Tips To Strengthen Your Child’s Impulse-Control

Tips To Strengthen Your Child’s Impulse-Control

Irrational behaviour (or the lack thereof) is a major parenting challenge no matter how old your child is. This is How Positive Parenting Can Help Your Child Develop Impulse Control.

They could be too quick to punch a sibling, overly demanding on something happening RIGHT NOW, and keep asking for the same thing even after you’ve told them it can’t happen the way they want it to. The list of inappropriate acts goes on and on.

You may have warned your child a million times that he should not do something, yet he still does it. The problem is that when your child is seized with an impulse, he forgets everything you’ve informed him about it previously. He just does not have access to that information.

This post may contain affiliate links. Full disclosure here.

Want to learn how to get your kids to listen without nagging, yelling or losing control?
–>check out this free parenting class<–

Many behavioural issues stem from a lack of impulse control. Impulsive behaviours might deteriorate over time if they are not addressed. Impulsive 6-year-olds, for example, may hit if they don’t get their way, whereas impulsive 16-year-olds may broadcast improper stuff on social media without considering the consequences.

The good news is that as your child grows, you may help them learn new skills to increase their impulse control. And the more impulse control your child develops, the less likely he or she is to do or say something harmful to others or to themselves.

Why Do Children Not Have Impulse Control

Kids live in the now; when they want something, they want it right now; when they have an urge to do something, they act on it quickly. When they don’t get what they want, it appears that the end of the world is approaching. It’s very close. There’s a biological explanation for this.

Emotions in children, and emotions in adults, originate in the right hemisphere of the brain, which is responsible for desires, dreams, and wishes, as well as everything that makes us joyful right now. Because they lack the power of their left brain to balance their feelings, children experience everything with such intensity.

Emotions have no place in the left hemisphere of our brain, which is analytical. It distinguishes between product and process, as well as between outcome and attempt. Our left hemisphere of the brain develops significantly later. That growth has to do with our ability to compute and analyze, assess benefits and negatives, and compare the numerous sentiments that coexist within us at any given time. Furthermore, it is about the fusion and trained cooperation of the two areas of our brain that govern our impulses. It’s impossible before the age of seven.

Some Kids Have More Impulse Control Than Others

Three elements are beyond parenting when it comes to children’s ability to control themselves, think before they act, wait, and keep their emotions in check. If you quit blaming yourself and your child for how things are now, you will gain a great lot of peace of mind.

We’re all born differently; we’re all distinct people with varied personalities, temperaments, executive function skills, and developmental and impulsive levels.

Some children are shyer than others; some are more vocal and active; some easily socialize, while others prefer to be alone. These are features we are born with, among many others, and they are neither good nor bad; they are what they are, and they are an important part of who we are.

So don’t blame yourself or your child for being or doing wrong the next time your youngster is bowling on the store floor because you didn’t purchase him that candy he wanted, while another child graciously accepts his parent’s rejection to do the same. We can work with impulsivity in the same way we can work with any other feature.

Teaching Children Impulse Control

I’ve written extensively about modern-day child punishment, but to summarise, I believe we’ve gone astray. We appear to believe that if we want a child to achieve better in the future, we must first make him feel bad about himself.

We employ fear, guilt, and shame methods; we punish, isolate, remove goods, and impose loneliness and self-regulation (which does not exist). We may be able to teach a youngster to react “more correctly” the next time we deny his request, but what else do we teach?

We educate that we are stronger and that power levels matter (this is the foundation of bullying), that certain feelings and wants have no place in society, and that fighting strongly for what you want will land you in trouble.

What’s more, you know what? This may seem OK when we’re talking about children, but these children grow up to be adults who are frightened to express their emotions, reluctant to ask for what they want, agree to settle for far less than they deserve, and so on.

Adults do not appear out of anywhere; they develop into the people they are as a result of the lessons they were taught as children.

Do you want to learn how to use positive parenting practices to improve your child’s impulse control? Continue reading.

Change Our Parenting Ways

We may all choose to rewire our brains to be more POSITIVE. Why should we bother? Because it makes life better, easier, more satisfying, more connected, more sympathetic, and just happier.

