Mother's Work · Motherhood · Parenting · Toddlers

Two words: impulse control

These two words have been on my mind a lot lately. As often as I feel in the mire, sometimes drowning in a daily rut, I do also take moments to look at life within the bigger picture and realize how now is just a tiny drop in the bucket full of life still to come (god willing).

But now is also all about impulse control.

Yes, every phase of child rearing has its difficulties, and one could say at any given moment that “this is the hardest phase we’ll ever go through!” But this is, without a doubt, the hardest phase we’ll ever go through. In stating this belief, I am taking into consideration my husband’s and my personalities and our relationship to parenting. We both have a strong sense of independence; we need chunks of alone time each day; and we thrive on intellectual stimulation. We’re nurturing, but not overly so. Plus we want to be in control and like things to run a certain way. These traits are likely to clash with two- and four-year-old impulses: wanting things now; expressing raw emotions the moment they emerge; not listening (not the first or the fifth time); needing near-constant supervision; flailing their bodies around with abandon; testing boundaries; discovering the fun effects of antagonizing others; wanting to be non-stop entertained; dumping stuff out everywhere just because; etc.

After whisper-screaming “impulse control – activate!” to myself several times a day, I began to wonder whether I was throwing around terms that I didn’t fully understand. So I googled “impulse control in toddlers” and “when do children develop impulse control,” just to see what came up. One of the top results was about parenting at risk children. None of our children have been diagnosed as at risk, but the page offers some good facts about impulse control and how/when it develops. I was most intrigued by the fact that there isn’t some standard societal measure of impulse control accomplishment. One’s level of impulse control is determined by a combination of genetics, experience, and parenting. It is a temperamental trait that can be trained over time, or, as the web site states, “with the right kind of parenting.”

So what is the “right kind of parenting”? I found an answer to that question on another results page by the Illinois Early Learning Project. I like the simplicity of the information presented here, and I feel good about how it aligns with the Montessori educational approach we have chosen for our kids. It values independence, intrinsic rewards, using words to express feelings, practical life skills, finding alternate and calm solutions to life’s challenges, and of course modeling all of these skills for them as their parents.

So now that I’ve satisfied my need for intellectual stimulation during my bit of time alone, will it make this phase any easier? I think it will, a little bit. When I’m not out of my mind. And it will change sooner than we think. I’m already seeing mini-milestones appear as I wrote about in an earlier post… Outings with all three kids are much easier these days. There are more and more instances when all three kids are totally engrossed in imaginary play together for extended periods of time. Our daughter is now able to lay across from me on the couch with a blanket and just chill for a bit during quiet time.

Quoting one of my favorite movies, Contact: “Small moves, Ellie, small moves.

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