Kids with executive functioning skill challenges may suffer from impulse control difficulties. The strategies indicated in this post are guides to help teach kids impulse control for improved attention, self-regulation, and learning in the classroom.
You might know of a child who just can’t help themselves in the classroom. They are the ones who are speaking out, interrupting, jumping up from their seat, and distracting their classmates. There are underlying reason behind these behaviors and it is important to consider those causes for impulse-related behaviors. It may be there are unmet sensory needs, difficulty with self-regulation, trouble expressing oneself, emotional causes, or other underlying areas.
More than likely, the kids that need help with impulse control are being addressed in some way by the child’s teacher or team in one way or several. But if impulses are something that need addressed, try the impulse control strategies outlined below.
You’ll be interested in all of our executive functioning skill activities.
Impulse control strategies for Kids
Parents, teachers, and therapists can use these strategies in different ways. Consider that every child is unique and what works for one child may not work for another. Likewise, it is very important to specifically design a strategy based on individualized assessment of the child.
Why is it difficult for kids to manage their impulses?
Children develop controlled impulses as part of their overall development. The very young child does not have these skills. In fact, there are those of us who have difficulty refraining from a second cookie as adults. Impulse control requires will power, delayed gratification, and self-control. For the child who struggles with development, sensory processing, attention, physical limitations, cognitive delays, or social impairments, the ability to control ones impulses is very difficult. These individuals are cognitively and automatically focused on the underlying needs. When other needs such as sensory or balance are the primary focus, it can be quite difficult to refrain from impulses.
Impulses seen in the classroom:
Shoving in lines
Cutting in front of others
Jumping up from seat
Asking questions about irrelevant topics
Personal boundary issues
How to teach kids impulse control:
Impulse control journal
Break big tasks or projects into smaller steps
Make a schedule (picture-based or list)
Act out situations beforehand
Count to three before answering/responding
Reduce time to complete tasks
Increase time to complete tasks
Think through and predict social interactions before going into a situation
Ask for help
Use a strategy checklist
Carry a goal list
Positive thought notebook
Executive functions all require the ability to pay attention. Read about the attention and executive functioning skill connection and the impact of attention on each of the executive functioning skills that children require and use every day.
Looking for more ways to address executive functioning needs? Try these strategies to help with organization, attention, or task initiation.
More tools for addressing attention needs in kids
When a child is easily “triggered” and seems to melt down at any sign of loud noises or excitement…
When you need help or a starting point to teach kids self-regulation strategies…
When you are struggling to motivate or redirect a child without causing a meltdown…
When you’re struggling to help kids explore their emotions, develop self-regulation and coping skills, manage and reflect on their emotions, identify their emotions, and more as they grow…
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.
- 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 Journal 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
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.
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