ADHD & Impulsive Behavior in Toddlers

You'd be hard pressed to find a toddler who doesn't act impulsively from time to time. A toddler with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, or ADHD, may, like any other 1- to 3-year-old, act without think­ing, touch objects he knows are off limits or dart into the street with­out any regard for his safety 2. The difference between a typical tot and a toddler with ADHD is that his behavioral problems are so frequent and severe that they interfere with his ability to live a normal life, explains, a website published by the American Academy of Pediatrics 1.

ADHD vs. Impulsive Behavior

Excitability and impulsive behaviors in the average toddler are generally more low-key than in a tyke who suffers from the developmental disorder. A toddler with ADHD experiences more dramatic mood swings, becomes frustrated at the drop of a hat and can make a run-of-the-mill temper tantrum seem almost tame. Both ADHD sufferers and impulsive tots may constantly run around, bump into everything around them and fail to pay attention.

ADHD Symptoms

An inability to manage impulses such as repeated touching of certain objects or an inability to follow simple instructions are possible symptoms of a toddler with ADHD. Flying off the handle for no reason and physically attacking peers or playmates may also indicate the presence of ADHD. Little boys with ADHD tend to be mostly hyperactive -- fidgeting, wiggling and squirming -- while girls are more likely to drift off into a daydream; both types of behaviors cause the child to be inattentive, explains

Managing Impulsivity

Self-control in a 2- to 3-year-old toddler who does not have ADHD is beginning to unfold but your little one is still learning to control her impulses and can't always resist the urge to grab a toy out of a playmate's hand -- even though she's been told such behavior is unkind, explains, a website published by National Center for Infants, Toddlers and Families 6. Explain that the consequences of her behavior made her friend cry.


It's not always easy to tell if your little one has ADHD when impulsive acts in toddlers can be strikingly similar to symptoms of the disorder. Talk to your child's doctor if you suspect that she may have ADHD. You may be referred to a specialist after a thorough medical exam has ruled out other possible causes for your toddler's symptoms. Methylphenidate, sold as Ritalin and amphetamines, brand name Adderall, can help ease ADHD symptoms.


Some mothers say looking back on their pregnancies they recall that their baby -- who was later diagnosed with ADHD -- kicked more forcefully in the womb than their other babies, notes Walt Karniski, MD, a developmental pediatrician and executive director at Tampa Day School, which is dedicated to educational services for children with ADHD. However, vigorous fetal kicking has not been verified as a future indicator of ADHD.