Character Chats

How do we interrupt or ask permission using our impulse control?

Here at True Balance Karate in Downers Grove, Illinois, we have a social/emotional learning programmed called True Character.

I am Master H, one of the head instructors and owners here at the studio. I have 15 years of classroom experience as a special education teacher, two master’s degrees in education, and worked with everyone here at the studio to design this curriculum to meet the needs of anyone from three to 93.


This month, we’re talking about impulse control.

How do we use our impulse control when we need to interrupt or when we need to ask for something?

Last week, we talked about impulse control from the idea of giving ourselves a “P.E.P.P” talk. We pause. We evaluate and examine. We pick and proceed.

For our younger students, we look at it like a stoplight. We need to stop. We need to think for a minute. We need to decide what is our safe and fair choice to make, and then we can go. We can use that green light to continue where we’re going.

Interrupting Respectfully

I’m also a mom of two kids, and I know my own children have come up to me with the whole, “Mom, mom, mom, mom, mom, mom, mom, mom, mom, mom,” kind of idea, again, and again, and again.

They may have gotten yelled at for it a few times, but we’ve also worked to teach them how to interrupt in an appropriate manner, to interrupt in a positive manner that helps them control their impulses.

One of the things that we have taught them to do is use their words like “excuse me”. It’s a common phrase. We use it when we’re walking into doors, or going past people, those kinds of things.

When we need to interrupt, using that phrase “excuse me” helps to let the person know that you would like to say something.

Now, we also need to teach our students and teach our children that you don’t just walk up and say, “Excuse me.”

You need to also walk up, pay attention to the facial expressions, pay attention to the body language, pay attention to is there a break in the conversation right now that you can say the words, “excuse me”.

Non-Verbal Interrupting

For my kids, to help them not immediately blurt the words “excuse me”, we also developed a little bit of a non-verbal code.

They would walk up, take their hand and put it on my arm, or when they were younger on my leg, and I would take my own hand and then cover up theirs.

So, they were letting me know they had something they needed to stay. I was letting them know that I acknowledge they were there, and that they were waiting patiently.

When there was a break in the conversation, I would ask them what they needed, or I would talk with them about what was going on.

It was a great non-verbal cue that helped them practice their patience and grow their impulse control, while still allowing me to finish whatever business needed to be taken care of with whoever I was talking with.

Positive Teaching Ideas

Teaching our kids how to pay attention to that tone of voice, how to pay attention that body language, how to pay attention to gestures… Some of us use the “Give me one second as I’m talking,” kind of phrase.

It’s a matter of teaching it in a positive way so that when they’re super excited and they really want to share, that they’re not just jumping in and interrupting, because we all get that way.

Or when they’re super angry and really frustrated, they’re not walking over stomping their feet, because that happens too.

Asking Permission Politely

Another way that we use our impulse control is asking permission for things, or asking for something.

Just like you, when my kids use the whiny voice, I don’t want to hear it. It immediately shuts me down, and the answer is no. When they use the demanding voice, same thing, answer becomes no.

When they speak to me in a respectful, clear, concise, simple tone, then we can have a conversation.

I have sometimes said no, and I have taught them to then ask “When will the answer be yes?” Or “Why is the answer no?” Or “How can I go about changing the answer?”

We have those conversations because at some point they’re going to grow up and they’re going to be out in the real world, and they’re going to be living on their own, and they’re going to need to know how to advocate for themselves.

If they feel very strongly about something that I am saying no to, they need to find positive respectful ways to advocate for it, using their impulse control, not just demanding, not just stomping their feet, but talking it over, having that discussion, sharing it.

When they’re three, and they’re four, and they’re five, and they’re crying, it’s a matter of teaching them to breathe and then express it calmly.

When we’re adults and we get angry at our coworkers, or our bosses, or even the people on our team, it’s the same thing.

We can’t just lose control, because when we lose control, we lose respect. When we lose the ability to speak in a clear and definitive kind of way, not angry and not dictator-like, but “Here’s my thoughts, and this is why,” when we lose that ability we lose a little bit of that respect from those people around us.

Advocating and independence in school

Another thing that I’ve talked with my kids about, again along the same idea of advocating for yourself, if they have an issue at school I’m not the one to jump in and take care of it.

That started when they were in junior high, because at some point they need to start learning these same types of things.

We have role played. We’ve talked about what we’re going to say. I’ve even asked them, “Would you like me to email your teacher?” Not to be the person to tell the teacher about the problem, but to be the person to tell the teacher “My child is coming to talk to you about a situation.”

That seemed to help them break any barriers that they had to begin a conversation

When we’re talking about interrupting, when we’re talking about asking permission, when we’re talking about difficult things, controlling our impulses is controlling our emotions to an extent.

It’s controlling how we react to the conversation, not name-calling, not stomping feet, not getting angry, not throwing things, but talking the way I’m talking with you right now.

As we go through this month, we’re going to talk about other ways to control other aspects of our impulses and our emotions.

Everyone has emotions. All of those emotions are valid. All of those emotions should be felt.

How we express those emotions is what we are working towards. We want to express them safely. We want to express them fairly, and we want to express them respectfully, and kindly, and in a positive manner.

That’s our goal.

Thanks, and we’ll see you on the mat.

True Balance Karate was founded in 2012 by Master Sue and Paul Helsdon.

We offer kids karate lessons for pre-school children ages 3-6 and elementary age kids ages 7 and up. These lessons are designed to develop the critical building blocks kids need — specialized for their age group — for school excellence and later success in life.

Our adult martial arts training is a complete adult fitness and conditioning program for adults who want to lose weight, get (and stay) in shape, or learn self-defense in a supportive environment.

Instructors can answer questions or be contacted 24 hours of the day, 7 days a week at 630-663-2000. You can also contact us here.