We believe what our minds tell us. To put it another way, we believe that what we believe is the truth. And what we convey is inextricably linked to what we believe.

These are the characteristics we are teaching our brains to recognize when we know our child is “too sensitive,” “too explosive,” “too furious,” “too quick to respond,” “lacking patience,” “too loud,” and “too violent.” Because of this wiring, we will expect and see the same actions over and over again, even if something else is going on.

When we were trying for our second kid, all I saw were pregnant women everywhere I went. Our brains are geared to look for things we don’t think we have.

And since we’re constantly on the lookout for these behaviours, we’re constantly passing judgement; we’re telling our kids who they are and labelling them rather than talking about what happened.

These children will eventually realize that they are too noisy, too violent, too much, too little, and generally not good enough, and they will carry this knowledge with them as they grow into young people. What are they going to do with this information? We can’t know for sure, but we can take a glance around and ask, “Is this the world I want for my children?” I’m guessing the majority will say “no.”

Communicate With Your Child

The truth is that our children are far better at controlling themselves, containing their emotions, waiting quietly, and accepting our refusals than we are. Why aren’t we able to view it? Because our brains are pre-programmed to look for flaws.

When we make the conscious decision to actively seek out the positive, we will begin to tell ourselves a different story, and we will be able to tell our children different things about themselves.

Rather than looking for what went wrong, try looking for what went right. Look for instances when you say “no” and your youngster calmly accepts it. Look for occasions when you ask your child to wait and he doesn’t respond; he just waits. Look for instances where your child resists the temptation to punch, push, or seize something from his sibling.

DISCUSS THESE SITUATIONS. These are the only instances in which your words and thoughts are appropriate.

“Wow, you behaved so well in the store when you wanted the lollipop but didn’t get it because we didn’t buy it. “How did you get help?”

“Wow! I could see how enraged you were at sister> for snatching that toy, and you didn’t return the favour! What did you say to yourself to get you to stop”?

Look for everything that is correct and make a note of it. Demonstrate to your youngster that you notice his efforts and are aware of his good intentions. And always encourage him to reflect on his success. 

Remember that you are not just a parent, but also an emotional coach for your child. You’ll teach him what he needs to know about managing and coping with his emotions.

Empower your child with each small decision he makes, and over time, he will begin to make more and more of these wonderful, connected, empowering decisions that will make both him and you feel better!

Positive parenting is a choice that anyone can make; it’s a lovely journey that anyone can embark on, and it doesn’t matter how you’ve raised your children up to this point.

Teach Your child About Feelings

Impulsiveness is more common in children who do not understand their feelings. A child who is unable to verbalize “I’m angry” may hit to express their displeasure. Alternatively, a youngster who is unable to express their sadness verbally may scream and throw themselves to the floor.

Teach your child to recognize their emotions so that they can tell you instead of showing you how they’re feeling. Begin by teaching your youngster how to identify and define emotions such as anger, sadness, and fear. Then, discuss the distinction between feelings and behaviour.

Make sure kids understand that it’s fine to be upset, but it’s not okay to strike or kick someone in anger. They’ll be less prone to act out their feelings if they can talk about them in a meaningful way.

Make Sure Your child Understand By Repeating

When children do not follow directions, they can act impulsively. They’re jumping into action before you’ve finished your directions, with no notion what you said.

Ask your youngster to repeat your instructions before taking action to teach him to listen to them. “Before you proceed, I want you to explain the directions back to me,” say before you begin your instructions. “OK, what did I just instruct you to do?” you can ask once you’ve completed.

They should only be able to take action when they can repeat back what you said, whether it’s to clean their room or put away their homework.

Teach Problem Solving Skills

Problem-solving might be one of the most effective impulse control tactics, despite the fact that brainstorming solutions appear simple.

Teach your youngster that there are other ways to address a problem and that it is critical to consider a variety of options before acting.

So, whether your child is attempting to repair the chain on their bicycle or solving a math issue, encourage them to brainstorm at least five different solutions before acting.

After they’ve identified potential solutions, assist them in determining which one is most likely to be successful. They might become accustomed to thinking before acting with practice.

