No matter how old your child is, impulse-control (or the lack thereof) is a real parenting struggle. This is How to Strengthen Your Child’s Impulse-Control using positive parenting
They might be too fast to hit a sibling, too insistent on something to happen NOW, and continuously asking for the same thing over and over again even though you’ve said it couldn’t happen the way they want to. The list of these behaviors continues on and on.
“Oh God, why can’t you wait another second”??
“Have some patience, would you??”
“Don’t hit your brother!”
“I heard you! I need another minute!”
You might have told your child one million times to not do something, but then he goes off doing it anyway. The thing is, that, when struck with an impulse – your child doesn’t remember anything you told him about it in the past. That knowledge is simply inaccessible to him.
Why do Children Lack Impulse-Control?
Kids live in the NOW; when they want something, they want it now; when they feel the impulse to do something, they feel it fiercely. When they don’t get what they really want – it looks like the end of the world is near. Very near. And there’s a biological reason for this.
Children’s emotions, our emotions, originate in the right part of our brain, the part that is responsible for desires, dreams, wishes, everything that makes us happy right now. Kids feel everything so intensely because they don’t yet have the power of their left-brain to balance their feelings.
The left part of our brain, the analytical part, is not about emotions. It sees product versus process, outcome, versus attempt. The left part of our brain develops later, much later. The ability to calculate and analyze, weigh pros versus cons, and compare the various feelings that co-exist within us every given moment has to do with that development. Moreover – it is about the consolidation and the learned cooperation between the two parts of our brain that control our impulses. It is impossible before kids turn about seven.
Why do Some Children Show Better Impulse-Control?
When it comes to children and their ability to control themselves, to think before they act, to wait, and to keep their emotions at bay, three factors are beyond parenting. You will benefit a great deal of peace of mind if you stop blaming yourself and your child for the way things are now.
We’re all born different; we are all different people, we have different temperaments, we have different executive function skills, and we are at varying levels of our development and impulsivity.
Some kids are shyer than others; some are more vocal and active, some socialize very easily, while others prefer their own company. Among many others, these are traits we are born with, and they’re not good or bad; they are what they are, and they are an integral part of who we are.
So next time your child is bowling on the floor at the store because you didn’t buy him that candy he wanted, while another child gracefully accepts his parent’s refusal to do the same, don’t blame yourself or your child for being, or doing wrong. Just like any other characteristic – impulsivity is yet another trait we can work with 🙂
Impulse-Control in Common Child-Discipline
I’ve written at length about child-discipline in modern times, but to sum it up, I’ll say that we’ve gone astray. We seem to believe that we must first make a child feel horrible about himself if we want him to do better in the future.
We use tactics of fear, guilt, shame; we punish, we withdraw connection, we remove possessions, we force loneliness and self-regulation (which doesn’t exist). We might be able to teach a child to react “more appropriately” next time we refuse his wish, but what do we teach in addition to that?
We teach that we are stronger and that levels of power make a difference (this is the source of bullying), we teach that there’s no place for some emotions and some desires, and we teach that fighting fiercely for what you want will get you in trouble.
And you know what? This might somehow sound okay when we’re talking about kids – but these kids grow up and go out to the world as adults who are afraid to share their emotions, afraid to ask for what they want, agree to settle for much less than they can gain, and the list continues.
Adults don’t just come about from thin air; they become who they are because of the lessons they were taught when they were children.
Want to learn how to strengthen your child’s impulse-control through positive parenting techniques? Read on 🙂
Rewiring Our Brains
Rewiring your brain to POSITIVE is a choice that we can all make. Why should we? Because it makes life so much better, so much easier, more gratifying, more connected, more empathetic, and simply put – just happier.
Let me explain.
We believe the thoughts in our heads. In other words – we believe that what we think is the truth. And what we communicate is, inevitably, the result of what we think.
When we know our child to be “too sensitive,” “too explosive,” “too angry,” “too fast to respond,” “lacking patience,” “too loud,” and “too violent,” these are the behaviors we are wiring our brains to notice. This wiring means that we will be expecting these behaviors and seeing them repeatedly, even when there’s something else going on.
When we were trying for our second child, all I could see, wherever I went, were pregnant women. Our brains are wired to look for what we believe we don’t have.
And since we’re continually looking out for these behaviors, we’re constantly using these words of judgment; we’re telling our children who they are, labeling them, instead of talking about what happened.
In time, these children will know themselves to be too loud, too violent, too much, too little, and generally just not good enough – and this will be the knowledge they’ll take with them going out to the world as young adults. What will they do with this knowledge? We can’t know, but we can look around and ask ourselves, “Is this the world I want for my kids”? I bet that most will say “no”.
How to Strengthen Your Child’s Impulse-Control with Positive Parenting
The truth is that our kids control themselves, contain their feelings, wait patiently, and accept our refusals much more than we notice. Why can’t we see it? Because our brains are wired to look for the negative.
Once we make a deliberate choice of actively searching for the positive, we will start telling ourselves a different story; we will be able to start telling our children other things about them.
Instead of searching for what went wrong, decide to search for what went right. Look for the times you say “no,” and your child accepts it gracefully. Look for the times you ask your child to wait, and he doesn’t say anything in return; he waits. Look for the times your child wants to hit, push, or grab something from his sibling and manages to resist that urge.
TALK about these situations. These are the only situations that are worthy of your words and thoughts.
“Wow, you did so great back there in the store when you wanted that lollipop, and we didn’t buy it. What helped you?”
“Wow! I could totally see in your eyes how angry you were at <sibling> for grabbing that toy, and you didn’t grab it back! What did you tell yourself that helped you stop”?
Look for everything right, and mention it. Show your child that you SEE his efforts, that you’re aware of his good heart. And always, always encourage him to reflect upon his success.
How did you do it?
What helped you?
Which feelings did you feel when it all happened?
How did you manage to resist the desire to hit?
Remember, you are not only a parent, you are your child’s emotion coach. Everything he’ll know about managing and coping with his emotions is what you’ll teach him.
Empower your child for each tiny decision he makes, and slowly but surely – he will start making more and more of these positive, connected, empowering decisions that make him and you feel so much better!
Positive parenting is a decision anyone can make; it’s a beautiful journey anyone can venture on, and it doesn’t matter how you parented your children until now.
In Island of Peace, my monthly membership group, I teach parents how to shift their mindset to positivity so that they can parent from the heart. If you’re ready for a real transformation – join us today.
You can also join my free life and parenting support group on Facebook; I’d love to meet you either way 🙂