Parents who have a child having ADHD symptoms could probably fill a book with stories of how their child acted impulsively. I can still recall the day when I was taking a walk with my Max, his brother and a friend of mine and her two children. Max was about three or four. We were walking to the neighborhood playground and along the path there was a man-made lake complete with a big fountain in the middle. It was very pretty to look at but was not for swimming. I was in mid conversation with my friend when Max darted ahead on the path. I saw his blonde curls sink into the landscape and I panicked. Fully clothed, Max was walking straight into the lake! My friend ran with me with her baby in tow. When we reached Max he was almost fully submerged and was totally drenched. Totally unaware of the danger he was in, he smiled, pleased at his adventure.
After I took him home, bathed and dried him I called my friend. It was the first time I said out loud, “I think my child may have a problem.”
Add to this memory, the time Max tried to squeeze a large snake by its middle that a curator at the museum was holding for the kids to see. Or the time he tried to make a campfire from Lincoln logs in the bathroom. Or the times he has decided to cut his own hair. I am sure we all have our stories to tell. If you are a parent who has to constantly call out, “DANGER!” or “Don’t touch, put that down, keep away, what are you thinking?” then you may have a child who has problems with impulsivity.
What is impulsivity?
Impulsive behavior generally includes behaviors in which the child reacts before thinking about the consequences of those actions. While most children act impulsively on occasion, a child with ADHD may be extreme in the frequency in which they engage in impulsive behaviors. Impulsivity can be worrisome for parents because it can impair your child’s social skills and ability to get along with others, it can cause your child to take unnecessary risks which may place your child in danger, and it can also cause your child to make some unwise decisions in life.
But as our Eileen Bailey reminds us, there can be a silver lining to ADHD symptoms, including impulsivity:
Impulsiveness, however, is not always a negative trait. Being a leader requires people to make quick decisions and to think on their feet. Other situations, such as emergencies, require quick thinking and action rather than thought. Impulsiveness also can add variety and spice to your life, letting you be spontaneous or to jump into new situations.
I will add to what Eileen has said here by saying that impulsivity and spontaneity may be essential ingredients of creativity. Many individuals having ADHD symptoms possess a gift of being creative. The key is to fine tune this impulsive trait so that it doesn’t cause your child negative consequences.
What does impulsivity look like?