Teach Your Child To Manage Anger

Impulsive outbursts might be caused by a lack of frustration tolerance. Teaching your child anger management techniques can assist them in dealing with their emotions in a healthy manner. 3

Demonstrate specific techniques, such as taking a few deep breaths or going around the home to expend some energy. You may even put together a calm-down kit with things to help them relax.

When necessary, place them in time-out, but also educate them how to place themselves in time-out before getting into trouble.

Set Limits

When it comes to parenting, take a firm stance. Create explicit guidelines and explain why they are in place.

Make sure your youngster understands your expectations before he or she enters new situations. They will be less likely to misbehave if they grasp the need of using an indoor voice in the library or while going through the grocery store.

Also, discuss the negative repercussions of disobeying the rules ahead of time. They’ll be able to make more educated decisions regarding their actions after that.

Allow Boredom

Downtime isn’t necessarily a bad thing. It has a significant impact on our thinking processes. It is critical for children to learn how to be bored or engage in peaceful hobbies. Their lives can’t be all fun and games and excitement because that isn’t how they will grow up.

Children learn how to stay calm and be bored in a healthy way when they practise not being excited. They also discover new ways to deal with their thoughts. Teaching children to slow down, chat to themselves, or use their imagination to tell stories during this time is a valuable skill.

Boredom can teach children that it’s okay if something doesn’t happen right now, even if they want it to. They have time to wait and can divert their attention to anything else. They can then apply that principle while waiting in line, waiting for food to be served, or waiting to speak.

Create Structure

Maintain consistency in your discipline and your child’s routine. 4 Irrational conduct is reduced when there is less disorder.

Every time you go to the store, give reminders like, “You need to hold my hand in the parking lot when we get out of the car.”

Your youngster will become accustomed to your rules and the consequences for disobeying them with enough practice.

Be A Role Model

By watching you, your youngster will learn a lot about impulse control. Demonstrate how to wait patiently and accept delayed satisfaction in appropriate ways.

By expressing things like, “I’d really like to buy that new laptop, but I’m going to save my money for our vacation next summer,” you can point out the impulse control tactics you’re utilizing.

Speaking aloud to yourself will educate your child on how to build an internal dialogue that will assist him in managing his urges. Self-talk is important in helping kids moderate their impulsive behaviour, according to researchers at the University of Toronto. 

Play Impulse Control Games

Your child can practise impulse control by playing games like Simon Says, Red Light Green Light, and Follow the Leader. And your child will have a lot of fun with them.

Your youngster can educate their brain to have better self-control with practice. However, make sure that practising is enjoyable. Your efforts may backfire if you push children to sit still or pay attention to monotonous tasks for an extended period of time.

Use Social Norms To Teach

Humans are sociable creatures who want acceptance from others. You can teach impulse control to small children by exposing them to more people and hence more social standards. Children can learn that they are not the focus of attention in a variety of contexts, including daycare, preschool, church Sunday school, birthday parties, play dates, and so on.

Then, in a variety of methods, group settings can teach children to pause, ponder, and wait before speaking or acting on a sudden, urgent need to say or do something. It has the potential to irritate others, and others will show it — either through verbal or nonverbal indications. As a result, you’ll receive automatic training in impulse control!

Consider a preschool class sitting in circle time together. Nothing gets done if everyone starts talking at random instead of listening to the teacher. A severe look and a ‘shhhhh’ move will be given by the teacher. As a result, the children can learn that there are social benefits to sitting still and participating.

Children can also learn to take turns playing with a toy or doing an activity. Maybe they really wanted to perform a craft, but the sensory station was assigned to them first. They must wait patiently and courteously.

If the children act rashly or carelessly, they will struggle to develop friends.

These are all ways to demonstrate to children the need of exercising self-control, incentivizing them to ‘hold back’ a little.

How can I help my ADHD child with impulse control?

Children with ADHD are often labelled unruly or aggressive because of their impulsive physical and social interactions. Although these youngsters might be compassionate and sensitive, their positive attributes are frequently overshadowed by their lack of impulse control.

ADHD children behave before they think, and they are frequently unable to control their initial reaction to a situation. Their ability to “self-regulate” is harmed; they are unable to alter their conduct in the context of future repercussions. According to several research, abnormalities in the brain in people with ADHD are partly to blame for this symptom.

