7 Steps to Helping Kids Conquer Impulses

Numero Uno

To begin talking with kids about impulses, they need a clear idea about what the word means. Here's a simple explanation kids will understand:

Numero Dos

Next, help kids start thinking about their own impulsive behaviors by giving an example or two of kids acting impulsively. Here's one I like to use:

This boy is having tons of fun. Because of his excitement, the idea suddenly pops into his head to make a handprint on the girl's shirt. He quickly does it without really thinking. I ask students what they think will happen next.

We often think of impulses as negative things. Make sure kids understand that many impulses are good, even GREAT ideas. Examples: stopping to help a friend, saying something funny that makes everyone laugh.

Numero tres

Kids need to be prepared for the 2 situations when impulses are ESPECIALLY strong: when we are angry and when we are feeling exciting, wild, and crazy.


Tell kids they will need to learn to start catching themselves in these situations, and saying to themselves, "Hold up, I'm starting to get pretty wild. I need to watch my impulses or I may do something I later regret."

Numero cuatro

I show kids this picture to illustrate what an impulse looks like:

The impulse is a big, screaming voice that desperately wants to do something. This voice can be very tempting! But it is key for kids to know that there is always a smaller voice in our heads (a Voice of Reason) that is trying to tell us something else. Teach kids that they need to stop and think to make sure they are making the right choice.

Numero cinco

Now kids are ready to decide whether the impulse is a good idea or a not-so-good idea. For this, they need a Bad Idea Filter.

I explain that everything we ever do or say starts as an idea in our heads--our mouths and bodies don't just act on their own. Here are some animations I use (included in PowerPoint form on TpT, if you'd prefer):

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Kids need a filter to stop the bad ideas and let the good ideas go through.

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Sometimes we don't know if it's a good idea or a bad idea...

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...and that's why it's so important to stop and think. "What might happen if I do this?" "Would I like someone to say or do this to me?"

Numero seis

Sometimes we mess things up. Sometimes we act impulsively and do things we regret and feel bad about. I like to tell kids, "That's okay! I'm actually kind of glad you feel a little sad because that means you've got a big heart and that you care about people's feelings! That big heart of yours is guiding you to make up for what you did wrong and will help you remember to stop and think in the future!"


Numero siete

Last but not least, it's absolutely essential for kids to know that humans aren't the only ones who need a Bad Idea Filter.

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I hope you found this article useful. The PowerPoint slides and lesson plan I use in counseling are available on Teachers Pay Teachers. Follow on Facebook or subscribe below to get new articles when they come out!