Impulse Control and Reflective Questions


I’d appreciate your advice on handling a few children who persist in behaving at Level B, even after I have “checked for understanding” and have proceeded with “guided choices.”

Today I told one of my students who hit another child, “I want you to stay in our classroom, but if you act on Level B again, you are telling me that you want to keep on making your own rules for the class.”


Next time, ASK the student if he would like to stay in the classroom. Then ASK him on what level he would need to behave to remain in the class.

Follow this up by ASKING him what he will do when he gets the same impulse again. Elicit—and you can help him develop—a PROCEDURE he can follow when the same impulse occurs again. The procedure needs to be simple. He can stand and sit, rub his ear, frown and smile, or tap his toe five times—anything he can remember to do.

Role play with him by having him practice the procedure with you. Ask him to periodically think about and practice the procedure again so that when the impulse arises he will be in control, rather than being a victim of his impulses.

If he has difficulty, keep on asking him if he want to continue to be a victim.


Notice how reflective questions work. They empower by implying the person is capable, they are noncoercive—so the person is not defensive, and they encourage better choice-making.

Establishing, practicing, and reinforcing  a procedure for redirecting impulsivity also assists. See impulse management for additional information.