Children who have been diagnosed with ADHD often have difficulties with impulse control. They might act before they think, by interrupting others in conversation, blurting out answers in the classroom, and jumping from one activity to the next.
Parenting an ADHD child may most likely leave you wondering if you are able to build or strengthen your child’s impulse control. Well, the answer is yes! Keep reading to learn more about impulse control and different strategies that can help your child manage impulsivity.
What Is Impulse Control?
Impulse control is defined as the ability to resist an impulse, desire, or temptation and regulate its translation into action. It is considered to be an important part of executive functioning abilities, which help us perform tasks, plan, problem solve and make decisions.
Children who have difficulties with impulse control may also have problems with other executive functioning abilities like emotional regulation, planning, time management, initiating tasks, or persisting to achieve one’s goals.
Impulse control is developed over time in children and can be nurtured and improved upon at any age. When there is a considerable lack of impulse control, it can be the root of many problems, like ADHD or other psychological disorders.
ADHD and Impulse Control
Although impulsivity is developmentally normal in children to some extent, it is often exaggerated in children with ADHD. With that said, impulsivity is a core symptom of ADHD. It may not present the same in every child, however, here are the most common examples of impulsive behaviors in children with ADHD:
- Interrupting others in conversation
- Blurting out answers in the classroom before the question is fully explained
- Having difficulty with taking turns
- May run into the street without looking for oncoming traffic
- Jumping from one activity to the next
- Emotional outbursts when things do not go as planned
Impulse Control Strategies to Help Kids with ADHD
Studies have shown that teaching kids with ADHD self-control can be very helpful in strengthening their skills. The following impulse control strategies are recommended to help children with ADHD.
Try to understand the behaviors
Becoming aware of the behaviors and circumstances in which your child tends to act impulsively will allow you to better help your child control impulses. Children will often follow patterns of behavior, therefore, recognizing these patterns will provide you and your child with tools to manage impulsivity. Oftentimes just becoming aware of the issue can be a major contributor to diffusing it.
When correcting your child’s impulsive behaviors, remember to remain calm and patient. It will take time and practice to strengthen their impulse control!
Help your child label their emotions
Teaching your child to begin labeling and understanding their emotions is an important factor in decreasing impulsive behaviors. Emotional literacy, a critical component of a child’s development, is the ability to identify, understand, and respond to emotions in a healthy manner. Children who are able to identify and respond to emotions appropriately are said to engage in less destructive behaviors, tolerate frustrations more effectively, and get into fewer altercations.
Helping your child label and understand their emotions will lead them to begin telling you “I feel angry,” rather than showing you by engaging in harmful behaviors. You can begin by teaching your child how to label their emotions by introducing them to various feelings, such as sad, angry, surprised, scared, worried, or excited.
Encourage problem-solving skills
Problem-solving is considered to be a significant and effective impulse control technique. By encouraging problem-solving skills you are teaching your child that there is more than one way to solve a problem and come up with a solution. This will allow your child to brainstorm effective solutions and potential consequences for their actions. With continued practice, your child will begin to think before they act on a more consistent basis.
Provide a structured environment
Children with ADHD often do better with a routine and consistency within their schedules. The less chaotic their lives are, the less impulsive children will be. With consistent practice, your child will become familiar with the rules and consequences that follow impulsive actions. Additionally, by creating an environment that is structured, you will help your child feel safe. This is a crucial component in preventing behavior problems and will help set your child up for success in the classroom and at home.
Read more behavior management tips for kids with ADHD.
Have a reward system
While consequences are an important part of diminishing unwanted behaviors, providing your child with positive reinforcement or rewards is equally as important. As a parent, be sure to tell your child when they do right, just as you would when they do wrong.
In addition, having a reward system will allow your child to practice delayed gratification. Delayed gratification not only reinforces positive behaviors, but it also teaches your child to work towards goals and receive a reward for achieving that goal.
A token economy reward system can help your ADHD child to practice delayed gratification. This is a fun way for your child to earn tokens for positive behaviors and turn tokens in for rewards. Giving your child the opportunity to save their tokens for larger rewards, rather than use them right away will teach your child to resist temptations that could lead to impulsive behaviors.
You could also try an ADHD game like Joon. Joon is an app designed for ADHD children. The game rewards kids in the game for completing tasks in the app (set by the parents). The game rewards kids for good and non-impulsive behaviors. Try it out 7-days at no cost.
Give clear instructions
It is important to provide your child with simple, easy-to-follow, and clear instructions. Giving your child a long list of instructions can often be overwhelming and daunting for them. It can create an issue before they were to even begin the required task.
Additionally, writing instructions down is an effective way to support your child as they complete tasks. Having clearly written instructions will allow your child to reference what tasks need to be completed if they were to forget.
Practice by playing impulse control games
There are numerous impulse control games out there for you and your child to play. These games are an effective way for your child to learn, while having fun!
The following games all require impulse control and following instructions:
- Red Light Green Light
- Simon Says
- Follow the Leader
- Freeze Dance
- Musical Chairs
- Duck Duck Goose
Not only do these games model and teach impulse control, but they are also a great way for you and your child to have fun and foster a stronger connection!
While impulsivity is a normal part of a child’s development, children with ADHD tend to have more difficulty managing impulses. This can include your child interrupting others in conversation, having difficulty taking turns, moving quickly from one task to the next, and answering questions before they are fully asked in the classroom. However, with practice and consistency in utilizing the mentioned strategies, your child’s impulse control can certainly improve over time and lead to your child living a happier and more fulfilling life.