Everyone can have times when the mouth or hands don’t seem to be connected to the brain. Before you even know what happened, you say or do something without thinking. This foot-in-mouth syndrome is also known as “impulsivity.” Kids are innately impulsive, largely because they don’t have enough maturity to rein themselves in effectively. Even with your little one’s young age, you can still encourage impulse control to give him tools for coping.
Explain the pitfalls of impulsivity to your little one in simple terms. Basically, the gist of it is that what floats his boat right now might sink him later on. Acting impulsively doesn’t give people the time or chance to think things through and this can lead to nasty mistakes.
Make up a mantra to remind your child to slow down. Whenever he hears a phrase like “Easy does it” or “Chill for a bit,” this is his cue to stop and think before moving forward. Encourage him to internalize the mantra, too, so he can say it to himself as he becomes more aware of when he’s feeling impulsive.
Ask your child how he thinks he’s going to feel later about how he’s acting or what he’s about to do. By encouraging him to think about consequences and actions, you give him a gift of vision and analysis. For example, he may feel like tossing his ball into a corner when he’s done with it, but by not putting it away properly, he may not be able to find it to play with it the next time he wants to play catch.
Reduce overwhelming situations to make sure your child doesn’t feel bombarded by too much activity or too many options. Keep things simple and low key and your child won’t feel rushed or pushed into impulsive behavior or decisions. For example, a chaotic birthday party isn’t the time to expect your child to exhibit a clear thought process about where to place his backpack and shoes when he enters the house. Help him find a good spot for his things in this confusing or overwhelming situation.
Catch your youngster thinking things through and give him a big high-five. By noticing and calling his smart behavior to his attention, you reinforce it effectively. You also make sure that your child understands what you want him to do by giving him a hands-on example.