A Developmental Approach to Impulse Management

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A Developmental Approach to Impulse Management

Expressing and Containing Excitement

In movement classes, children engage in skill-building practices that teach them how to recognize and influence their excitement through using their own muscular effort to modulate the shape and intensity of their behavior. This helps children learn how to relate to and influence their own personal fluctuating levels of excitement.

IMG_2266I think of intensity as “in-tense-ity” — how someone creates internal tension patterns — their emotional shapes — their size and degree of tenseness.

  • The degree of one’s inner tension: Low, medium, high and extreme
  • Size: Small, medium, big and huge
  • Shape/Form: Little form, fluid, changing, shifting attention, soft,  behavior; medium form, porous, open, receptive, full, attentive behavior;  Lots of form, rigid, more substantial, consistent, repeating and repeatable;  extreme form, thick, solid, dense, unchanging or very slow to change.

Shaping Intensity, Regulating Excitement



The children practice dispersing, gathering, containing, squeezing, and squelching themselves and their excitement. Through shifting their body shape and intensity, they experience and explore how they affect their own feelings, influence their emotional states, and in turn, can form their behavior in relation to themselves and others.

Transitioning Along A Continuum

The children explore and practice transitioning along a continuum back and forth and back. This helps children to build their ability to recognize and influence their excitatory body-shapes, how this affects how they feel and how they express themselves — how they relate to themselves and form their behavior with others and in different situations.

A Practical Example: Along the Continuum of Speaking Up
Shutting down — Closing — Containing — Speaking — Speaking up — Speaking out — Blurting out

In one direction along the continuum, we have increasing intensity toward outward-oriented expression:

 IMG_2190 (1)Speaking  — Speaking up (sharing, questioning) —  Speaking out (against) — Blurting (disrupting)

In the other direction along the continuum, we have increasing internal intensity moving toward inward-oriented expression:

SpeakingContaining (holding one’s tongue/thought) — Closing Tight (suppressing, shutting up) — Shutting down

Using their hands and their mouths as their guides, the children practice going back and forth along this continuum, decreasing and increasing their intensity of each expression and transitioning between the expressions.

Modulating Reactions: From Reacting to Responding

We are all part of a long lineage of ancestors whose quick reactions to danger helped them to survive and pass on their genes to the next generation. We are alive today in part because of our ancestors’ survival instincts. These instincts include reacting to imminent danger in ways that are faster than thought. We automatically and quickly go into “fight, flight, or freeze” mode.

Such swift reactions are the gift of our inheritance that we pass on to our children. Instincts are the foundation out of which we all grow, develop and form our own personal ways of responding, expressing and sharing.

In movement classes, the children experience their instinctual reactions and then practice differentiating their reactions to develop new ways of feeling and responding. This empowers them to recognize the function of their instinctual behaviors and to differentiate them as a means to develop, over time, new ways of relating to themselves, others, their circumstances, and their community.

Group Dynamics and Managing Levels of Excitement

Group Dynamics Include Our Personal Zone within the Group Zone.

Personal Zone:

  • Personal space and dynamic immediately around you
  • Internal space and dynamic within you

Group Zone:

  • Interpersonal space: Between you and another person
  • Whole group space: You amidst the classroom, community

Our emphasis is on helping children to manage their own level of excitement in relation to the group to form new behaviors out of the situations they create or in which they find themselves with others.

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