If your child has a learning and thinking difference like ADHD, you might notice some difficulties with self-control. Talking out of turn, becoming easily frustrated, and having trouble sitting still are all signs of self-control challenges.
Self-control is part of a group of skills called executive function. Children develop these skills over time. There are three types of self-control: impulse control, emotional control, and movement control.
Impulse control is being able to stop and think before acting. Impulse control lets children think through consequences before they push to the front of the line or run into the street without looking. A child with self-control can pause, imagine what might happen — I could get in trouble or I could get hurt — and make a different choice.
But kids who don’t have as much self-control often don’t think first. They may get into trouble a lot at school or at home. It can also be hard for them to make friends, because some other kids might not like their unpredictable behavior.
Emotional control is the ability to manage feelings. As a child gets older, he/she can cope with a minor disappointment or criticism and move on. He/she doesn’t get distracted or overwhelmed by their feelings.
But a child who struggles with emotional control might find it hard to get past something upsetting. That’s true even if it’s small, like losing a game or doing poorly on a test. He/she will overreact, and the bad moods may last a long time.
Positive emotions are also hard for some children to control. They might get overexcited and have trouble calming down from a happy mood.
Movement control is the ability to manage how our body moves and when. This type of self-control helps children sit still when they need to. It helps them stay out of other people’s personal space. Having movement control makes it much easier to do what is asked of them, like sitting through a meal or waiting in line.
All children have trouble with movement control at some point. It’s hard to hold still when you’re so full of energy and excitement. But most children outgrow that restlessness over time. If a child continues to struggle with movement control, it could be a sign of hyperactivity.
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