Teaching self-control for teens

👍 10 Helpful Tips When Teaching Self-Control to Teens 👍

10 Helpful Tips When Teaching Self-Control to Teens


10 Helpful Tips When Teaching Self-Control to Teens

Impulse control refers to a series of executive functioning skills that enable us to “think before we act.” Impulse control, often known as self-control or inhibition, refers to the ability to choose a longer-term benefit over a potential short-term gain. It’s also how we prioritize our objectives, desires, and responsibilities (and resist or avoid doing things that may hinder or delay us from achieving them.). Building impulse control begins at an early age. But as children grow older, parents need to be consistent in teaching self-control to teens.


How Do We Learn to Control Our Impulses?


Like other executive functioning skills, impulse control develops throughout childhood and adolescence. In the early years of childhood, we acquire impulse control through safety behaviors such as avoiding a hot stove or rushing into the street. Undeniably, young children require ongoing monitoring of their impulsive actions. Parents and caregivers gradually withdraw this supervision as they grow older and enter elementary and middle school. 

By the time they reach their pre-teen and teen years, children will have continuously engaged in risky activities as a matter of curiosity and exploration of their environment. But as we begin teaching self-control to teens, they learn to follow safety rules and avoid risky behavior. As adults, we can control our impulsive conduct in all situations, preventing the majority of rushed, reckless, or hazardous activities.


What is Self-Control for Teens?


Teaching Self-Control to Teens

What happens if a teen’s impulse control skills aren’t developed further? Self-control and impulsive behavior aren’t often the root of problematic conduct. It does, however, have a role in how quickly your kid reverts to bad habits and behaviors. You can increase the likelihood that your child will employ replacement techniques before engaging in troublesome behaviors by strengthening self-control or the capacity to manage impulses. 

Instead of focusing on and punishing bad behavior, consider the following:

  • Understanding and expressing the advantages and disadvantages of self-control vs. impulsive conduct.
  • In controlled circumstances or role-plays, understanding and displaying self-control vs. impulsive action.
  • When in the presence of others, demonstrate respecting personal space and vocal volume.
  • Controlling dangerous conduct in the presence of others or alone.
  • Avoiding self-sabotage or making decisions that will lower your chances of success at home, job, or school.
  • Remember to keep a pleasant attitude.



10 Tips for Parents Who Are Teaching Self-Control to Teens


10 Helpful Tips When Teaching Self-Control to Teens

There are several indicators when a teen struggles with impulse control. As a parent, you are more likely to observe this than anyone in your teenager’s life. These behaviors may include constant mood swings, irritability, overly dramatic responses, aggressiveness or violence, obsessive behavior, interrupting others, or lying, to name a few.

When you notice these or other similar behaviors in your child, the best way for you to help is to shift your focus to resolving impulse control issues. Here are some strategies you can use when teaching self-control to teens.


  • Model positive choices and behaviors.

Teens, especially girls, are particularly impressionable during this time, which means they often turn to the adults or older teenagers in their lives when they need a role model. As a parent, you may not always realize that your children are watching how you deal with every situation and pick up on even your most trivial habits. It’s best to control your reactions and emotions when your teen exhibits negative behavior, mainly when they cause conflict in the family.

  • Be honest and straightforward about behavioral expectations.

Good or positive behavior should not be motivated by rewards or punishment. Instead, parents must ensure their teens understand that positive behavior is a way to establish trust, honesty, and responsibility. When discussing this with your child, it’s important to speak respectfully. 

  • Set clear boundaries.

It’s good to establish with your teens the importance of boundaries and how respecting and following them can strengthen their relationships and build trust with the people in their lives. Just as they wouldn’t want people to take advantage of their limitations, they should also be mindful that they don’t cross any lines. You must always show them the same respect you expect from them.

  • Don’t be afraid of risks.

This time of their lives is all about self-discovery and exploring the world around them. That also includes finding out what works for them and what doesn’t. As a parent, your role in this crucial stage is to strike a balance between being a parent and a friend. Give them the trust and independence to fight their own battles while also reminding them that they can always count on you for help and advice. When teens feel they are trusted, have the freedom to pursue their interests, and have a safe place to come home to where they won’t be judged for their mistakes, it lessens the likelihood of acting out and reacting impulsively.

  • Teach them about consequences.

This goes hand in hand with giving your teens a certain amount of freedom to discover and explore the world around them. Children are often not equipped to think of the long-term effects of their behavior and how they affect the people around them. When teaching self-control to teens, it’s crucial to emphasize that every choice they make has consequences, and acting impulsively will often lead to results that they are not ready for.

  • Explain the importance of verbalizing their feelings.

You would want your teen to talk to you about things that bother them or what’s going on in their lives outside of your home. But for this to be possible, you must first create an environment wherein your teen is confident they are heard and understood. Once you’ve established such trust and connection, teach them the importance of using words to articulate their feelings and why this is necessary for processing their emotions and curbing impulsive behavior.

  • Allow yourself to be vulnerable.

Letting your child see your vulnerable side is not a bad thing, especially when you share your own past experiences that they can relate to. This validates their own feelings and lets them know that what they are going through is normal. You can give examples of when you acted impulsively and how it affected you and the people around you.

  • Practice mindfulness and self-care.

Self-care and mindfulness exercises are not only beneficial for your child’s overall health, but they also help teens process emotions better, cope with stress and frustrations, and become more confident. Studies have shown that individuals who get enough sleep, exercise, and eat a balanced diet have better impulse control. 

  • Encourage them to be self-sufficient.

While you can’t expect teens to take on adult responsibilities, it definitely doesn’t hurt to start teaching them to be self-sufficient through age-appropriate tasks (such as simple household chores). Being self-sufficient also helps build their confidence in making decisions. When teens feel empowered and are given room to make decisions, they tend to do so in a more responsible manner.

  • Get to the root of the problem.

Getting your teen to open up about the real reasons for his or her behavior requires a strong, honest, and trusting bond between the parent and child. Have an honest and respectful discussion with your child to examine what causes them to engage in impulsive behavior. 



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Meet Craig Selinger, the passionate owner behind Themba Tutors, a renowned practice specializing in executive function coaching and tutoring. Together with his team of multidisciplinary professionals, they bring their extensive knowledge to numerous locations: Manhattan, Brooklyn, Queens, Staten Island, Bronx, Westchester, Long Island, New Jersey, and Connecticut, as well as offering remote services. As a licensed speech-language pathologist in the state of NY, executive functioning coach, and educational specialist with an impressive track record spanning over two decades, Craig has professionally assisted thousands of families. Craig's proficiency encompasses a wide spectrum of areas, including language-related learning challenges such as reading, writing, speaking, and listening. He is also well-versed in executive functioning, ADHD/ADD, and various learning disabilities. What truly distinguishes Craig and his team is their unwavering commitment to delivering comprehensive support. By actively collaborating with the most esteemed professionals within the NYC metropolitan region – from neuropsychologists to mental health therapists and allied health experts – they create a network of expertise.
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