How Can a Coffee Filter Help Your Child Manage Impulsivity?

Set Realistic Expectations

Occasionally, we get letters from our clients that are brilliant stories of their successes. The coach-approach in action, these stories fill us with hope and gratitude, laughter and tears… they are the real life examples of what happens when you take a CONSCIOUS approach to parenting kids who are all too often unconscious in how they approach the world!

This is one such story from a family using the Minimize Meltdowns program to help them and their son learn to manage emotional intensity. Meet a mother, a father, and their elementary-age son, who is one of several children. I’ve changed very little from the email I received – you really want to hear it in her words. Then check out the “Life Lessons” at the end for your own forward action.

“I went to pick up Sandy from school, this week, and the principal greeted me. Sandy was in his office. A girl who has been in a lot of the same classes through the years had been annoying Sandy relentlessly (she thought it was funny), and Sandy finally snapped and told her that he was going to stab her. She told the teacher Sandy was sent to the office.

I found him covered in tears. I was grateful that the principal was so kind. They talked about not threatening people, and about the implications of threatening others as one gets older, even if you don’t actually mean what you say. The tears just rolled down Sandy’s face. Sandy did tell the principal how much this girl has been annoying him, and a meeting was scheduled to address his concern. Sandy hugged the principal before we left for home. I hugged Sandy all the whole way home. As we walked, he said he has only three friends left, and we talked a little bit about friendship.

The most wonderful part of the whole incident happened later that night. When my husband came home from work, I let him know what happened. Now, before we found ImpactADHD, more often than not, my husband would have responded to me: “ Well, what did you do about it?” He would have said to Sandy, “You knew better than that.” My husband is a great guy – he’s a pastor, very kind and understanding — but that is the way he responded in the past.  This time, it was different. I said to him, “When you get a little further into the minimize meltdowns course, you will learn more about emotional regulation and why these incidents happen.”  He didn’t argue, or look to blame our son for his behavior. He just said, “ Yeah, I have to really get into that.”  

Now, my husband was on one of the Parenting Lifeline calls earlier this week, and he thought that it was absolutely amazing, He learned so much just by listening—it was priceless to watch him take it all in. Really — it was an excellent call. There was a sweet soul who opened up a little about growing up in an alcoholic home and trying to raise her kids differently. That brought everything together for my husband, as he also grew up that way. Anyway, he has been thinking about all the tools to use, as he kept referring to the call as we talked throughout the week.

So, my husband decided to sit down with Sandy and show him what a coffee filter is, and explain how it works. He’s going to give Sandy a coffee filter to keep in his pocket during school as a gentle reminder try to filter his words between his brain and his mouth. Isn’t that great? He’s teaching Sandy HOW to self-regulate, slowly, instead of being disappointed because it’s so difficult for Sandy to manage his impulsivity and emotionality.

One more thing I want to say. We’re still new at this, and my husband has not always responded with such understanding. You wrote a short article about a time when you and your husband were at an airport and you were both flustered and upset. You said that, as you guys were trying to work through it before the flight, you kept reminding yourself that he was trying, he was really trying. The phrase, “He is trying” comes to my mind frequently, about my husband, and about my kids. Really, I think about it for a lot of people in my life. It has prevented so many stupid arguments.”

4 Life Lessons from this Conscious Family’s story:

  1. Assume Best Intention: When our kids are struggling with impulsivity and emotionality, it’s hard for them. Instead of getting angry at them, start by assuming that they’re not INTENDING to behave badly. Usually, they are, indeed, trying.
  2. Bring compassion to school struggles. Our kids get in trouble more than other kids, and usually it’s grounded in their neurology, not naughtiness. There is SO much happening during the day at school that influences their ability to do the actual work.
  3. Be patient with the other adults in your life. We all learn at our own pace, and sometimes learning from someone else will do a lot more to help you get on the same page with your spouse than trying to explain things, yourself.
  4. Be patient with your kids. Change takes time. Teach them, step by step, to become aware of their actions and reactions, and help them find ways to learn to self-manage. When you treat every “mistake” as an opportunity for learning, you’ll help your kids believe that they can do better, and not see themselves as “bad” kids.

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Manage Emotions and ImpulsesAll ADHD Articles