Eliciting and Impulse Control


I have your book, and I’m trying to find the best way to approach students who have physically harmed another. An example: One little girl pinched a boy because she thought he was going to pull some books down on her. He almost pulled the books on me.

The three of us discussed the incident and the two students seemed satisfied. I asked the pinched child what he thought should happen and the pinching child apologized. Was there another way for me to approach the situation?


Excellent! You ELICITED from the child, rather than impose something.

The next step is to establish some procedure. Let’s assume the student has the urge to do it again. Discuss what can be done to redirect the urge and thereby manage it.

It could be as simple as standing and then sitting or scratching her head—anything that will redirect the urge.

Have students create adverse situations and discuss options for how they can respond to them. After sharing various choices they can make in the situations, have them practice gasping a deep, long breath. Now have them visualize a traffic signal while imagining the situation–and taking a deep gasp. Then have them picture the yellow of the light while thinking of their options. Finally, have them visualize the green while they decide to go with the option they think will be most effective.

The GASPING while visualizing the red light, the visualizing of yellow while THINKING of options, and the visualizing of green while CHOOSING THE BEST OPTION can prevent a person from becoming “emotionally hijacked.”

At the request of a teacher in New York City,  I taught this “impulse management” procedure to two of her students. I then informed the teacher that when these students become victims of their impulses again, just ask them two questions: (1) “Do you want to be a victim or a victor?” and (2) “Did you think of the traffic signal?” Having students reflect on these questions will be quicker, less stressful, and more effective than customary coercive approaches.

Since you have the book, see pages 154-155 for a further explanation of this simple impulse control procedure.

NOTE: I gave each of the students a small laminated card with a picture of a stop light and directions on it.  If you are interested in them, check out the cards.

If you would be interested in a large poster of the above, check out posters.