When it comes to sports practice, chores, or trying to get out the door on time, your child’s high-energy approach is an asset. But problems arise when it’s time to slow down for homework, dinner, or a low-key conversation. Moving too fast can negatively affect a child’s learning; rushing through reading or math assignments can reduce comprehension and lead to errors, and an inability to sit still during class time can affect the students around them, too. Helping kids who seem only to operate in top gear learn to slow down and to tune into the moment can make them more thoughtful and adaptive. If it ever feels like your child is hurtling through life and needs some self-control, this edition of the LearningWorks for Kids Beyond Games series is for you. Here are 5 ways to deal with a child rushes through everything.
Walk it off. If your child’s high-energy approach tends to get them into trouble, help them redirect that energy. Ironically, active play and exercise can reduce that inappropriate impulsive behavior. Not only does exercise give a child something to do, it also changes the biochemical nature of their brain to reduce stress and activate the reward centers of the brain.
Fidgets are fine. Provide your child with frequent opportunities for movement and action. At school this could include movement between classes, recess, or running errands for the teacher. Encourage more “regulated” fidgeting by providing a squeeze ball or a small polished stone (look for “worry stones” online). They’ll need to learn to recognize the need to move and identify appropriate strategies for the situation. Stretching in standing and sitting positions can be practiced at home and applied in many settings. You may need to plan opportunities for movement and activity at home, on family trips, and in public places.
Teacher’s helper. Sometimes a student moving around is just too distracting for other kids in the classroom. But teaching a child how to regulate their physical activity doesn’t mean they have to be a statue. You can help them learn how to regulate their body actions and gain greater control over motor output. Stretching or standing for short periods may be appropriate ways for them to meet this need without disrupting others. Talk with your child’s teacher about their need to move on a regular basis, as they may be able to give your child classroom jobs or errands to run at strategic points during the day.
Play at it. Practice doesn’t seem like work when it’s fun. Play games with a child that involve stopping and waiting. Stop-and-go games like “red light/green light” and “freeze” can be useful for children who have difficulty with response inhibition because they provide experience in the various speeds and rhythms of the body, allowing children to develop greater physical awareness and control. Board games that require waiting for a turn, concentration, and patience — like Chutes and Ladders and Trouble — require your kids to practice many aspects of self-control.
1-2-3… go! Teach counting strategies to delay actions. Encourage a child to count to 5 or 10 before acting on an impulse or answering questions. Offer a reward as an incentive for practicing this strategy at home and school. Talk about and model your own self-control strategies, using self-talk like, “I’d really like to eat now, but I want to go exercise, and eating will make it more difficult for me to move around,” or “Let me think about that for a minute before I answer you.” Work with a child to help them develop their own set of verbal self-instructions to encourage momentary delays or reflections. These could include saying or thinking, “one-one thousand, two-one thousand” or slowly spelling a reminder word such as W-A-I-T or S-T-O-P.
If your child rushes through everything and you just want them to s-l-o-w… d-o-w-n, try one of these strategies and see if it makes a difference. You can also use the video games and apps your kid already plays (or would love to play) to help them exercise self-control concepts in an entertaining, low-pressure way. Try a game like Tiny Rabbit – Chasing Aurora or IF…, or an app like SuperBetter to have them practice self-control and remain mindful of the role it plays in daily life. Watch our “What is Self-Control” video together to get the conversation started.
Featured image: Denise Womack-Avila