Exercising Your Impulse Control Muscles

I sometimes get asked why it’s easier to make good choices sometimes and harder at other times. I thought I would share why that happens. This can hopefully help kids practice making good choices.

The way that we make good choices is by stopping and thinking before we do something. This is called impulse control, and we exercise impulse control using a part of our brain called the frontal lobe. Kids especially have a hard time with impulse control because their frontal lobe is not done growing. This does not mean that they can’t make good choices, though!

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Impulse control is like a muscle: you can make it stronger by exercising it! Practice stopping to think before you do something, and you will get into the habit. The more you do it, the better you get at remembering to use impulse control when it is important to make a good choice.

Now, you might have noticed that your muscles get tired. If you ran a really long way, your legs might be sore, and you might need to rest before you can run again. Impulse control works the same way! That’s why it is harder to choose kind words or do what you are asked to do when you are very tired or when you have had a long day. It is okay to recognize that your impulse control muscles are tired and need a rest.

No one makes the right choice 100% of the time, and even adults do things impulsively sometimes. It is okay to make mistakes as long as you try and fix them when they happen. But if you make a point to exercise your impulse control muscles, you can get better at using them when you need to! You can also learn to notice when your muscles are tired and let yourself rest.

Published by Dr Marschall

Dr. Amy Marschall received her Psy.D. from the University of Hartford in September 2015. Her clinical interests are varied and include child and adolescent therapy, TF-CBT, rural psychology, telemental health, sexual and domestic violence, psychological assessment, and mental illness prevention. Dr. Marschall presently works in the Child and Adolescent Therapy Clinic at Sioux Falls Psychological Services in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, where she provides individual and family therapy and psychological assessment to children, adolescents, and college students. She also facilitates an art therapy group for adolescents and college students with anxiety and depression. Dr. Amy Marschall is certified in Trauma-Focused Cognitive Behavioral Therapy and Telemental Health.

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