Many children with ADHD appear to spend their whole lives in time-out, being grounded, or getting in trouble for their words and actions. The inability to regulate one’s impulses is possibly the most difficult sign of ADHD to change. It will take years of patience and perseverance to turn this around.

  • In some cases, discipline can and should be utilised. While ADHD can be used to explain undesirable behaviour, it is never used as an excuse. Although ADHD may explain why Johnny hit Billy, it did not force him to do so. Children with ADHD must realise that it is their job to maintain self-control.
  • Discipline must be immediate, brief, and effective. Deferred penalties, such as detention, are ineffective for those who have trouble anticipating future events. If he pushes another child on the playground, recess is suspended for ten minutes.
  • Also, give positive feedback. When children with ADD behave well, make careful to give them instant, positive feedback and attention. Observe them performing a good deed. Describe what they are doing nicely, for example, waiting their time.

Because children with ADHD have trouble distinguishing between good and wrong, parents must be specific in their expectations and penalties. To address behavioural issues, telling your youngster to “be good” is too ambiguous. Instead, be explicit: “Do not touch anything when we go into the store; just look with your eyes.” “Wait in line for the slide at the playground and don’t push.” Other approaches to consider:

  • Be proactive when it comes to punishment. Positive and negative behaviours are treated equally. Recognize and comment on the behaviour, then promote positive behaviours with praise, attention, and awards, or punish poor activities promptly.
  • Assume responsibility for your child. It’s critical to let your youngster comprehend what he did wrong in order to help him grow into a responsible adult. Deferred punishment, on the other hand, may hinder a youngster from comprehending the connection between the transgression and the punishment. Punishment must follow the infraction quickly.
  • Allow the penalty to be proportional to the crime. Hitting necessitates a time out right away. Tantrums at the dinner table may result in expulsion from the table without dessert. Keep penalties quick and gentle, but make sure they signal to your child that he is in charge of his own behaviour.
  • Allow minor transgressions to slip. If your child spills milk because he was pouring it too quickly or carelessly, talk to him about the significance of moving more slowly, assist him in cleaning up the mistake, and then move on. Every blunder does not necessitate serious consequences.

Development and Impulsivity

Ages 0-2: Even babies have mechanisms to control overstimulation (e.g., turning away from light or noise). Observe these soothing factors and build on your baby’s existing talents — this will increase his ability to create a pause between impulse and action. Toddlers struggle to strike a balance between their strong desire for independence and their understanding of their own ineptness. When your child acts out (for example, punching or biting), use brief, strong commands to interrupt the behaviour: “No hitting. “It hurts to hit.” Then validate his irritation or anger and show him how to express it in appropriate ways, such as tossing a soft ball at a target or screaming like a tiger who then becomes silent.

Ages 3–4: Preschoolers are learning to use language to express their needs and desires in the face of often overpowering emotions. Encourage your youngster to develop methods to resist temptation, such as thinking of the desired item as a less appealing inanimate object for delayed gratification. These problem-solving techniques enable your child to link her emotional impulses to her executive functioning brain (“I can succeed”). She will eventually learn to experience emotions rather than leading with them.

Ages 5–6: Instead of expecting your child to sit and focus for long amounts of time, encourage self-control through physical games and experiences. According to Aamodt and Wang, physical movement improves academic achievement, therefore encourages learning by playing games like Red Light/Green Light or Simon Says.

Ages 7-8: Children between the ages of seven and eight have highly developed imaginative play abilities, which provide an ideal environment for developing focus and self-regulated rule structures. When your child steps out of limits, teach her how to self-soothe. Model taking a break, focusing on something different (such as naming all the colours in the room), counting backwards to reengage the thinking section of the brain, and physically moving to redirect mental energy.

Ages 9 and up: Children are developing different interests and personalities at this age. Assist your child in setting and achieving his own objectives. This not only improves self-control and executive function skills, but it also assists him in learning management norms.

Teaching Children Self-Control

Physical impulsivity is common among young children. Impulse control issues include hitting, jumping off furniture, and rushing through the grocery store.

Most kids have developed control over their bodily urges by the tween and teen years, although they may still be verbally impulsive. When your child is furious, she may say things without thinking about how they will be interpreted, or she may say hurtful things.

