Controlling Impulsive Behavior in Children

By Tess Thompson

Impulsive action is one that is without any forethought. For the purpose of this article, impulsive behavior refers to a quick, unplanned action without consideration of a possible negative outcome. It also refers to inappropriate behavior in children.

In recent years, the medical community has developed psychological tests that involve monitored laboratory performances to measure impulsive behavior. Obviously, these are meant for treating impulsivity in children through different tools like ‘talk therapy’ that many psychiatrists already use. Although psychiatrists are trained to use ‘talk therapy’ as a psychological tool, you too can try to control impulsive behavior in your child at home with the same tool.

If you feel that your child is extremely impulsive, it is important that you first rule out any learning disability that may be forcing your child to resort to thoughtless behavior. Children with learning disabilities are prone to show their frustration by impulsive actions to take out frustration or divert or attract attention.

It is important that you adopt a positive attitude so that you can understand the basics of how to calm impulsive children. Moreover, keeping pace with impulsive children can be extremely tiring - physically as well as mentally. It requires patience, an understanding of child psychology, and more patience to assess what factors are responsible for increased impulsivity.

To understand a child, you need to put yourself in his shoes. As difficult as it may be after thirty years, you do have to look at matters from the perspective of a five or six year old. However illogical it may seem to you, always keep in mind that his perception is reality for the child, and perception is the ultimate truth for your child.

No amount of criticism, physical punishment or lecturing will veer the child away from the convictions that he has formed. To remove and modify these convictions, you will need to put matters in correct perspective.

In the fast-paced life that we have, it is difficult to sit and discuss matters with your child. And over time (unfortunate as it is), generally, children do not expect their parents to talk to them. Speaking to your children to identify the problem areas is essential. If you decide to start talking to your child one sunny morning, your child is likely to consider it out of place, and therefore it is essential that you build a great bond between your child and yourself so that you can speak to them about serious matters when required. Gaining their confidence prior to when a specific situation arises is critical to gaining their confidence. Explaining to them how their impulsive behavior can be dangerous, futile and of no positive consequence is likely to veer them towards thoughtful action.

It is also essential that you praise appropriate behavior just as you reprimand inappropriate ones. Do not ignore good behavior, and try to reward your child for it. Focus on problem areas, ignore minor ones and always keep a mild tone. You may consider mild punishment like time-out or denial of a pleasurable activity for some time if things do not sort themselves out by talking.

Impulsive children often have problems with attention spans and concentration. Avoid comparing your child’s behavior and school grades with other children at all costs. Every child is different and has his or her own limitations.

Coping with stress is not as difficult as it may appear. Do not let stress affect your overall health, and look for a good stress management program before it is too late.


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