Do you have an impulsive child who rushes ahead without any thought of others or even of their own safety?
Do they blurt out the first thing that comes to mind? Do they struggle to stop a moment and think?
Many children battle to stop and think before they act. This can be really funny and make a dull day interesting.
Impulsivity can cause real upheaval, family fights and endless shouting and reprimanding. Not only is this tough on the family but also on the child who is struggling to stop and think.
If this is a real concern for you, then maybe you can choose this behaviour to focus on for now.
By choosing only one thing to handle, you can really make a difference for your child.
Changing an automatic behaviour takes patience and perseverance. One at a time really makes sense.
Let me introduce you to…the robot!
Of course you have seen traffic lights, like a gallilion times. But have you thought of them as your friendly parenting TOOL?
The robot is a simple process. (The best techniques always are.) Just three little ideas.
The trick is in the setting up of the trigger and then helping your child to use it. A trigger is something that causes them to think in the new way. In this case, we want them to catch themselves before they act. We want them to STOP and WAIT.
It all starts with awareness!
Start in the car – Most of our children can identify a robot, or traffic light, quite easily. Introducing this technique while you are driving with your kids is a non-threatening way to bring awareness to the idea. But, you can easily ask them to imagine the robots you drive past everyday.
Imagination is a wonderfully powerful thing.
The robot is a recognised therapeutic approach to halting the impulsive side of us. Most thinking and behaviour patterns can be changed by creating a new, stronger pattern.
It takes a bit of focus and gentle perseverance on your behalf.
Here is a guideline for the conversation you might have with your impulsive kiddo…
1 – Chat to them about what it means to react impulsively, compared to thinking first.
2 – Think of a time when doing-before-thinking was funny and everyone laughed.
3 – Now think of a time when doing-before-thinking really got you into trouble.
4 – “What if you had more control over this?” – Wait of a positive response. If they don’t want more control, abandon the conversation for another time.
5 – Tell me about a robot, a traffic light at an intersection, what do the colours mean?
6 – What if you put an imaginary traffic light in your mind? (Listen carefully to what they say. Use their words as you continue chatting.)
7 – I like how you are thinking about this. Can you feel what it is like to stop, wait and think? See what I do when the light turns red. What does it feel like to you?
8 – By stopping and waiting, I can see what is going on. Would you like to feel this way more often?
9 – How will YOU know when you need to stop, wait and think?
10 – This is going to be hard at first, this is a new skill you have to grow.
11 – What if we made lots of robot pictures like this one to put up all around the house, could that help us all to remember?
12 – What will happen if we forget to stop, wait and think? No one is going to be angry with you, we all know you are working on something big here.
13 – How would you like us to support you?
All of the robots you drive past with your children will become reminders to use this tool. Very convenient!
Have fun with this new tool. Kids love to have fun. Remember that they will only be able to change if they want to, and if they feel that they can change. Fun makes change more possible.
But, tools and techniques only work if we use them. Building in reminders at the start really help our children to become aware of their current behaviours. With awareness comes the opportunity to make a different choice.
Let us know if you try this and how it goes, in the comments below.
With love and kindness, Lauren