Signs & Symptoms

Impulsivity

Is your acting without thinking?

As a parent, you may find yourself constantly saying, “No…wait…no,” “Stop!” or “ouch, you hurt me!” Children who are impulsively moving about tend to accidentally hurt themselves or others. They break things all the time and bump into people constantly.

Impulsive children see something and move toward it; they hear something and go for it.

Impulsivity is the inability to hold back on doing things, even things that are not such a good idea. Some children exhibit extreme impulsivity. These kids never stop moving. You will feel exhausted after an hour with them.

It may seem like all the child can see are green lights. Any time something interesting appears, it is instantly met with an action. Often, these children are out of their seats when they shouldn’t be, rushing through homework, and having difficulties waiting in line.

These impulsive behaviors often lead to getting into other people’s space, annoying others and not stopping to read social cues.

This behavior may be observed when the child approaches a carefully constructed train set, and without a moment’s thought, he breaks the track, and crashes all the trains.

Impulsive children often play too intensely and wildly; accidentally running over a friend’s foot with a bicycle tire or mowing down a friend’s beautifully built block tower. Because it was a complete accident, they are often left feeling remorseful if someone is hurt.

These children may have trouble making friends because they can’t seem to slow down enough to see what the other kids want to do or to share in a conversation.

In older children, you might notice that your child is excluded in group work because the other kids are so frustrated from being pulled off task or distracted.

What do challenges with Impulsivity look like?

  • Acting now and thinking later?
  • Making mistakes and feeling remorse afterwards?
  • Moving constantly?
  • Never thinking about his or her actions or the consequences of such?
  • Running away from you at the grocery store or in a parking lot?
  • Seeming to have no concern for safety?
  • Acting hyper and intrusive, even when another child has had enough?
  • Liking to hug and roughhouse, even with kids who do not appear to be having fun?

Why is Impulsivity happening?

Clinically, impulsivity can be roughly defined as action without forethought. More specifically, impulsivity is considered the behavioral manifestation of an individual’s inability to inhibit the prepotent response. In plain English, this description means that the child is having trouble stopping himself from what he automatically wants to do. It is the situation where the child sees the cookie on the table and knows full well that mom has told him to wait until after dinner. The child instantly grabs the cookie and devours it, much to his own surprise. When mom enters the room, wagging her finger and asking, “Why did you do that,” the child has no idea. Impulsivity could be related to attention challenges and to lack of impulse control. If a child does not have the ability to slow down, stop and think before acting, then bad decisions may be the result. In the absence of emotional challenges, these symptoms of hyperactivity and impulsivity may be related to Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). If you are wondering about this, most primary care doctors and pediatricians are able to diagnose this disorder and provide recommendations and referrals for treatment.

How can I manage Impulsivity at home?

Clinically, impulsivity, can be roughly defined as action without forethought.

More specifically, impulsivity is considered the behavioral manifestation of an individual’s inability to inhibit the prepotent response. In plain English, this description means that the child is having trouble stopping himself from what he automatically wants to do.

It is the situation where the child sees the cookie on the table and knows full well that mom has told him to wait until after dinner. The child instantly grabs the cookie and devours it, much to his own surprise. When mom enters the room, wagging her finger and asking, “Why did you do that,” the child has no idea.

Attention Problems: Impulsivity could be related to attention challenges and to lack of impulse control. If a child does not have the ability to slow down, stop and think before acting, then bad decisions may be the result. In the absence of emotional challenges, these symptoms of hyperactivity and impulsivity may be related to Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD).

Emotional Regulation: Some impulsive behaviors have an emotional origin. That is, your child may be somewhat out of control in terms of managing his or her feelings, leading to regrettable behavior.

Impulsivity in the context of irritable mood or frequent mood swings might indicate a Mood Disorder. Your child’s tendency to be grouchy, angry, or moody may lead to erratic and unpredictable behavior.

Social Skills: The underlying problem here could also be related to social awareness, social perspective taking or social understanding, which are challenges commonly associated with an Autism Spectrum Disorder.

Failing to read other children’s cues effectively can lead to social mistakes. Children with ASD may have an impaired ability to read social space or to refrain from giving a bear hug to a shy classmate. Thus, your child’s behaviors may seem impulsive when he or she is actually lacking social savvy.

Behavior Problem: Impulsive children may act in a certain way without understanding the ramifications of their actions. For example, the child may push a child out of his way to get to the front of the line for the slide on the playground.

How can Clear Child Psychology help with Impulsivity?

If your child is struggling with this symptom to the point that it is getting in the way of his or her learning, relationships, or happiness, it’s time to seek professional help.

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Our Free Discovery Session is a 20-minute consultation where we can talk one-on-one about the concerns and questions you have about your child.

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