ADHD has three main symptoms: inattention, hyperactivity and impulsivity. In a previous post, we provided some ways parents can help their child improve their focus and this week we are going to look at impulsivity and offer some ideas for parents to help curb these types of behaviors.
What is Impulsivity?
Impulsive behaviors are those that are done quickly, without thought to the consequences. These are often related to the need for immediate gratification, for example, a young child might grab a toy from another child because he wants to play with the toy "now." Sometimes, impulsive behaviors are dangerous, a young child jumping from the top of a slide without thinking that he may get hurt or a teen driver speeding down the highway in a race with his friends in a different car. While we all react impulsively from time to time, for many children with ADHD, impulsivity is one of the most difficult behaviors and causes the most problems both at home and in the classroom.
The following are some examples of problematic impulsive behaviors:
- Blurting out answers in class rather than raising hands and waiting to be called on
- Grabbing toys from other children
- Pushing or shoving other children when angry or teased
- Butting in to the front of the line
- Sensation seeking such as acting in dangerous ways to feel the adrenalin rush
- Getting up from seat even though it is not the time to move around
- Difficulty waiting their turn when playing games with other children, yelling or getting angry while waiting
- Interrupting others during conversations
- Rushing into tasks without listening to directions
Toddlers frequently act impulsively. Children as young as two years old may begin to regulate their behaviors because they know that a certain behavior will result in certain actions from their behavior, however, self-regulation becomes more apparent and more developed between the ages of three and four. Children with ADHD may continue to have weak impulse control well into the teen years and even some adults with ADHD indicate they still have difficulty with impulse control.
Tips for Parents
Create positive reward programs. We have discussed this type of discipline several times. You can find out more about creating an effective reward/consequence program in the following posts:
- Behavior Modification
- Frequently Asked Questions About Behavior Modification
- Creating a Daily Report Card for Your Child to Help Improve Behavior
- Five Ways to Be a Positive Parent
- Creating a Discipline Process at Home
Games to Motivate your Children
Keep track of your child's impulsive behaviors. Are there certain triggers, such as your child becomes very impulsive when upset, frustrated or angry? Do you see impulsive behaviors increase during certain times of the day, for example, late in the afternoon when your child is getting hungry or is struggling with homework? Does he become more impulsive when over-stimulated? Understanding the triggers behind these behaviors can help you better monitor your child during specific times or situations and can help you teach him coping strategies for the trigger situation.