Impulse control should develop with time with practice and constant discipline. Talk to your kid’s pediatrician if you have concerns about your child’s capacity to make healthy decisions or if your child appears to be struggling more than other children his age.

Tips To Strengthen Your Child’s Impulse-Control 1

What You Should Do Next:

1. Subscribe To My Parenting Newsletter

Sign Up For My Parenting Newsletter for tips on creating a happier home and becoming a more positive parent. As a bonus when you subscribe you’ll get a copy of my FREE Growth Mindset Printout For Kids which is the KEY to raising resilient kids with a growth mindset.

2. Register For A Pretty Awesome FREE 60-Minute Class:

Register for a free class called GET KIDS TO LISTEN THE RIGHT WAY; an exclusive FREE class from nationally recognized parenting coach, Amy McCready.

3. Sign Up For A 7 Step Positive Parenting Course

Enroll now in the most in-depth parenting class. After discovering these common sense, easy-to-implement, research-based tools you can learn how to:
  • Easily get kids to listen – the FIRST time. No yelling or reminding…not even once!
  • Put an end to daily power struggles. Bedtime became a breeze, and all the dawdling, chore wars, sibling rivalry, and mealtime meltdowns disappeared.
  • Reduce backtalk by HALF! It’s simple once you know the secrets of these two ‘buckets.’
  • Say goodbye to punishments that DON’T work. There’s a 5-step formula that works WAYYY better than time-outs.
  • Feel amazing, confident, and empowered as a parent, every day. I NEVER go to bed feeling guilty anymore! (Okay, well maybe sometimes…’ mom guilt’ is still a thing.)
Got a threenager? You want this class. Got an actual tween or teen? Then what are you waiting for? Sign up for the webinar right NOW and watch the BEST, most life-changing parenting video ever.


  1. Lindquist KA, Maccormack JK, Shablack H. The role of language in emotion: predictions from psychological constructionismFront Psychol. 2015;6:444. doi:10.3389/fpsyg.2015.00444
  2. Özcan CT, Oflaz F, Türkbay T, Freeman clevenger SM. The Effectiveness of an Interpersonal Cognitive Problem-Solving Strategy on Behavior and Emotional Problems in Children with Attention Deficit HyperactivityNoro Psikiyatr Ars. 2013;50(3):244-251. doi:10.4274/npa.y6455
  3. Wyman PA, Cross W, Hendricks brown C, Yu Q, Tu X, Eberly S. Intervention to strengthen emotional self-regulation in children with emerging mental health problems: proximal impact on school behaviorJ Abnorm Child Psychol. 2010;38(5):707-20. doi:10.1007/s10802-010-9398-x
  4. What’s the Best Way to Discipline My Child?
  5. Hackenberg TD. Token reinforcement: a review and analysisJ Exp Anal Behav. 2009;91(2):257-86. doi:10.1901/jeab.2009.91-257
  6. University of Toronto. Inner voice plays role in self control. ScienceDaily. 2010. 
  7. Holton KF, Nigg JT. The Association of Lifestyle Factors and ADHD in ChildrenJ Atten Disord. 2016. doi:10.1177/1087054716646452

Additional Reading

  • Neuenschwander R, Blair C. Zooming in on children’s behavior during delay of gratification: Disentangling impulsigenic and volitional processes underlying self-regulation. Journal of Experimental Child Psychology. 2017;154:46-63.
  • Poushaneh K, Bonab BG, Namin FH. Effect of training impulse control on increase attention of children with attention – deficit/ hyperactivity disorderProcedia – Social and Behavioral Sciences. 2010;5:983-987.
  • Romer, Daniel, Duckworth, Angela L., Sznitman, Sharon, and Park, Sunhee. “Can Adolescents Learn Self-Control? Delay of Gratification in the Development of Control Over Risk-Taking.”Prevention Science. 2010: 11, 319-330.
  • Tarullo A, Obradovic J, Gunnar M. Self-Control and the Developing Brain.
  • Tullett AM, Inzlicht M. The voice of self-control: Blocking the inner voice increases impulsive responding. Acta Psychologica. 2010;135(2):252-256.