Impulse Control Part VIII:
Problem-solving & Decision-Making Systems

Hopefully over the last two weeks there have been opportunities to stop, think, and problem solve. Kids do need a lot of adult support in the early stages to master these skills. Having visual reminders and prompts to cue them to use these strategies is important.

However, kids aren’t always going to have adults around to help them choose how to behave. Therefore, they need to learn decision-making strategies so they can choose the best options in any situation. Work together to brainstorm lots of different ways to help them make good decisions. Perhaps experiment and see which strategy will work best.  

Three B’s
When my kids were younger we had the three B system to reduce tattling.  Specifically, no tattling allowed unless there was :barf, blood, or bullying (and we really had to define bullying). Having this system reduced the knit-picky tattly behaviours substantially. With this system,  my kids stopped to think and even discuss what fit criteria before blindly running to tattle.
Think once, think twice

I wanted to include this to extend the stop-and-think strategy because, often, kids will override their first thought after stopping. We want them practicing to stop and think, but they still might not choose the right behaviour.

Thus, adding the think twice strategy can  be helpful. With the second thought we want them to then think about what an important person to them would say. Would you still do it (whatever the behaviour is) if grandma was there? Mom? Your favourite teacher? Coach?

Decision Ratings
Decision rating strategies can be set up for anything. In this case, we want to create a system your kids can use so they don’t get in trouble for impulsive behaviours.

Together with your kids, create a decision tree to help them figure out if what they are about to do is a good idea or not. You can use numbers or emojis – let your kids choose! For example:

1 = my behaviour is helpful and/or makes others and me feel happy

2 = my behaviour won’t bug anyone and will make me happy.

3 = my behaviour won’t bug anyone and will make me happy but isn’t good for me.

4 = my behaviour will bug others but will make me happy.

5 = my behaviour will break a rule.

A great way to get started is to think about everyone’s behaviour in the family (we don’t just want to focus on the one child who may have behaviour difficulties) and rate them using the system you have developed. For example:

Who Behaviour Rating
Mom Ate peanut butter (even though she’s allergic) 3 (she is happy in the moment but feels really sick later)
Sarah Yelled at her brother for going into her room 5 (no yelling allowed in the house)
Robbie Went into her sister’s room 4 (upset his sister)
Dad Stayed up too late watching the hockey game 3
You may find as you go through this you want to add more ratings within the scale. Be flexible and see what works best for your family!

You can then start to debrief at the end of every day. Consider different behaviours (good ones too!) and see where they fit. Eventually we want kids to start thinking about this rating system in the moment. They should focus on doing those things that are a 1 or 2 and nothing 3 or up.

Have these systems on a small recipe card they can carry with them, especially at first, to help them remember to consider their actions. it can also be helpful to write down strategies/replacement behaviours your kids can use. Having something physical to look at can help remind them to stop and think before they act.

Now, a key piece to impulse control is developing kids' nonverbal working memory. This will be the focus in the coming weeks.

Happy to help.

Thanks for reading! Let me know if you have any questions about anything in this article or other related topics.
Let me know too if there is a particular topic you would like me to write about.
Dr. Caroline Buzanko

Dr. Caroline Buzanko is a mom (with ADHD) who has first hand experience parenting kids with ADHD. She is also a leading expert working with families and kids with ADHD and has years of clinical experience to share with you.
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Copyright © 2019 Dr. Caroline Buzanko, All rights reserved.

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