Using ‘Taboo: The Game of Unspeakable Fun’ to Teach Impulse Control

Taboo isn’t just for dinner parties! Here’s a fun intervention idea submitted by reader Charity Armbruster that uses the game to treat impulse control. Ms. Armbruster earned a gift certificate to childtherapytoys.com for her submission. Learn how you can do the same!

Taboo is a word guessing game by published by Hasbro. In the Taboo game, you need to get the other participant(s) to guess the secret word, but the obvious clues are strictly off-limits. To get someone to say pinball, you might say arcade, game, flippers, tilt, or roll. In this game you can’t because all of those words are strictly forbidden. There is an additional challenge in racing against a clock.

The Taboo Game can be difficult for children with impulse control issues and anger issues. However, as the game is played children are able to develop cooperation skills, persistence, impulse control, and learn how to delay gratification. I play the game with students in our schools who have anger issues. Many of these children can be rather explosive. As an angry child becomes more emotional, they may refuse or be unable to say why they are upset or what happened to cause their distress. Before starting the Taboo game I explain how difficult it can be to communicate when angry, and I state that when someone becomes so angry they cannot express their feelings, it’s like a game of Taboo. The teachers and aides are trying to figure out what the problem is, but the child is not saying anything. I explain that even a simple “I don’t know” can be more beneficial than not saying anything.

Playing the Taboo game is usually combined with other lessons related to anger control, such as identifying what makes me angry, strategies to control my anger, and techniques to regulate and/or healthily redirect my anger.

Example 1: In this example the game was played one-on-one with a student. I began by explaining the rules of the game to a student, and then I went first. The child’s task was to guess what the word on the card was. Within minutes the student became very upset  because he could not guess the word. As we played the game, we would stop and take breaks, and process the frustration and ways to handle it.

Example 2: During another game a student became frustrated and threw the cards across the room, stating this game is “stupid”. Again, I processed and discussed the frustration with the student. He sat in the chair and stared at me. He then said “it’s really hard.” I asked him if instead of throwing the cards could he “ask me for help from me.” Often I would stop and use humor to defuse his frustration before it became to explosive.

For children with impulse and anger issues, Taboo: The Game can be difficult because they may have a hard time finding the right word. However, playing the game over time gives the child and counselor ample opportunity to develop anger management strategies, frustration tolerance, and better communication skills.

TabooGame

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