I live with a three-year-old, and that means that I am an untrained expert in dealing with the whims, mood swings, and mind games of a preschooler. And, as anyone in my position knows, they are masters of manipulation.

What they are not masters at, however, is impulse control. I remember speaking to a psychologist friend of mine who told me that it takes children a long time to outgrow their impulsive stage, and getting through it can result in many tortured moments filled with tantrums, punishments, and yelling.

Yet, there are things that we can do as loving parents to help our young children navigate their lack of impulse control. Here are a few tips and tools to help them move past their impulsive stage.

1. Breathe

This is the first thing that many of us do when confronted with an anxiety-producing situation — breathe. For some of us though, we have to be reminded. And that’s where parenting comes into play. If your child has issues controlling himself, once the situation passes, sit him down and show him how to take some good, deep breaths to help him calm down. Urge him to try and remember to do that when he first feels upset, angry, or worried. It may not work the first 3,000 times, but maybe it will kick in one day.

2. Walk Away

How many times have you see this happen: Your child is having a conflict with another child over who gets to play with a toy. Neither child is able to resolve the situation and neither child is going to back down. It’s important to try and teach your child to walk away from the situation rather than engaging.

Again, this is the type of thing that will take your child a long time to learn, but even though they’re young, it’s vital to give them the information to solve the problem on their own in a non-confrontational way.

3. Count

Your child might be on the cusp of learning to count, so this is a good opportunity to take that skill and give it a practical application. Instruct your child to try to count to five or 10 — if they can — when they get stressed out and begin to lose control.

4. Redirect

This is like comedy improv for parents. Let’s say that your child is having a moment and is beginning to get agitated. You try to discipline her and she’s not having it. No matter how much you urge her to remain calm, she’s getting more and more worked up. Before she lashes out, unable to control her emotions and anger, you have to think on your feet to redirect her to another concept, toy, or activity. Eventually, you can teach her to do the same for herself. Simply let go of what’s angering her and turn her attention to another task.

5. React in the Moment

It’s critical for parents to deal with any impulse control issues in the moment. That means right away, when your child acts up. If you push it off and wait, your child might forget what got them so worked up in the first place and your lesson, reprimand, or punishment will lose its impact.

Did we miss any helpful tips? Let us know in the comments!

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