Teach children with ADHD to recognize the consequences of negative actions.

How to Stop the Impulsive Behavior of ADHD Children

by Brenda Scottsdale

Impulsiveness, combined with inattention, hyperactivity and disorganization, are characteristic symptoms of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. Easily bored and distracted, children with ADHD often speak or act before they think about the consequences. These impulsive actions can alienate a child, expose him to dangerous situations and label him as a "troublemaker." If your doctor diagnoses your child with ADHD, he can prescribe medications that help manage the disorder. However, even with medication, adults still need to help children learn to control their impulses. (See Reference 3)

Set clear rules, boundaries and limits. Have your child repeat to you both the rules and the consequences for breaking the rules, so you are sure he understands. Enforce the rules consistently so he learns to live within the limits. (See Reference 2)

Recognize how your child looks and behaves when she is about to become agitated, frustrated or overstimulated. Prevent the situation from escalating by distracting her, calming her down or by talking about something pleasant and soothing. If necessary, remove her from volatile situations entirely, at least until she has a chance to calm down. (See Reference 2)

Teach your child relaxation strategies. When you recognize he's becoming agitated, for example, you can gently touch him on the shoulders and encourage him to take two or three deep breaths with you. Have everyone in the family model this approach to normalize this behavior and encourage your child.

Teach impulse control strategies such as "stop, look and listen," meaning your child should stop his behaviors, look you in the eyes and really listen to what you have to say. This strategy helps slow children down and prevents them from acting impulsively. Once your child learns this method, use a physical cue, such as making a stopping motion with your hand, to help him recognize high-risk situations. (See Reference 1)

Reward your child for following the rules. It can be a daily struggle for a child with ADHD to control his impulses, and sometimes incentives provide the extra motivation that's necessary for success. Combine external rewards, such as time playing video games, with intrinsic rewards such as hugging your child or telling him he did a good job. (See Reference 1)

About the Author

Brenda Scottsdale is a licensed psychologist, a six sigma master black belt and a certified aerobics instructor. She has been writing professionally for more than 15 years in scientific journals, including the "Journal of Criminal Justice and Behavior" and various websites.

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