Stop, Think, Ask

When I discovered the trail of raisins coming out of the basement closet AND the fifth empty scotch-tape roll AND the completely dis-assembled electronic toy stuffed behind my laundry basket, it finally dawned on me what I was dealing with . . . impulse control!

That’s right, believe it or not, Bok Choy (5) does not think before he acts. He takes things apart before he thinks how he will put them back together. He sneaks treats and snacks without asking. He uses up all the office supplies for his current project without regard to who else might need them.

We also struggle with getting him to tell the truth and helping him remember that hitting is NOT the best way to solve an argument.

Yep . . . definitely impulse control issues.

The great thing about pondering a problem for a while is that often the answer will be so simple that you wonder that you didn’t think of it before. That’s what happened here. Once I realized that the common thread that ran through most of Bok Choy’s difficulties was a lack of impulse control, finding a way to help teach him that skill seemed much easier.

I knew that I needed a catchy, easy-to-say phrase that would help him focus on improving in this area. I came up with “Stop, Think, and Ask.”

I’d like to say that Bok Choy and I sat down in a quiet place, and with him sweetly sitting on my lap, I gently taught him why it was important to ask before he does things . . . how that will help him be happy and will help our family run better . . . how others will like him more because he respects their things . . .etc. I’d like to say that I then said, “Now, I have a little phrase that you and I are going to use that will help you remember what we’ve talked about . . . etc.”

I’d like to say all that. But I can’t.

What really happened was this:

I discovered that ANOTHER tape dispenser was completely empty. It was 4:30 in the afternoon, and I desperately needed to tape an envelope shut so that I could put it in the mailbox before the mailman arrived. I felt my frustrations bubbling up.

Over the din of violin practicing and wild child-romping, I called out (okay, yelled . . .) Bok Choy’s name. When he entered, I held up the empty dispenser.

“Bok Choy, you used up all the tape again.” I’m doing my best to keep my exasperated tone to a reasonable level. “I’ve told you over and over you have to ask BEFORE you take my things. From now on, I want you to stop, think about what you’re about to do, and then ask me. Do you understand? Stop, think, and ask.”

He looks at me sheepishly. “Sorry.” His impish grin is hard to resist. He starts to slide his body sideways out of the room, headed back to whatever endeavor he was previously engaged. I notice the pot on the stove is about to boil over, and the phone rings.

“Stop, think, and ask, okay?” I say over the noise.

“Okay, okay,” Bok Choy calls out as he runs out of the room.

Despite a less than stellar teaching moment, Bok Choy did listen and has started to get it. He is far from perfect, but now I usually get to say “yes,” before all of my paper and tape disappears. And treats and snacks are approved before they are consumed (mostly!).

The best part is that I get to praise him every time he remembers to ask. It’s so much fun to say, “Bok Choy, that was an AWESOME ‘stop, think, and ask.’ Good job!” A quick high five, and he’s off.

Three little words . . . I love it!

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