Here, you’ll find easy impulse control strategies. Use these tips and activities along with other resources on improving impulse control skills: These impulse control activities and how to teach impulse control. Use those resources in combination with the impulsivity tips in this post as intervention strategies for impulsive behavior.
Here on the site, we’ve shared a lot of information related to impulse control. This executive functioning skill is essential for most daily tasks! When kids struggle with prioritization, planning, time management, persistence, then impulse control can suffer.
Likewise, difficulties with sensory processing, modulation, or direction following can limit a child’s ability to utilize self-control in order to inhibit their impulses.
Easy Impulse Control Strategies
These easy ways to improve impulse control are quick tips and tricks that can help kids address impulsivity.
Easy Ways to Improve Impulse Control
▪ Use those real life situations to assess what worked, what didn’t work, and talk about it! Sometimes looking at a big picture can help kids.
▪ Research tells us that as the day progresses, it is harder for us to maintain and utilize self-control. Make smaller goals later in the day.
▪ Encouraging statements can boost and rally! Use imagery to picture successes in typical situations. Find an encouraging statement that really speaks to the child and ask them to repeat it, sing it, and dance to it! Get silly to make it stick in their minds.
▪ Rest, a healthy diet, enough sleep, physical exercise, and time of day all make a difference in willpower. The interoceptive system is a powerful sensory system when it comes to impulse control.
▪ Physical exercise also leads to changes in the function and structure of the pre-frontal cortex of the brain. Regular exercise such as mindful exercises like yoga and stretching as well as intense cardiovascular exercise helps us become more resilient to stress.
▪ Teach kids how to manage stress. When we experience stress, it means that our body’s energy is used up and we act instinctively. Decisions made under stress are often times based on short-term outcomes.
▪ Self-control and reining in those impulses requires monitoring. This includes keeping track of your thoughts, feelings and actions in any given situation. Help kids monitor their actions with quick self-checks.
▪ Write down the rules. A prerequisite to impulse control includes a knowledge of standards. These personal and assumed guidelines steer us in the “right direction” of following rules. This might include classroom rules, society’s rules, rules of communication, personal standards, and moral guidelines. For the child with sensory processing challenges, communication difficulties, executive functioning issues, these standards can be very difficult to perceive and know! It can be very stressful for these children to know there are rules, but they don’t know exactly what they are.
Easy Impulse Control Tips
The impulse control strategies listed above are techniques and tips that can help kids gain control of impulsivity. While development of self-control skills happens gradually and over time, the strategies for controlling impulses can be used to help kids develop self-control necessary for managing impulse control in a variety of settings.
Reaching impulse control strategies to kids doesn’t need to be boring or repetitive. While the number one strategy for helping kids become more aware of impulsivity in order to gain self-control is listed below, there are actually several more tools for impulse control that can help kids master their impulse control skills (at least on an age-appropriate level of expectation).
- Practice- This is the biggest technique for working on impulse control in kids. Because self-control is a skill that develops over time, going over (and over) those skills can make all the difference.
- Self regulation- We’ve talked about the connection between impulse control and sensory processing. The ability to inhibit an impulse can be exacerbated by emotions. Have strategies in place to self-regulate can make impulse control all the easier. There’s more; When kids act impulsively in an emotional situation, but then afterwards can explain what they should have done instead, they lack the self-regulation to notice in the moment what is happening. The ability to figure out in the moment that a sense of overwhelming thoughts or feelings are building requires self-regulation skills.
- Mindfulness- Being aware of yourself and the world around you allows a person to focus on an awareness as opposed to emotions. Mindfulness is a strategy to improve impulse control by allowing us to control and handle our emotions as they are happening. This is a technique that takes practice (There’s that p word again!)
- Stop and think- Teach a stop and think game to stop the action, activity, or conversation and pause to think about emotions and how the body feels. This is a way to stop and slow down to check in with themselves before impulsive actions happen.
