6 Impulse Control Techniques Every Parent Should Know

Your child finds it difficult to wait for his turn to play, interrupts during conversations, snatches things from others — chances are, he lacks self-control. Here's what you should do.

By Jasmine Kaur

6 Impulse Control Techniques Every Parent Should Know

The ability to stop and think before you act is a quality admired by everyone. While young children lack self-control, most of them begin developing it as they grow older. However, there are a few who need help in controlling their impetuous nature.

Impulsive behaviour, needless to say, can affect a child in many adverse ways. Some of the ill effects include:

  • Decline in academic performance
  • Issues in interpersonal relationships
  • Displaying antisocial conduct
  • Indulging in self-harming behaviours

If your child also acts in ways which suggests that he lacks self-control, here are some things you can do to help him develop self-regulation.

1. Help understand feelings: The ability to recognise and label feelings helps a child express them in appropriate ways. However, children learn this gradually. The inability to understand their emotions, coupled with a lack of expressive skills, can sometimes make children react in an impulsive manner. For example, a child who is happy and excited may push the child next to her instead of telling her the emotions she is experiencing.

  • What you should do: Make your child understand the various emotions she experiences like happiness, anger, and fear. You could use pictures to do so or make faces to help her recognise these feelings. Also, teach your child the words she should use to express herself when she feels any of these.  

2. Connect before speaking: Most of the time, children are eager to get on with what they want to do or what they have been told to. They find it difficult to wait and listen to instructions. Acting without thinking or listening to advice can sometimes have undesirable consequences like the child getting hurt.

  • What you should do: Your child may find it difficult to pay attention to what you are saying. So, before you speak to him, connect with him by getting down to his level and establishing eye contact. Now, tell your child what you want him to do or expect from him. Keep your sentences short so that it's easier for your child to understand and remember. Also, instead of using a commanding tone, speak in a calm, gentle voice.

3. Instil a problem-solving mindset: The world is a complex place and children aren't born with the knowledge or the ability to solve the problems that come their way. As a result, they feel frustrated when they hit a roadblock while doing something. This can cause them act in haste. For example, if your child isn't able to open a jar, she may drop it on the floor in anger instead of bringing it to you to open.

  • What you should do: Talk to your child and make her understand that she needs to stop for some time (pause) and think when she comes across a difficulty. Tell your child that there is more than one way to work out a problem, and she should come up with different possible solutions. To help her understand this concept better, you can brainstorm with her on hypothetical issues — for example, ask her what she would do if finds that she has lost her pen in the classroom.

4. Teach calming techniques: Children feel different emotions like over-excitement, frustration and anxiety. However, they don't know how to overcome or deal with, such feelings. As a result, they may express themselves in unacceptable ways. For example, an overjoyed child could disturb the class or unwittingly cause a commotion, in his happiness and excitement.

  • What you should do: Teaching your child how to calm down is extremely important. A calming technique you should teach your child is deep breathing, especially when he feels angry. Visualisation can also help your child feel relaxed. Ask your child to imagine a relaxing or peaceful scene — for example, being in a forest, or sitting on a beach and watching the sunset.

5. Play self-regulation games: Children love to play, not only with their friends but also, with their parents. Play is not only critical for a child's physical and mental development, but also a great opportunity to teach a child valuable life lessons like self-regulation.

  • What you should do: While playing is an unstructured activity, some games can help teach your child how to regulate himself. Freeze dance; red light, green light and drum beats are some of the games you can play with your child to help her understand self-control.

6. Discuss and set rules and consequences: Rules help provide structure to your child’s life. Your child realises that there are things he can do, and others that he cannot. They also help him understand what is expected of him and others around him. Along with rules, it is also important to familiarise a child with the consequences of breaking a rule. Thus, this can help your child exert control over himself.

  • What you should do: Sit down with your child to discuss and frame rules and consequences. Tell him what you and others expect from him. Also, tell him that not following the rules will invite consequences. So, he should think well before he acts.

While you use these techniques to teach your child how to overcome unwanted behaviour, it is also important that you display self-control as well. Show empathy by trying to understand what your child wants to express, instead of being dismissive of those feelings. Remember, as a parent, you are your child's best emotion coach.

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