Impulsive Behavior in a Child

Kids are, by nature, more impulsive than parents may care for. A child doesn’t have the life experience necessary to provide him with reminders to stop and think before he acts. He’s more concerned with the here and now than he is with the consequences of his actions. This may give you a bit of anxiety, particularly if your child is exceptionally impulsive. While it can be frustrating to wonder if your child’s impulsive behavior is going to have him jumping from the second floor balcony into the pool, you can help him work with his impulsiveness and learn a little self-control 2. It will help to ease your worried mind.

What Is Impulsive Child Behavior?

You may wonder what it is that makes your daughter decide that a handful of dirt is a good choice for dinner; the answer may simply be that she had the impulse to eat it. What this means is that your daughter’s perception narrows until she cannot see anything other than exactly what’s going on at the moment, advises psychologist and author Steven Richfield. For example, her perception may be that dirt isn’t something she’s supposed to eat, but it doesn’t look so bad. This impulsive thought will prevent her from seeing the big picture, which is that dirt is full of bugs and germs and nowhere near acceptable as a form of nutrition. It doesn’t always make sense to you, but to her it seemed like a perfectly good idea at the time.

Teach Self-Control to Your Impulsive Child

If your child is exhibiting impulsive behaviors, it’s important that you teach him the value of stopping for a second to think about the consequences of his actions, advises Jeffrey Bernstein, Ph.D. When he behaves impulsively, remind him to stop and think about how he will feel afterward. For example, if he is prone to impulsively starting fights when he’s upset, ask him how he feels after he pushes a friend or a sibling when he’s angry. Ask him how he feels seeing someone he cares for sad or crying and how it feels to know he hurt someone. Chances are good that this behavior does not make him feel good. By encouraging him to think about how he will feel before he engages in an activity, you may be discouraging him from behaving negatively or impulsively in the future.

Listen to Your Child

Understanding what makes your child behave impulsively is one of the keys to stopping her impulsive behavior, according to Richfield. To do this, you need to listen to her when she talks to you. When she behaves impulsively, ask her what she was thinking and why she behaved that way. Make a mental note of her reason each time and you may begin to see a pattern. For example, she may be more prone to impulsive behavior when she is tired, hungry or frustrated. You can help her control her impulsive behavior by teaching her more appropriate manners of dealing with her emotions or by doing what you can to eliminate her triggers 2.

Encourage Physical Activity

You can help your child avoid his impulsive behavior by encouraging physical activity, notes Bernstein. This might include taking him outside to play a game of football or basketball every night or signing him up for a sports team. When he has the ability to blow off steam and work out his frustrations or energy in a healthy manner, he is less likely to behave impulsively.