- Work through distractions- Sometimes, kids become so distracted by things happening in the classroom or out in the hallway that impulsive actions happen during those distracted moments. Science has found a link between impulse control and working memory, which is an important part of focus that lacks during periods of distraction.
- Model good examples- Talking through examples and showing kids how to respond to common problems through modeling is one impulse control strategy that can make a big impact. By modeling and walking through a common self-control issue, kids can see exactly how to use other techniques in the moment. It’s a great way to problem solve and strategize together.
- Make it fun! Games- Games that encourage delayed gratification or require a child to stop in the moment can be a good tool for practicing impulse control. Some examples include Red Light Green Light, Simon Says, or other turn-taking games.
- Think of others- The ability to empathize plays a big part in impulse control. In fact, our ability to control our impulses and empathy are actually housed in the same part of the brain. The thing is though, that the part of the brain with impulse control and empathy reside is the last part of the brain to fully mature. The pre-frontal cortex doesn’t fully develop until our early twenties. But despite developmental considerations of development, we can promote impulse control by working on empathy. How would we feel if someone did a specific action against us? It can be helpful to ask kids specific questions that bring empathy and impulse control into light.
Some questions to inspire kids to think of others when it comes to impulsivity include:
- How do you think a friend feels when you take a toy from them?
- How would you like a friend to ask to play with you?
- How can you ask a friend to play that would make them feel good and not bad?
- How would you feel if a friend took a toy that you were playing with?
6. More practice- Finally, we come back to the first strategy on the list…practice! Take the opportunity to practice all of the strategies and techniques on this list. It will make a big difference!
These strategies are easy to address but can sometimes not carryover well into typical daily tasks.
That’s why I created The Impulse Control Journal.
The Impulse Control Journal is a printable journal for kids that helps them to identify goals, assess successes, and address areas of needs. The Impulse Control Journal is a printable packet of sheets that help kids with impulse control needs.
Read more about The Impulse Control Journal HERE.
The Impulse Control Journal has been totally revamped to include 79 pages of tools to address the habits, mindset, routines, and strategies to address impulse control in kids.
More about the Impulse Control Journal:
- 30 Drawing Journal Pages to reflect and pinpoint individual strategies
- 28 Journal Lists so kids can write quick checklists regarding strengths, qualities, supports, areas of need, and insights
- 8 Journaling worksheets to pinpoint coping skills, feelings, emotions, and strategies that work for the individual
- Daily and Weekly tracking sheets for keeping track of tasks and goals
- Mindset,Vision, and Habit pages for helping kids make an impact
- Self-evaluation sheets to self-reflect and identify when inhibition is hard and what choices look like
- Daily tracker pages so your child can keep track of their day
- Task lists to monitor chores and daily tasks so it gets done everyday
- Journal pages to help improve new habits
- Charts and guides for monitoring impulse control so your child can improve their self-confidence
- Strategy journal pages to help kids use self-reflection and self-regulation so they can succeed at home and in the classroom
- Goal sheets for setting goals and working to meet those goals while improving persistence
- Tools for improving mindset to help kids create a set of coping strategies that work for their needs
This is a HUGE digital resource that you can print to use over and over again.
Read more about The Impulse Control Journal HERE.
The impulse control journal is perfect for kids who:
- Grab items from other kids
- Lack a sense of personal boundaries
- Show poor self-regulation of emotions and sensory input
- Have difficulties with delayed gratification
- Struggle with carryover of impulsivity strategies into general situations
- Interrupt others or act out in the classroom
Colleen Beck, OTR/L has been an occupational therapist since 2000, working in school-based, hand therapy, outpatient peds, EI, and SNF. Colleen created The OT Toolbox to inspire therapists, teachers, and parents with easy and fun tools to help children thrive. Read her story about going from an OT making $3/hour (after paying for kids’ childcare) to a full-time OT resource creator for millions of readers. Want to collaborate? Send an email to email@example.com.