Fight your preschooler's impulsive behavior.

Techniques That Help Impulsive Preschoolers

by Erica Loop

While it's not entirely uncommon for a preschooler to seem more like Max from "Where the Wild Things Are" than a perfect little angel, some kids can run at the higher end of the overly-active gamut. Impulsive preschoolers often can't control their physical behaviors and may at times seem somewhat like an excitable bull in china shop. Before you throw in the towel, know that you aren't alone and there are tried and true techniques to help.

Use Your Child's Vocabulary

Most preschoolers simply can't sit through a lengthy lecture. This is even more true for an impulsive child. Telling your 4-year-old to stop his impulsive behaviors may easily go in one ear and out the other. Instead of telling your child to calm down and stop hopping, touching, jumping, running, bouncing, hitting, kicking or anything else that your little mover can think up, use a simple, straight-to-the-point technique in a language that he understands. For example, get down on his level, look him directly in the eyes, leave out the lengthy explanation and firmly tell your child, "Stop and calm down."

Work Together

Preschoolers with impulsivity issues often can't sit still or pay attention long enough to complete tasks. If you want your little one to finish what she starts, help her out with a buddy system approach. This doesn't mean that you should always "do" for your child. Instead, act as a partner and work together. Think of it as more of a relay race than having your child sit on the sidelines. For example, if your preschooler is making a Father's Day craft card for Dad, but can't seem to focus long enough to even color the front, use questions, prompts and a helping hand to get her going again. Ask your child to pick out her three favorite colors of crayons and a sweet greeting for the cover. Write the phrase for your child, but have her draw a design.


You know your child better than anyone else. If you notice that his activity level goes through the roof in the mid-afternoon or that late mornings equal daily bouts of tantrums, don't schedule anything that requires your child's attention or patience during those times. While this is certainly easier said than done, try avoiding play-dates, doctor's appointments, classes that require quiet listening skills -- such as a library story time or art workshop -- during his peak activity periods.

Bust Boredom

A dreary day at home in front of the TV will do absolutely nothing to help your impulsive preschooler. An already over-active child will act out even more if she has no clear-cut activity in front of her. This doesn't mean that you have to schedule every second of your little one's life. Trade in the less busy pursuits such as screen time for structured and semi-structured physical activities. Go out into the backyard and play a game of follow the leader or tag with your child, go for a bike or trike ride at the park or make a soft pillow-lined obstacle course around the living room.

About the Author

Based in Pittsburgh, Erica Loop has been writing education, child development and parenting articles since 2009. Her articles have appeared in "Pittsburgh Parent Magazine" and the website PBS Parents. She has a Master of Science in applied developmental psychology from the University of Pittsburgh's School of Education.

Photo Credits

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