Impulsive Behaviors

How my son, who has ADD/ADHD, and I finally learned to cope with his impulsive behaviors.


Filed Under: Behavior in ADHD Kids, Impulse Control
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Do your child's impulsive behaviors drive you crazy?

One mom shares how she has come to peace with impulsiveness in children. I spend hours thinking things through, trying to find that special insight or idea that I know is tucked away in my brain somewhere. I concentrate hard and work the puzzle from all angles, so I can see the whole picture and make sure the pieces fit. That’s my nature.

Then there’s my 11-year-old son, Joe, who has attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADD/ADHD). His mind is never quiet; it darts and races. His body is always in motion. And his soundtrack is always on “play” -- a mixture of yammering and nonsense sounds. That’s his nature.

His energy drains mine. Yet his open, honest spirit fills me with inspiration.

The other day Joe wasn’t feeling well and stayed home from school. Joe motors on even when he’s sick, so I didn’t object when he disappeared upstairs for a while. I went from the computer to the grocery store, then to preparing dinner and cleaning up. I didn’t check on him the whole time he was up there, no doubt in my room, with the TV on.

Discussing Impulsive Behaviors With Children

That evening, I sent Joe up to get ready for bed. I had been prompting him for some time, so I was frustrated when he re-appeared at my side.

“Joe! What are you doing down here?”

“You know when I was upstairs today? Well, I was in your room and I, um, well….”

I knew what was coming, so I helped him say it.

“You pulled all the covers off my bed again, didn’t you?” When Joe watches TV, he drags everything to the floor, including the sheets, and wads them up in a ball.

“Yes, but I was on the floor and I was cold,” he said. How can you get mad at a kid for trying to fend off a chill?

“Joe, how did you think I would feel?”

“Not good.”

“So why would you do something that you know I’m not going to be happy about?” I was pleased, even surprised, by my matter-of-fact tone, and thought my logic was dead on. Surely, he’d have to admit that his choice was not a good one.

Without missing a beat, he responded, “Well, it’s kind of like your heart beating. You do it, but you don’t even know it’s happening. It’s involuntary.”

I know he is smart enough to work me, and I know when he tries and succeeds. But I knew he was authentic this time. It was an honest insight -- the kind I spend time trying to find.

Accepting ADD/ADHD Impulsive Behaviors

At 11, Joe has accepted the fact that he has ADD/ADHD. He has impulsive behaviors, and he never considers whether his impulses will land him in trouble -- again. Impulsiveness is as much a part of him as heartbeats are for the rest of us.

Joe’s impulsivity is difficult to live with, and I sometimes forget that he can’t help it. He has to remind me, as he did with his heartbeat analogy. He also reminded me of something else: that, as an ADD/ADHD child matures, he gains perspective and awareness of both his strengths and shortcomings. Things can change for the better -- and that brings hope to him and me.

These days, Joe is learning about hindsight. He’s starting to understand that, given some time between an impulsive urge and its result, he can see the flaws in his actions. He’s starting to take responsibility for them.

When I finally headed upstairs to straighten up the wad of bedding on the floor, what I found warmed my heart. There was a patchwork of sheets and blankets spread across the bed. My pillow was carefully fluffed, and my little man was asleep in the space next to mine. I spread a blanket over him, and he roused. I thanked him for reassembling the bed.

“You’re welcome, Mom,” he said. “Besides, it’s only right. I messed it up; I should fix it.”

More on Impulsive Behaviors in Children

Impulsive Behaviors: Help Children Think Before They Speak

Help Children Control Impulsive Behaviors at School

A Game Designed to Treat Impulsive Behaviors

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