3 Keys for Dealing with Impulsive Children

Impulsiveness doesn't have to be a bad thing, in and of itself. However, when taken to the extreme, it can make coexistence very difficult. With that in mind, we'll share 3 keys for dealing with impulsive children.
3 Keys for Dealing with Impulsive Children

Last update: 24 November, 2020

If your child’s rash behavior is causing problems with others, we’re here to help. In the article below, we’ll offer 3 keys to dealing with impulsive children to help them calm down and reflect on their actions and reactions.

Let’s put ourselves in the following situation. Let’s imagine that a child is playing marbles with another friend. Just when he sees that he’s going to lose, he kicks everything to spoil the game, gets angry, cries, shouts, or runs off in a rage. This is just one example of the kinds of behaviors that we can define as impulsive.

A child tumbling on a couch.


What characterizes impulsive children?

According to experts like Bob Cunningham from EdM, impulsivity is characteristic of a child’s temperament and also of an adult’s personality. Moreover, this characteristic will always be present to a greater or lesser degree in human beings, because it’s nothing new.

It’s important to clarify that we don’t always need to see impulsivity, stress, and even anxiety as negative traits. They’re evolutionary factors of the human species that have arisen in our adaptation to the environment. And, if we know how to take advantage of them, they can all be very positive for survival.

However, if a person constantly manifests impulsive behavior, it can end up causing problems when it comes to getting along with others. So, before it alters or affects the life of an entire family, classroom, etc., it’s good for parents, educators, and professionals to look for the best solution.

So, the first step is always to detect the problem. In this case, impulsive children usually show very specific characteristics that we can clearly observe. That is, in general, impulsive children…

  • Tend to act before they think.
  • Answer before they have even heard the question.
  • Have problems waiting for their turn when they play.
  • Can’t stand losing and become very upset when they don’t win.
  • Get in the way of others and constantly interrupt them.
  • Have little to no tolerance for frustration.
  • Have no self-control.
  • Are almost always disobedient.
  • Are very negative in their attitude.
  • Although they recognize their problem, they have no self-control and are repeat offenders.
  • Don’t foresee or measure the consequences of their actions, neither on a social nor on a physical level.
  • Have very strong uncontrolled tantrums.

3 keys for dealing with impulsive children

Dealing with impulsive children isn’t always easy, but it’s necessary. The sooner you act, the sooner you can tackle the problems. And this is in the best interest of the child and also of the whole family.

We must always be firm

We’ve already mentioned that impulsive children have little self-control. In fact, it’s very common for them to regret their actions after the fact. However, we must be clear that they really have a hard time controlling themselves.

As parents, teachers, or educators we must be firm. It’s true that it’s exhausting, but you mustn’t lose heart. Stick to your rules and guidelines, talk to your children as much as necessary, and always be very clear, patient, and consistent.

If you begin to give in, scream, or lose control, first of all, you won’t be able to help your child. But, what’s more, you may end up making things worse. In fact, your child may try to manipulate you if they notice any doubt or hesitation and think they can get some benefit from it.

“When little people are overwhelmed by big emotions, it’s our job to share our calm, not join in their chaos.”

– L.R. Knost –

We must always act calmly

Even in situations of extreme impulsiveness, with insults, tantrums, and aggression, as adults, we must force ourselves to stay calm. In fact, these are the moments when it’s most important to show yourself as serene and calm.

A mother talking calmly to her angry toddler.

However, as you remain calm, you must at the same time show determination and strength. This is how you’ll transmit to your child that they won’t achieve their objectives with this attitude.

Give an explanation to impulsive children

Once the child has calmed down, you should talk to them in a calm and sensible way. At this moment, you’ll reflect on the negative behaviors that the child has displayed, and explain that this sort of behavior won’t lead to anything positive.

If the child has insulted or hit another child, for example, they’ll need to understand the importance of apologizing. What’s more, they’ll need to understand that this behavior isn’t appropriate and that acting this way has very negative consequences for them.

In short, actions always have consequences. If a child acts impulsively, they must understand that this isn’t the best way to proceed. If, even with this advice, you’re unable to calm them down and help them think before acting impulsively, you may be dealing with a more serious problem. In that case, don’t delay in seeing a professional in child psychology to avoid future complications.

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  • Bauermeister, J.J. (2002). Hiperactivo, impulsivo, distraído, ¿me conoces? Guía acerca del déficit atencional para padres, maestros y profesionales. Madrid: Albor-Cohs.