Sunday, April 2, 2017

What is Impulse Control?

What is Impulse Control?

Lately, I have been working with a number of children who struggle in a variety of settings with their "impulse control." But what does this really mean? What does it look like if a child is struggling with it? And how is that control gained back?

All of us have impulses. An impulse is a feeling or urge we have to do or say something. Sometimes these impulses can come out of nowhere, completely unexpectedly.

Some examples (specifically with children) could be interrupting mom when she is on the phone, pushing a friend over a toy or place in line, or feeling the need to sneak a taste of the cookie batter sitting on the counter. 

Everyone has impulses so they are not a bad thing, but it is important to have control over them, which is what we call “impulse control.” 

You may have also heard the term “self control” which can mean the same thing. It is knowing how to STOP and THINK when an impulse pops into your head. Many adults have the ability to do this, however it is very common to see children in many age groups really struggle with this.

If this sounds like something your child struggles with, it is helpful to first try understanding the meaning behind these behaviors so you can support the child in understanding them as well. 

Children need a clear understanding of what an impulse is and what impulse control is before they can address any problem they might have with it. Self-evaluation is a tool that can help; not just parents evaluating themselves, their feelings and reactions and how they behave in certain situations, but self-evaluation is good for children as well. Helping them to understand where their areas of weakness (and strengths) are when it comes to impulse control gives them the insight to start to make change. 

Have your child ask themselves: 
  • Do I wait patiently for my turn in the game? 
  • Do I listen to my teacher without talking to my neighbor? 
  • Do I ask to borrow things before taking them? 
  • Can I walk through the halls quietly?  
Once the child can identify their strengths and weaknesses in this area, they will have a better understanding of how impulse control can help them and why it is important. But the first step is becoming aware.

Stay tuned for more information on how impulse control affects social skills and friendships!

Post by Shawna Paplaski, LCPC