• Learning to Control Impulsive Behavior

     

    Executive Skills Needed:  1. Response Inhibition, and 2. Emotional Control.

     

    Steps to Take:  

    1. Together with your child, identify the triggers for the impulsive behavior (watching TV with siblings, open-ended play with friends, or whatever).
    2. Agree on a rule for the trigger situation. The rule should focus on what your child can do to control impulses. Build in choice if you can—in other words, you and your child should come up with a couple of different things he/she can do in place of the unwanted impulsive response.
    3. Talk about what you might do to signal to your child that you think he/she is on the verge of “losing control” so that he/she can back off or use one of the coping strategies agreed on. This works best when the signal is a relatively discrete visual signal (for example, a “hand motion” that can alert your child to the problem situation.
    4. Practice the procedure. Make this a “Let’s pretend” role-play. “Let’s pretend you’re outside playing with your friends and one of them says something that makes you mad. I’ll be your friend and you be you.” If this is hard for your child, you may want to play your child in this role-play to model how he/she will handle the situation.
    5. As with the other skills involving behavior regulation, practice the procedure daily or several times a week for a couple of weeks.
    6. When you and your child are ready to put the procedure in effect in “real life,” remind him/her about it just before the trigger situation is likely to occur (for example, “Remember the plan,” “Remember what we talked about”).
    7. Review how the process worked afterward. You may want to create a scale that you and your child can use to assess how well it went (the rating scale could be 5—Went without a hitch! to 1—That didn’t go real well!).

     

    Modifications/Adjustments:

    1. If you think it will make the process work more effectively or more quickly, tie the successful use of a replacement behavior to a reinforcer. This may best be done using a “response cost” approach. For example, give your child 70 points to begin the day. Each time your child acts impulsively, subtract 10 points. You can also give bonus points if your child gets through a specified period of time without losing any points.
    2. If impulsivity is a significant problem for your child, begin by choosing one time of day or one impulsive behavior to target to make success more likely.
    3. Be sure to praise your child for showing self-control. Even if you’re using tangible rewards, social praise should always accompany any other kind of reinforcer.

     

    From Smart but Scattered by Peg Dawson and Richard Guare.  Copyright 2009 by The Guilford Press. P. 173.

    SAMPLE HARD TIMES BOARD

    Triggers: What Makes Me Mad?

    1. When it’s time to do a chore

     

    2.       When my plans don’t work out

     

    3.       When I have to stop doing something fun

    Can’t Dos

    1.       Hit somebody

     

    2.       Break anything

     

    3.   Yell at someone

    When I’m Having a Hard Time, I Can

    1.       Draw a picture

     

    2.       Read a book

     

    3.       Listen to music

     

    MY  HARD TIMES BOARD

    Triggers: What Makes Me Mad?

    1.

     

    2.

     

    3.

    Can’t Dos

    1.

     

    2.

     

    3.  

    When I’m Having a Hard Time, I Can

    1.

     

    2.

     

    3.

     

                                        

     

    From Smart but Scattered by Peg Dawson and Richard Guare.  Copyright 2009 by The Guilford Press. P. 172.

    MAINTAINING  SELF-CONTROL

     

    The things I do without thinking include:

    Common situations where I act without thinking are:

    What I will do to stay controlled:

     

                                        

     

    From Smart but Scattered by Peg Dawson and Richard Guare.  Copyright 2009 by The Guilford Press. P. 174.