We talk A LOT about impulse control in our house. My two oldest boys have exactly zero self control. This, I hear, is developmentally normal. I was told the horrifying statistic that boys will struggle with impulse control – and all things prefrontal cortex related – well into their twenties. Their twenties, for goodness sake! Lord help me.
For this reason, I try to talk to my boys openly and honestly about cause and effect to help them start to become aware of their actions, which will hopefully have an impact on helping them develop the kind of self control that thinks first and acts second.
Because, of course, their actions right now look like this: see, grab, destroy. Or sometimes they mix things up and the pattern goes: see, grab, punch (each other). Most days usually include a little of this one, too: see, grab, eat-all-the-muffins-and-leave-the-wrappers-strewn-all-over-your-room.
There is no filter between the seeing and the doing, and all this reacting really gets to me. It’s stressful to be around tiny humans who constantly do. It’s stressful to be around tiny humans who are constantly reaching and grabbing things they shouldn’t have their hands on. It’s stressful to be around tiny humans who pair their high energy levels with their constant unfiltered impulses.
It’s kind of like…oh my gosh…it’s kind of like me. With my phone.
See phone. Grab phone. Scroll.
See phone. Grab phone. Respond to text messages.
See phone. Grab phone. Scroll.
O. M. G.
I’ve been feeling overwhelmed by my phone lately, and I realized it’s because I’ve shown absolutely zero self control with it. I see it and I pick it up. I don’t stop to apply the same lessons I’ve been attempting to teach my sons about impulse control. I don’t stop to filter my steps through the same questions I’ve been asking them to consider: Is what I’m about to do loving? Kind? Helpful? Good? Necessary?
Now, for the record, I don’t think we should only be doing necessary things with our day. My goodness. If we attempted that we would be all control and no self. What a horrible existence that would be! The goal for my kids is the same goal I have for myself: Live aware, live present, and live with intention. This all stems from knowing that we were made human on purpose. So sometimes living with intention means putting my phone in a drawer and choosing to not open that drawer for two hours (aka showing self control). While other times, living with intention means picking up my phone and allowing myself the freedom to text friends, create an Instagram post, and respond to messages.
It’s called balance.
The thing about impulse control is not to demonize the impulses. Not all our impulses are bad, for goodness sake. The point of impulse control is to pause and allow yourself the time (grace) to allow your impulses to be run through a filter that then allows you to act with intention and purpose, rather than just reacting.
It drives me insane when my kids just react to everything all day.
It drives me insane when I react to everything all day.
I had a quote on my message board awhile ago that said: It’s not necessary to respond to everything you notice.
It’s not necessary to pick up my phone every time I see it, just like it’s not necessary to give my kids a long speech about kindness every time they respond rudely to each other. Sometimes the moment calls for me to act, and sometimes not. Sometimes it doesn’t matter and I get to just choose. But choose, is the key word.
If we don’t choose our actions, they are just reactions and we are at the mercy of our environment. And I don’t know about you, but I DON’T want to be at the mercy of my environment. Whether your environment includes tiny, messy humans or slightly larger, messy humans, the end result is the same: we either choose well, or we react poorly.
I hear a lot of people talk about how they need to just get rid of certain apps or wish that they could get rid of their phone completely, and I totally understand the sentiment. But ultimately, that’s just a reaction. An over-reaction. It’s still allowing the thing to dictate the response. Instead, I want to start practicing what I preach and learn how to be around people and things that tend to cause me to just react and, instead, learn to respond.
See mom. See mom see her phone. See mom scroll.
See mom. See mom see her phone. See mom choose to ignore her phone.
See mom choose better.