Temper tantrums, hissy fits, and bad behavior are par for the course when parenting toddlers and young children. Kids experience the same emotions that we as adults do, but they often fail to understand them, and have difficulty processing their feelings into appropriate actions. Impulse control techniques teach youngsters how and when to show their emotions, and provide age-appropriate strategies for dealing with hurt feelings, disappointment, anger, and sadness. In fact, ADHD and impulse control have been closely linked, with research showing that children with ADHD often act on their instincts without regard to the consequences, leading to trouble at both home and school. Impulse control strategies are especially important for kids with ADHD so they can learn what’s expected of them, model good behavior, and develop the skills they need for a happy and productive life. Here are our top 5 favorite techniques that will help your children self-regulate, develop healthy friendships, and succeed.
Provide Timely Reminders
Young children are notoriously distracted and forgetful, so it’s important to provide timely reminders about planned activities and expectations. For example, you could tell your son that dinner is in 30 minutes, and then provide 15 and 5-minute reminders so he knows how much play time he has left on the computer. Reminders about family rules are also helpful, especially for toddlers and children with ADHD. Remind your youngster that she has to hold your hand in the mall when you go shopping, and that running away is not allowed.
Make Tasks Fun
Chores are never fun, no matter what your age. As adults we understand that we have to clean, that we have to balance work with relaxation, and that we have to pay the bills. Kids don’t have this level of maturity yet, so it’s important to help them by turning necessary tasks into activities they will want to partake in. Motivating children to help with household chores, school work, or community cleanup can help lay the foundation for responsibility in later years.
Little kids will enjoy cleaning if you turn it into a game: the first person to pick up 10 toys gets a sticker on their reward chart; or make cleaning teams of adults versus kids, and when the kids “win” they get to pick the movie you’ll watch after dinner. Older children may enjoy earning an allowance for completing their chores or working toward a new bike or phone if they get good grades at school. Figure out what your child’s currency is, and build a system of success around it!
Impulse Control Games
Many of your child’s favorite games can help him improve impulse control while he’s having fun and spending time with you. As a bonus, these games teach patience, sharing, kindness, taking turns, and rule adherence. Simon Says, Red Light Green Light, Follow the Leader, Chess, Checkers, Jenga, Twister, and Go Fish are just some of the games that we recommend. You can find many more activity suggestions on Pinterest, including some free printables for toddlers and elementary school-aged children.
Learning to Listen
At Woodburn Pediatrics we know that children often have difficulty listening (especially when they don’t like what’s being said), but we encourage parents to work with their tots to develop their listening skills for safety, education, and a harmonious home life. Sometimes kids may “hear” you, but not comprehend the instructions you’ve provided. Ask your child to repeat back what you have just said so you know he understands and can articulate it. Repeat the directions as often as is necessary (and is age-appropriate) to increase your child’s chance of following through. A toddler needs to be told to clean up his toys more often than a 10-year-old, because of the varying attention spans.
Set an Example
The final, and probably most important, strategy to teach impulse control is to practice good strategies yourself and lead by example. Practice what you preach and teach, and refrain from engaging in behaviors you would rather not see your child exhibit. Telling your child to clean his room when you never do housework, or to not use bad words in anger when you use bad language, will all negate your teaching and do more damage in the long run.
We believe that starting early and helping our children develop proper impulse control strategies will help them have a happier childhood and a more fulfilled life now and in the future. Contact us today to discuss your child’s behavior or to schedule an evaluation.