Looking for book recommendations, etc.
December 19, 2012 6:14 PM   Subscribe

How do you help children develop impulse control?

I am a first grade teacher and generally have a wide skill set for remediating kids' academic difficulties. However, I'm finding that frequently the kids who struggle the most academically or socially have serious impulse control issues that make them unable to focus their attention on the task at hand. I wanted to see if I could find any recommendations from parents or people who work with kids about how to help children develop impulse control, or metacognitive skills to help them direct their attention. Any advice, or book recommendations in particular would be appreciated. Thank you!
posted by mermily to Human Relations (8 answers total) 19 users marked this as a favorite
Using a timer and brain breaks can help. I break a task down into manageable chunks and set a timer so the student only needs to focus for X minutes, then when that timer goes off they get a 1-3 minute brain break that can be fun or silly or whatever. Then they start the timer for themselves and go back to work. Repeat until task is done or at a good stopping point.

X=how long kids that age are supposedly able to stay focused for. I think it's the kid's ages +/- 2. That gives you a range to work within. So 7 year olds should have tasks broken down into 5-9 minute chunks for maximum effect. Definitely applied to my 3rd and 4th graders.
posted by These Birds of a Feather at 6:38 PM on December 19, 2012 [2 favorites]

Children and people in general can focus and learn in different ways. Accommodating different learning styles in general can help.

While the majority of the kids you're concerned about would not be diagnosed with ADHD, some of the strategies used for children who do have that disorder (which is characterized by impulse control and lack of focus) can be useful. One book you may be interested in: Fidget to Focus. A general google search for strategies for children with the disorder could also help you find some ideas.

It's also helpful in general to break the tasks down into smaller chunks, and also not to rely on memory - write it on the board, rather than listing 'Do A, B, C then D.' Another article with some general tips: Here
posted by Ashlyth at 7:09 PM on December 19, 2012 [1 favorite]

For some kids, sitting on a ball (like a balance or exercise ball) instead of a chair helps, because they can move and fidget, while still being in their place.

For others, removing some of the noise or distraction of others, either getting a chance to work in the hallway (if it's quiet) sometimes, or have a desk instead of a table, or even just a little cardboard study carrel set up on the desk so that you're not looking at anything else in the classroom.

I do like the timer idea as well, I've also seen that in 1-2-3 Magic, it has ideas on how to motivate children (as well as how to help them behave better).
posted by Margalo Epps at 7:39 PM on December 19, 2012

For each child, try to find the successful time of day. Some kids do better earlier in the day, when they aren't yet overstimulated. Some do better when they've had a chance to exercise, like after recess. Talk to the child; did she have breakfast? enough sleep? There's a lot you can't fix, like a bad sleep environment at home, but the more you understand, the better you can deal with the behavior.
posted by theora55 at 8:25 PM on December 19, 2012

One thing you might want to look into in detail is what they are eating. I know a lot of people say too much sugar in particular can cause behavioral problems in children, and a lot of things that kids potentially eat are way too high in sugar content (based on a common sense understanding of how much sugar a small body should be ingesting).
posted by Dansaman at 11:24 PM on December 19, 2012

Impulse control and focus are really two different things -- I think that the latter is a temperment trait, but the former (as well as patience and the ability to delay gratification) can be learned. Chunking, as suggested above, seems good. Or have the challenged student(s) gradually work up from shorter stretches requiring self-control to longer ones, with some kind of reward at the end -- e.g., in parenting, it is suggested that sometimes a response to a request be delayed by even a minute or so (I'm getting your sandwich, but I just need to write something down real quick) so that kids learn to develop patience and also to trust that the desired outcome will still come. I imagine there are ways to work that into classroom situations too.
posted by acm at 7:47 AM on December 20, 2012

Have you seen Teacher Tipster's Videos? ex: Cocoa Trick.
posted by oceano at 8:33 AM on December 20, 2012 [1 favorite]

The Tools of the Mind curriculum is supposed to help with self-regulation and executive control.
posted by freezer cake at 2:26 PM on December 20, 2012

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