8 steps to teach your kid to think before acting

Kids can do and say the most embarrassing things. Help them rein it in and grow as a person!


Sometimes, kids can say or do things without thinking, which can give rise to embarrassing, and maybe even hurtful statements or actions. Even adults are guilty of acting impulsively every once in a while.

But as we grow older, acting impetuously without any regard for the consequences decreases as we gain social skills and learn how to control our impulses. “Impulse control or self-control is the ability to resist temptation and look for immediate gratification, so as to achieve longer term goals,” explains Dr Lim Boon Leng, a psychiatrist at Dr BL Lim Centre for Psychological Wellness.

Many children lack this control. “Parents can start training their children by acting as a good role model from as early as possible,” Dr Lim states. If they are not taught from young, it can result in a child with poor impulse control.

Rules allow the child to understand his boundaries, remove uncertainties about punishment and often make them feel safe.”

Here are ways you can get your young one to think before acting:

1. Teach your child to recognise his feelings
Growing up is a very confusing process, with so many new things to explore and even more emotions to experience. Sometimes, your little one might feel overwhelmed as he may not understand what emotion he is feeling, causing him to act on impulse. If he is able to understand his emotions, junior may better be able to direct them elsewhere, instead of blurting out hurtful words when he is upset or hitting someone when he is angry. “Understanding one’s feelings is the first step to managing it. It is important to teach them not just to recognise, but also name and verbalise their emotions. This allows them to talk about it rather than explode or have a meltdown,” states Dr Lim.

2. Teach him problem-solving skills
Your mini-me will learn to stop and think before acting without thought if he acquires the habit of coming up with various solutions before tackling a problem. You can also teach him other ways to cope with the problem, such as by using humour to see the funny side when a situation is difficult, instead of crying and throwing a tantrum.

3. Teach anger management skills
Anger is a dangerous emotion as it can make us reckless with our words and actions. Learning how to curb his temper will help junior curb his impulses and benefit him in the long run. No one likes hanging out with a volatile person who flies off the handle at every tiny issue!

4. Establish rules
Kids might hate the rules you set, but they are necessary in ensuring that his world is balanced. “Rules allow the child to understand his boundaries, remove uncertainties about punishment and often make them feel safe,” Dr Lim says. Every time you set a limit, you prevent them from indulging in their impulses and thus allows them to practise self-control. Plus, knowing that there will be consequences if he breaks the rules will make him rethink his actions before he acts on his ideas.