Impulse Control Techniques That Work for Children

Impulse Control Techniques That Work for Children

Impulse control, or the capacity to tolerate the need to act upon a certain action or decision, is a skill that a person, especially a child, acquires and develops over time. Impulse control is a vital skill for children to learn, and it is a skill that can be nurtured and improved upon. 

A lack of or poor impulse control is said to be at the root of many behaviour problems. The complex interplay of biological, developmental, psychological, and cultural elements is responsible for developing impulse controls, or a lack thereof. 

Research indicates that, when combined with other effective function components, early impulse control therapies can significantly support young children’s positive behaviour. Impaired impulse control is associated with poor decision-making and an increased likelihood of mental health issues that could have an impact on the kid as they get older. 

A recent study conducted by the Bezos Family Foundation showed that many parents overestimate the ability of children to control their impulses: 

  • 56% of parents believe that children have the impulse control to resist the desire to do something forbidden before the age of three.
  • 36% believe children under two can self-control
  • 24% of all parents believe children can control their emotions, like throwing a tantrum when frustrated, at one year or younger.  
  • 42% believe children can have self-control by two years.

These statistics prove that many parents overestimate the emotional ability of their very young children.

In this blog, we will discuss the practical methods for helping kids develop impulse control techniques that work for children. As today’s fast-paced environment is filled with distractions and rapid pleasure-seeking, teaching children about impulse control techniques has become paramount. 

This blog will explore several research-backed techniques and useful hints to support children’s development of impulse control. Helping kids to make deliberate decisions and practice self-discipline involves comprehending the science behind putting mindfulness exercises and behavioural control techniques into practice. 

1. Establishing Clear Rules and Expectations

Teaching children impulse control requires clearly defining and establishing clear rules and expectations. Children with consistent limits are better equipped to develop self-discipline because they have a framework for comprehending acceptable behaviour and consequences. 

They can learn to effectively control their urges in a supportive atmosphere that caregivers provide by establishing clear standards and having honest conversations about expectations. Children are better able to make decisions and handle social situations confidently when given a sense of stability and regularity.

2. Creating a Structured Environment

Providing a structured environment is crucial for teaching kids impulse control. Regularity reduces anxiety and impulsivity by developing a sense of security and stability. Caregivers set clear expectations and practice opportunities by planning daily activities and transitions. 

Children who follow a consistent routine can better control their emotions and time because they know what to expect and how to handle both. Through developing a sense of control and the ability to make deliberate decisions, this systematic approach ultimately fosters healthy behaviour and emotional health in children.

3. Teaching Delayed Gratification

Teaching delayed gratification is a vital aspect of cultivating impulse control in children. By encouraging them to wait for rewards or desired outcomes, caregivers help build patience and resilience.


Through games, goal-setting, and delayed rewards, children learn to resist impulsive urges and make decisions based on long-term benefits. This skill equips them to handle frustration and disappointment, fostering emotional regulation and better decision-making abilities in various aspects of their lives.

Playing games like Red Light/Green Light, Follow the Leader, and Simon Says that demand players stop on cue and adhere to rules is great for teaching impulse control. These games instruct players on listening, paying attention, behaving appropriately, and controlling impulses.

4. Teaching children to identify problems

One of the most important tactics for developing impulse control in kids is to teach them how to recognize difficulties. Enable children to pause and consider their options before acting without thinking by teaching them to identify situations and triggers that cause impulsive behaviour.

Children can make more thoughtful decisions by being more conscious of their feelings and impulses through role-playing, conversation, and reflection exercises. This ability gives individuals the resources they need to solve problems successfully, promoting better self-control and more effective decision-making in various situations.

5. Deep breathing, Meditation, and Yoga 

Deep breathing, meditation, and yoga are powerful tools for teaching impulse control to children. These practices promote mindfulness, helping kids become more aware of their thoughts and emotions. 

Incorporating simple breathing exercises and relaxation techniques into daily routines can help children calm their minds and bodies, reducing impulsivity and promoting self-regulation.

Additionally, yoga poses encourage focus, balance, and body awareness, fostering emotional resilience and improved decision-making skills in children.

6. Social Stories and Role-Playing

Social stories and role-playing are effective techniques for teaching impulse control to children. It provide a narrative of social situations, helping children understand appropriate behaviours and consequences. 

Role-playing allows them to practice these skills safely, reinforcing learning through experiential participation. Children develop empathy, perspective-taking, and self-regulation by engaging in scenarios that mimic real-life situations. Equipping them with valuable tools for navigating social interactions and managing impulses effectively.

7. Break Tasks into Smaller Steps

Children can be taught impulse control by breaking things down into smaller segments. Caregivers assist children in focusing on one step at a time by dividing more complex chores or goals into parts, which removes feelings of overwhelm and impulsivity.

As kids finish each job, this method gives them a sense of success and strengthens their capacity to focus and avoid distractions. 

Children gain confidence and the patience and perseverance necessary to overcome greater difficulties by mastering the basic elements.

8. Create a reward System.

Implementing a reward system is a useful method for teaching kids impulse control. Caregivers provide motivation and reinforcement for desired actions by rewarding self-regulation and making wise decisions.

As they understand the relationship between significant rewards and delayed gratification, this approach teaches kids to think things through before behaving impulsively. 

Children who receive consistent praise and incentives can better manage their impulses and maintain self-discipline, giving them a sense of accomplishment and an internal drive to make good decisions in the future.


Teaching impulse control to kids is critical to their general growth and wellbeing. By applying developed approaches such as mindfulness, organized routines, and reward systems, caregivers can enable children to handle impulses efficiently.

These techniques help kids become more self-disciplined and provide the groundwork for better decision-making and emotional control, which will help them succeed and be resilient in the long run.

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Emily Pham

Infant Teacher

My name is Emily and I am an infant teacher. My aim with this position is to learn how children develop as unique individuals and learn how to support their holistic growth. I am currently a student at San Francisco
State University majoring in Child and Adolescent Development. With this experience, I am hoping to get a sense on whether I want to continue to work in the classroom or if I want to learn the administrative side of education. The experience of working directly with children is gratifying and I wish to create a safe space for children to explore with all of their senses as they develop their own personalities. I hope to be able to help build a strong foundation so that the children can have the confidence and ability to express themselves.