leap" and "The Angry Monster Machine" are great tools to help children improve their impulse control.

When your child uses impulse control, be sure to point out what a good job they did.  Be specific.  Don't just say, 'Good job!!'.  Say, 'I like how you waited your turn in line, even though you wanted to jump ahead.  You waited patiently for everyone and that a wonderful display of patience!'