ADHD and Impulsivity: Understanding and Assisting Impulse Control Issues

What does it mean to be impulsive? When should a child’s impulsivity concern parents? Learn more and see tips for parents, here.

Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) has three subtypes, predominantly hyperactive-impulsive; predominantly inattentive; and combined hyperactive-impulsive and inattentive, which is the subtype most children with ADHD have.

Because most young children will seem unfocused or hyper from time to time, experts typically do not diagnose ADHD before the age of 5. The key determinant for diagnosing ADHD is the degree to which symptoms are present, and also if they occur in multiple environments, such as at home and in school. ADDitudemag says well-trained teachers with a baseline understanding of normal preschool-age characteristics can help parents tremendously, since they can more readily pinpoint extreme behavior.

What does it mean to be impulsive?
Young children with ADHD will sometimes do things without considering outcomes, often involuntarily. The National Institute of Mental Health notes that symptoms of impulsivity may include:

  • Impatience
  • Blurting out inappropriate comments
  • Inability to restrain emotions
  • Acting without regard for consequences
  • Difficulty waiting for things, or waiting one’s turn
  • Frequently interrupting conversations or others’ activities

Here are 3 tips for assisting an ADHD child with impulsivity from Bright Hub:

Provide outlets for healthy impulse discharge. You may think your child needs to engage in physical activity to burn off energy, but when impulsivity is an issue, there’s a potential for play to be hazardous since the child is incapable of sensing remote and immediate dangers. That said, parents need to channel impulses in a healthy way. Bright Hub suggests sports like martial arts or swimming.

Don’t engage in a power struggle. Parents of an ADHD child with impulse control problems will often find themselves in win/lose conflicts and wonder how they can establish compliance. Child psychologist Dr. Steven Richfield advises parents to remain non-confrontational, suggesting that the parent’s calm demeanor may transfer to the child, allowing him or her to listen more easily.

Talk less, listen more. Children with ADHD have issues with patience. They will also talk more. By being a better listener, a parent can glean a better understanding into the rationale for impulsive behavior. Parents can use this information to communicate with the child about his or her actions in a non-confrontational way.

Read the full story: How to Assist and ADHD Child with Impulsivity Issues

Sources:, National Institute of Mental Health, Bright Hub

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