Impulse control has always been an issue with my little man. Now that he’s getting older, it’s getting even harder to help him restrain himself from acting out on impulse. This causes many issues. Let’s discuss some of these issues, then we will move on to more about Impulse Control, and some ways we as parents and relatives can try and help our children.
People see this as bad behavior.
While I really don’t care what people think of me, I do care what they think of my children. To the untrained eye, my cutie acting out impulsively looks a lot look he’s misbehaving. In all actuality, he just can’t help himself.
Other people think that reprimanding my child is helping.
Family, friends, even strangers whom think they are helping will often times try correcting the child. Don’t. All you’re going to do is cause more guilt for the child. Preaching to the child about what they’ve just done is only adding more guilt to something they had no control over in the first place. If you want to help, try redirecting the child, or distracting the child. (Ie: Susie grabbed the kitten even though she was asked not to. Don’t yell at her. Don’t preach to her. Simply tell her the kitten is off limits, and then gravitate her attention towards something else.)
Think before speaking
This is especially an issue in our home. Our eldest son has moved back home for a bit, and he rarely thinks before he speaks. (Much like Liam, lol.) For example, Liam will be getting on his nerves and he’ll say, “go ahead, hit me if it makes you feel better.” He’s saying it in jest, trying to make light of a tense situation. However, all Liam hears is, “go ahead, hit me.” He doesn’t pick up on the social cues. He doesn’t get the joke. Now Liam is swinging like a pro baseball player at his brother. Brother is angry, and Liam is upset because in his mind, he’s doing what he was told. Now his brother, and often times his dad are yelling, because to them, Liam is acting out. It becomes monotonous having to break up conflicts like this. Conflicts that can be avoided if people just took more time to understand Autism and impulse controls. (I’m not saying my husband and son don’t understand. They do. Hubby is always trying to keep the peace, and our eldest is out of practice as he’s never lived here full time, so he’s not completely up to par on our Autism world.)
Now that we’ve discussed some problems that arise from Impulse Control, let’s talk about what it is.
Impulse Control is the failure to resist an urge or temptation. Simply put, it’s a thought that comes into one’s mind, and the person then acts on it. There are five stages to impulse control. They are:
Knowing the stages, what are some ways to help children learn from it, or even to help diminish the impulses?
Don’t just focus on what the person did wrong, but also on what they should have done.
So your child acted on impulse. Depending on what it was they acted on, you may or may not yell. It’s okay, because NONE of us are perfect. That being said, try to remain calm. It’s okay to tell the child what they did wrong, but make sure you also let them know what they should have done. Try to keep their attention. You don’t have to force eye contact (trust me, they will zone out on you if you do,) but ask them questions to see if they understood what you said to them.
Work on listening skills
This is HUGE in my home. If you are giving your child numerous instructions, they are only going to hear part of it, and start acting out that part. For example, if Liam has to clean his room, I have to say, “Pick up all your dirty clothes, then come back.” After he does that, I will move on to the next directive. If you tell your child or the individual a few things at once, you are bogging down their brain. BREAK IT DOWN. I promise you, this works. I have been doing this for Liam for years, and he works so well when others do the same for him.
Another great hint is to have the person repeat back what you asked them. That way you know they know what to do. This works great for when you want to expand on their directives. I do this when I give Liam two instructions. It helps him process more.
Yes, practice waiting. Waiting is especially hard for those on the spectrum. My son and I both hate to wait. (We’re working on it.) A good way to practice is to use visuals. Find a symbol for wait, and then a reward symbol. Start out slow. Have them wait five minutes, or even two, quietly. Then they get the reward. (Whether it be stickers, screen time, whatever works.) Over time, you can expand the time.
Make it a game
Believe it or not, many childhood games are great ways to practice impulse control and waiting. Simon Says is perfect because the child has to wait on instructions from Simon, and is only supposed to do what Simon says. Follow the Leader, Red Light Green Light, and Duck Duck Goose, are all great games to practice impulse control.
Get the wiggles out
Give them sensory input. A lot of sensory seekers lack impulse control because their bodies are always on the go. Giving these children appropriate sensory input will help keep their bodies in check, and may reduce some impulses.
Work on emotions
Teaching our children emotions helps as well. For example, acknowledging that some things cause anger is okay, but acting on that anger physically isn’t. Talk about way to address that anger. Liam’s BSC and us, are actively working on this with Liam as well. When he gets angry, all impulse control fails. Frustration is another one. Thinking of ways to help your child deal with frustration and giving them tools to use will help decrease frustration induced IC.
These are just some of the things that we are actively doing to help Liam control his impulses. What are some ways that have worked for you?
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