Children who have difficulty controlling their impulses generally know the rules and the consequences for breaking those rules. Impulse control prevents people from acting on their emotions. When children have little to no impulse control, they have tremendous difficulty staying on task, delaying gratification, tolerating frustration, waiting to start an activity or behaving appropriately in a given situation. These children need to learn to identify their feelings and to stop and think about their actions rather than acting on their impulses.
Focus With Your Eyes
According to Daniel T. Moore, Ph.D., Children who have impulsivity issues often have a difficult time fixing their eyes on an object for any length of time. An activity to try involves using a red and a green pencil. Hold them shoulder width apart at about 16 inches in front of your child's face. Tell her to look at the green pencil. She gets a point if she stays fixated on the green pencil until you tell her to look at the red pencil. You get a point if she looks at the red pencil before you instruct her to do so. Play for eight cycles and try to incorporate it into your schedule four or five times per week. By decreasing impulsivity of the eyes, your child's focus, attention, impulsivity and listening skills increase.
Sit in front of your child. Hold an object about 16 inches in front of his eyes. Instruct your child to follow the object with his eyes only. He has to do his best to avoid moving his head. If needed, stop to help him refocus. Next, move the object in a windshield wiper motion. Push your child to focus as long as possible without pushing him beyond his limits. You want this to be fun, yet educational. Increase the length of time as he improves. The third part of the activity is moving the object in an arc shape. If your child has difficulty keeping his head still, hold it for him to allow him to focus with his eyes only. Work up to twenty minutes. This exercise increases focus, reduces impulsivity and puts children in a relaxed state of mind.
You can play "Secret Eye Spy" with one child although two children increase the challenge. Give both children paper and pencils. Give them a clue about the object you are thinking of. Instead of calling out their guesses, they are to write or draw the answer on their paper. Each correct guess earns one point. If the child calls out, she loses a point. Repeat for five to ten items. The child with the most correct guesses and the least call-outs is the winner. By repeating this activity often and talking the results over with the child, she will become more aware of her urge to call out and little by little have more ability to suppress it.
This activity can be done just about anywhere. It's simple and can be applied in real-life situations. The next time you're waiting in the doctor's office with your child, offer him this game. Tell him you want to see how long he is able to sit in his chair without moving. You time him and repeat the activity. Now he has to beat his previous time. According to Robert Myers, this activity increases the brain-body neural connections. Over time, this improves self-control.
Karen Kleinschmidt has been writing since 2007. Her short stories and articles have appeared in "Grandma's Choice," "Treasure Box" and "Simple Joy." She has worked with children with ADHD, sensory issues and behavioral problems, as well as adults with chronic mental illness. Kleinschmidt holds a Bachelor of Arts in psychology from Montclair State University.