Parents often consider it a minor indulgence to provide their children the cookie they demand or that second piece of cake they are hankering for. Studies, however, show that this could very well be contributing to undermine your child’s impulse control abilities. Schachter’s theory states that individuals prone to obesity have a compromised capacity of self-regulation. These individuals have a heightened sensitivity to external cues, especially those that inspire the desire to eat. Impulsiveness, or lack of control can play a big role in weight gain among children and adults alike.
Impulse control is one of the biggest issues faced by children today. Developing countries like India, where parents have seen days of limited means, often see children being spoiled. The ability to give your child what they want when they want it is often something that can lead to undermining a child’s impulse control abilities. These are factors which if not controlled during childhood can lead to some serious problems in adulthood.
A study by Pennsylvania State University found that children with higher self-regulation showed a lower BMI than kids who had a relatively lower level of impulse control. On an average, boys usually show more problems with self-regulation and impulse control than girls, however, this cannot be generalized. This points to the fact that improving self-regulating capabilities in children is crucial to helping a child handle their weight and grow fitter. Moreover, gratification control is something that can hold a child in good stead as they grow older in more ways than just weight management.
A Slippery Slope
We live in a society that is ordained to providing instant gratification. We do not wait anymore for things, every solution has to be instantaneous or it isn’t a probably solution. This is a trait that is seen most emphasised in children. The Stanford Marshmallow Experiment, conducted by Stanford professor Walter Mischel in 1960s and 70s offered great insights into this. The professor put two marshmallows in front of the children and said that they could have one marshmallow now, or two provided they waited for fifteen minutes. Years later, the children who delayed the gratification of eating one marshmallow immediately and waited for 2 after fifteen minutes exhibited a variety of positive traits.
Instant gratification is something that can best be managed and mitigated at home. Providing children the space and scope to understand that when long term benefits of something far outweigh the short term gains of something else go for the latter.
Ways to Manage Impulse
Reward Self-Control – Positive reinforcement is one of the best ways to ensure that the child learns what is good for them. Reward a child for exercising restraint and self-control. Do not disappoint a child when he or she can control their impulse, the lack of a reward can only work to reinforce their need for immediate gratification.
Let Them Talk to Themselves – Self-talk is a great way for a child to understand issues and helps them build self-control. It is essentially a means of giving the child’s inner voice a space to express itself.
Games of Control – Simple games that encourage self-control are of great importance when it comes to helping your child improve upon the need for immediate gratification. Games like ‘Freeze’, ‘Simon Says’, are just a couple that can help improve impulse control.
Help Them Plan – Teaching children the benefit of planning and giving them the means to do so is crucial to help them grow into strong, in-control individuals. Planning also helps children understand the drawbacks of acting impulsively and shows them the benefits of impulse control.