Treating Impulsive Behaviors in ADHD Children


Impulsivity is the inability to consider the consequences of your actions beforehand. Put simply, performing an action before thinking. For some parents treating impulsive behaviors simply means imposing stricter rules but this approach may not be effective with the ADHD personality.


The answer lies deep within the brain. Neuroscientists are beginning to gain an understanding of brain chemicals well enough to determine which chemicals are associated with specific ADHD symptoms. Impulsiveness, for instance, has to do with too much norepinephrine or too little dopamine in the brain. Distractibility is often a result of too much norepinephrine activity compared to the amount of dopamine activity. Obsessiveness can be a sign of too much dopamine in relation to the amount of serotonin.

Neurotransmitters are brain chemicals that allow the brain to communicate, bridging the gap between synapses. So, if your child has neurological imbalance you may be able to temporarily protect them from themselves by imposing stricter rules but you likely will not be able to change their way of thinking or their actions.

What can be done?

The two most commonly suggested treatments for impulsive behaviors in children are stimulant medications and behavioral therapy.

Stimulant medications: As discussed above impulsive behaviors are triggered by much norepinephrine or too little dopamine. Stimulant medications work by causing more dopamine or norepinephrine (or both) to be released into the synapses, and by causing more of the transmitters to be retained in the synapses for a longer time. Specific medication names are Ritalin, Dexedrine, Adderall, Desoxyn, Cylert, and Provigil.

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Cognitive behavioral counseling: Cognitive behavioral counseling is a systemic approach to changing the way a child thinks and acts using conditioning and association. The therapist works with you and your child to find your problem behaviors and isolate the circumstances under which they tend to appear. Once the source of the problem has been isolated strategies are then put into place to manage and/or change these behaviors. One of the advantages of CBT over prescription meds is a much lower rate of relapse.

In summary, parenting an impulsive child is no easy task. But by combining patience with a well thought out treatment plan you can effectively help your child to overcome impulsivity and perhaps eliminate the stress it has been causing in your life. It is also possible that your doctor will suggest a combination of the two therapies listed above for treating impulsive behaviors.

Additionally, many parents are choosing to combine cognitive behavior therapy with natural ADHD remedies. This all natural approach has shown to be a side effect free way of treating impulsive behaviors in ADHD children and is an option worth considering.