Guest Blogs

A Game Designed to Treat Poor Impulse Control

Tired of punishing your child for acting out on impulses they can’t curb? Enter Remote Control Impulse Control, a game that aims to use fun and entertainment to teach children with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) the consequences of their impulsivity.

If there was an ADHD-themed calendar in which June represented the ADHD trait of impulsivity my daughter, Natalie, could star as Miss June. Oh, the no-impulse-control stories I could tell, from last month alone.

Take, for example, the day Nat felt a very sudden need for artistic expression, and, in mere seconds, created an abstract representation of her inner-turmoil. In other words, she impulsively scribbled with an over-sized, black permanent marker on the trim around the garage door. (Permanent! On our house!)

Or, there’s this story: One hot afternoon, Nat and several neighborhood kids were playing with squirt guns in our front yard. I filled a large plastic storage bin with water so the kids could refill their water guns by submerging them in the bin, instead of wasting water by repeatedly turning on the garden hose. This worked well, until our cat, Smokey Joe, tried to walk past Natalie just as she took her turn getting a refill. She scooped him up, and dropped him in — about a foot and a half of water. My husband, Don, was in the backyard when he thought he saw an enormous wet rat streak around the corner of the house. (It’s not funny! He could have drowned!)

These impulsive acts — and many others–took place despite Natalie’s ADHD being treated with medication. I blame the changes in behavior on the new routine brought by the end of the school year and the start of summer. Whatever the cause, what’s a mom to do?

What, Besides Medication, Might Help Children with Poor Impulse Control?

We’re “playing around” with a game called “Remote Control Impulse Control” in hopes that it will help. In this game, from Franklin Learning Systems, players read from cards that present true-to-life situations, and then choose between three impulse control strategies in response. Just like when using a remote control, players decide to stop, rewind, or fast forward. If a player chooses to “Stop,” he tells what he would do instead of the impulsive behavior. If you choose to rewind, you tell about a similar impulse you have given in to in the past, what happened as a result, and what your learned from the experience. With fast forward, you describe what might happen if an impulse described in the scenario is carried out. The game can be played either competitively or cooperatively, and includes versions aimed at first through fifth graders, and sixth through ninth graders.

Our Remote Control Impulse Control Review

Natalie, her dad, and her brother sat at the kitchen table to play the game one recent afternoon while I cleaned up the kitchen. As the game got underway, we found ourselves laughing again and again. The situations presented were so realistic, so right on the ADHD mark, so Natalie. Here are a couple of examples: “You are working hard to do a new stunt on your bicycle, but are not getting it. You are upset and have the impulse to throw your bike.” That’s my Natalie! Or, “You are looking at yourself in the bathroom mirror and notice some hairs that seem unruly. You have the impulse to cut them off.” Can’t you just see it?

We all laughed, but Don and the kids also played the game seriously. As intended, they talked through how they might respond in each given scenario. Natalie showed that she knows right from wrong, and knew just when she should stop, fast forward, or rewind. Hopefully, practicing her responses when she’s calm and in control, in a fun way, and in a supportive environment, will help her slow down and make better choices when the next impulse strikes. Poor Smokey can only hope so. (“Write some scenarios about being kind to your cat!” I imagine him thinking.)

The Prince of ADHD Impulse Control