Impulse Control Definition

Click the play button to listen to Dr. Gendron's definition of impulse control:

Sound bite transcription:

So impulse control is about controlling our behaviour, which includes of course thinking about the consequences of our behaviour before acting, maintaining self-control. So students who struggle with this impulse control will tend to have few filters; they’ll say what’s on their mind without much thought to their impact; they’ll have much more difficulty waiting their turn in a line-up or their turn to say something; they’ll tend to blurt out and interrupt others. This may invariably cause them issues socially, with their peers, with the adults around them. As learners, they may also have difficulty listening, and they may miss important pieces of information in their environment. Also, because of their reduced time of reflection, the quality of their responses and their work might also be compromised.


Students with impulse control difficulties may:

  • speak out of turn or blurt out answers without raising their hand;
  • be impatient or struggle to wait their turn;
  • make “careless mistakes” or fail to check over their work before submitting;
  • begin tasks without reading instructions completely;
  • appear to operate on “auto-pilot” without thinking about their actions;
  • engage in risky behaviour;
  • jump to conclusions.

Girl thinking with drawn lightbulbs


Below is a list of possible strategies to support students with impulse control issues.

  • Provide checklists with assignment expectations, and coach students to slowly and carefully read through the checklist before submitting their work.
  • Explicitly teach active listening skills. This may help them pay more attention to instructions and reduce impulsive behaviour.
  • Teach students to think before acting. Model how to brainstorm and weigh the pros and cons of each option.
  • Explicitly teach students how to stop and think before reacting or engaging in a new activity that may involve risky behaviour. Consider modelling or role playing a specific situation (either after something has happened or in anticipation of an activity). During the role-play, pause and ask students to reflect on their behaviours.