Impulsive Behaviors and ADHD

Many children with ADHD also suffer from behavioral issues such as tantrums, outburst, and defiance.

Caroline Miller wrote an article in Child Mind Institute, ADHD and Behavioral Problems.  This article reviews why these behavioral issues are so common and provides tips and tantrumstrategies that may help.

Individuals who have ADHD or attention difficulties, often suffer from weak executive function. Executive function includes mental functions that allow us to plan, prioritize, organize, avoid procrastination, control impulsivity and self-regulate. Therefore, if someone is suffering from weak executive function, it can make controlling one's own behavior and emotions difficult.

Miller explains some of the behaviors you commonly see include tantrums and defiance. However, she goes on to state that these behaviors are not symptoms of ADHD itself, but a result of ADHD symptoms. Inattention and impulsivity make it difficult for kids to function with tasks that are repetitive, boring, or require a lot of work.  These tasks may cause frustration which can lead to tantrums or defiance.  The ability to control your emotions such as frustration, anger, sadness, and feelings of being overwhelmed is part of executive function. Therefore, these children have a difficult time managing powerful emotions.

Unfortunately, behavioral problems can go beyond impulsive outburst.  Some children do become chronically defiant and are diagnosed with oppositional defiant disorder (ODD). Dr. Anderson, a clinical psychologist states that as many as 40% of kids with ADHD are also diagnosed with ODD.  But many more of them, at least 80%, conflict with parents and/or teachers over their behavior.

What strategies can we employ to help these kids manage their emotions and control their impulsivity?

Miller states that traditional discipline strategies, such as losing your temper and yelling, may not work. Additionally, Dr. Anderson explains that if we continuously punish them it loses its effectiveness as well. Dr. Anderson says, “If kids get punished a lot, punishments stop mattering because, after all, they’re living in a perpetual state of punishment.  How much is it really going to matter if they get punished a little bit more? “

Strategies that are more effective include:

  •       Clear instructions and expectations of what kinds of behavior the adult is looking for
  •       Praise and opportunities for a positive relationship with parents
  •       Creating a family environment where parents provide a model for what they want kids to learn

In addition, to these powerful strategies, we also know that we can develop strong executive function. Research has now linked childhood aggression to deficits in executive function.  Therefore, our focus at Play Attention is to help children and adults with attention difficulties strengthen executive function and self-regulation.  No one is born with strong executive function.  However, everyone is born with the potential to develop strong executive function.  Play Attention can help.

Play Attention includes a full behavior shaping program that teaches children and adults how to control disruptive or impulsive behaviors.  The constant and immediate feedback provided by our BodyWave technology further develops one's ability to self-monitor and self-regulate.

The article cited above suggests that "training programs that help children to increase their Executive Function, and manage their anger, could reduce their aggression."

Call 800-788-6786 and speak to one of our executive function specialists.  We will develop a customized plan that addresses your specific needs.