Why 3 Year Olds Find It Difficult to Control Impulses

why 3 year olds find it difficult to control impulses

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The terrible two’s are out of the way and you’ve watched your little baby grow into a remarkably curious toddler. Now you’ve got all sorts of emotions to help your child understand and deal with. Anger, pain, jealousy, excitement – the list of emotions that your toddler is discovering right now is endless!

We often think that outbursts and tantrums are inevitable for children and may not spend time thinking of ways to handle them. “Let them be kids” is not always the correct train of thought when it comes to emotions. Studies say that self-control is a lesson best learnt when you’re young.

Let’s have a look at the factors that play an important role when it comes to children and impulse control.

1. Temperament

Temperament of a child comes from a sum of adaptability, moods, attention span and instinct (which comes from parenting, which is your responsibility!). Make a mental note of your child’s outbursts and see if they are similar to yours or not. For e.g. a shy child with an extrovert parent may be frustrating both parties, resulting in a child getting defiant or disobedient.

2. Functioning Skills

Your child’s ability to think, problem-solve and plan are to some extent inborn. While you cannot control the temperament of your child, you can support these capabilities. Helping your child develop impulse control early means you have to train him to activate the thinking part of his brain instead of letting him resort to the fight or flight option. This means that if you patiently show your child the solution to an overwhelming problem, he may not resort to name-calling or yelling as a means to vent out emotions.

At age 3, your child is still discovering language skills and how to manipulate language to assert themselves. Teach your child to develop strategies that will help him fight temptation. Once he learns that he can find a less-stressful way out, he will over time learn to experience emotions instead of actually going wild with expressing them.

Ways to Encourage Impulse Control in Your 3-Year-old

1. Teach your child to talk to himself

Internal speech has been shown to help children control their impulses.

2. Be a good role model

Toddlers are known to imitate adults, specifically older siblings and parents. When you feel a burst of anger, explain the solution out loud. “I had a bad day at work and I’m frustrated, maybe a soothing bath will calm me down”. These solutions are being closely watched and your child will mimic them when faced with a similar emotion.

3. Be Positive

Staying patient and positive will help your child deal with impulses. Criticism and judgement only stirs them up more. Be generous with praise when it’s due and gently guide them when they are out of control.

4. Exercise

It may seem irrelevant but exercise actually boosts levels of dopamine and serotonin in the brain which leads to a happier state of mind. It also enhances memory and concentration and is shown to decrease hyperactivity and impulsivity.

Most importantly, remember that in time, your child will learn to curb his impulses to some level but your role in guiding him is of utmost important at this stage. We’re sure with a good role model like you he will turn out just fine!