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Managing Impulsivity in Children: Tips and Tools

Managing Impulsivity in Children: Tips and Tools

Providing parents and teachers with tips and tools to manage impulsive behaviors in children can be very helpful for the child and the adult.  Managing Impulsive Behavior: Guidelines and Behavioral Charts provides parents and teachers with an effective guide on how to respond to and diminish impulsive behaviors in the classroom and at home. Many parents and teachers struggle with excessively impulsive children and their associated negative behaviors, such as interrupting, difficulty taking turns, grabbing, acting before thinking, poor emotional regulation, and becoming easily frustrated.  Parents and teachers often wonder if the child is choosing to be oppositional, defiant, provocative, and intentionally disobedient, or if the child truly cannot control their behaviors because of impulsivity. Parents and teachers sometimes struggle to empathize and understand these impulsive children as they recognize that the child cognitively knows better, intellectually remembers the rules, and is even smart enough to know that the behavior is inappropriate and will lead to consequences. So the question remains, why do impulsive children do what they do and how can parents and teachers better manage it?

The research shows that ” excessive impulsivity” is likely a neurological issue that is usually more significant than the typical impulsivity demonstrated along different developmental ages, and may not be closely associated with “intent.”

Although medication is an intervention option for highly impulsive children, a structured, consistent, fair, individualized, and timely behavioral plan could also be very effective in shaping and reducing children’s impulsive behaviors. A targeted behavioral plan and its implementation at school and at home can significantly diminish impulsive behaviors over time as the child is rewarded for specific desirable behaviors, but simultaneously receives consequences for unwanted, negative behaviors. Using this dual approach, we give the child consistent opportunities to be positively reinforced and hence, increase the likelihood of positive behaviors, while concurrently decreasing negative behaviors via specific consequences. It is critical to follow through on the rewards and consequences in a timely manner based on the age and capacity of the child. Without follow through, consistency, timeliness, and tracking of targeted, explicit behaviors, the interventions are less likely to succeed.

Sometimes disrespect and aggressive behaviors can also accompany impulsivity. It is important to simultaneously address these behaviors in a structured and focused plan, so that the disrespect and aggression do not increase over time. The sooner you can implement the behavioral program with younger children who are being impulsive, aggressive, and disrespectful, the more likely you will be successful in changing the behaviors to more adaptive ones.

For more details on the markers of impulsivity, associated behaviors, and targeted behavioral plans that you can easily implement in a classroom or in the home, please download Managing Impulsive Behavior: Guidelines and Behavioral Charts. Consulting with and working closely with your child’s teachers and counselors can also be very beneficial, as a collaborative and professional team approach is ideal.