Character Chats

How do we use our impulse control when faced with temptations and choices?

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

I’m Master H, head instructor and one of the owners here at the studio. I was a special education teacher for 15 years. I have two master’s degrees in education, and I’ve taught anything from kindergarten to eighth grade when I was in the classroom. And now we’ve designed a program to meet the needs of anyone from 3 to 93 here at the studio.


And this month we’ve been talking about impulse control.

I think before I act, controlling our impulses, controlling our thoughts.

When we started impulse control a couple of weeks ago, we talked about having a “P.E.P.P.” talk for ourselves. Pausing, evaluating and examining what our choices are, picking and then proceeding forward.

Stop Light

When we’re talking to younger students about it, we compare it to a stoplight.

Red, stop. Just stop what you’re doing. Take a minute, breathe.

Yellow light, look around. Think about an idea that will be in your best interest. What is the safe choice? What is the fair choice?

Green light, pick and proceed. Go ahead you’ve chosen a safe choice. You can continue.

Further Defining

So when we’re talking about our impulse control, we’re talking about having that ability to stop and think before we act on whatever it is that we want to act on.

And it comes from how we’re feeling, it comes from whether we’re angry, it comes from whether we super excited and happy. It comes from if we’re really sad, it comes from if we’re really frustrated.

Sometimes our impulse control needs to be used when we’re tired.

So it just depends on how we’re feeling that day, what we’re thinking, what we’re dealing with, how we’re stressed.

And that’s when we have to give ourselves a pep talk, pause, evaluate, examine, and proceed before we can make those good positive choices.

Politely Interrupting

And then we talked about having our impulse control when it came to interrupting and asking questions, not using that whiny voice, not demanding, not just running up to somebody and starting to talk, but rather paying attention to their tone, paying attention to their facial expressions.

Using some nonverbal cues, like maybe putting your hand on their arms so that they get a sentence of you needing to interrupt and ask question.

Those kinds of things go a long way to continuing to control our own impulses.

Apologizing Respectfully

Last week, we talked about an apology.

We’re all going to mess up. We’re all going to make mistakes. We’re all going to need to use the words, I’m sorry.

But remember you need to say what you’re sorry for and how you’re going to make it better.

What are you going to do to make amends?

Yes, we will all have our impulses get the better of us. Yes we will react without thinking. And then we need to rebuild some of that trust.

We need to rebuild some of that respect for each other by making that apology and making it sincere and not making any excuses.

Control of Our Choices

And this week, we’re talking about how we use our impulse control when we’re tempted or when we have to make choices.

Now, we all know that stealing is bad. We can all agree on that.

But temptation happens. We see something shiny and we pick it up and we want to take it with us.

Example 1

Or we’re at a friend’s house and they’ve got the really cool video game that we now want.

So they won’t miss it because they’ve got a million other video games.

Temptation is there and teaching our kids and ourselves, not to give into those temptations, to control our impulses, to remind ourselves of what the positive choices are and what we can do to be able to get the shiny thing, to be able to get the video game, to remind ourselves of those positive actions is more important.

So we’re at a friend’s house and we really like the video game they have there.

When we have a conversation about what it is that we’re looking for, we can think about, we can earn our own money. If I do these chores, I can earn money. If I do these things, I can earn money. My birthday’s in two months, I could put it on my birthday wish list.

So having these conversations with our own kids or with our own family members in terms of how do we deal with those temptations helps us go a long way.

It helps teach problem-solving skills along with controlling our reactions.

And that’s the important part, is teaching those problem-solving skills.

Example 2

What about being in the library?

We see our friend on the other side of the library and we just want to yell their names so that they can see us too.

We all know it’s wrong to yell at the library. How do we control ourselves? What could we do instead?

We could walk super quick over to our friend and tap them on the shoulder and say, “Hi.”

Maybe we’re older and we know we have their number and we could send them a quick text from the other side of the library with maybe a joke. “I see you. Turn around,” something like that.

All of those things help us control those temptations to act out. Even if it’s an unintentional act out, we’re not meaning to, sometimes it happens.

How do we control our impulses along the way?

Example 3

What about- let’s talk about school or at work, even better. Let’s talk about work.

We’ve been working really hard on a project and we see that a fellow coworker has an even better project than the one you’ve presented.

You might want to steal it. It’s no different than cheating off of somebody in school because they’ve got the right answers.

How do we control those impulses?

Ask questions, share information, become a way to work together, to build it into an even bigger one. Maybe your ideas and their ideas can merge to become an even better project from there.

At school, we can’t cheat off of each other on a test. We all know that’s wrong.

We’re all tempted to do it at some point, but we get stuck.

Ask questions, go back later and find out why that one was wrong. Learn from it, grow from it.

Leading by Example

As we work towards controlling our own impulses and our own reactions to things, we are leading by example, we are showing positive attitude.

We are showing a way to be more patient, be more respectful, be more kind, be more thoughtful, be more aware.

All those positive things that we work to instill in our own children and in our students here at the studio.

I hope you’ve enjoyed impulse control this month.

Keep giving yourself “P.E.P.P” talks 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.