Struggling with impulse control issues in kids? All parents deal with impulse control problems with children or with children entrusted to your care. As a parent, doctor, teacher, or instructor, helping these children overcome their issues make them happier in the long run.

Read on to learn more about the key signs and symptoms of impulse control problems in children. Plus, how you help them to reign in these behaviors for a happier and healthier life.

The Signs of Impulse Control Disorders

Two Infants Crying and Upset with each other Over a Toy who show The Signs of Impulse Control Issues

Image: CC by 2.0, Donnie Ray Jones, via Flickr

We’ve all encountered difficulties with controlling our own impulses in life. After all, no human being claim to be perfect. However, there exists a class of psychiatric disorders known as impulse control disorder (ICD). This class of disorders focuses on impulsivity and the problems this attribute generate.

The most agreed upon impulsive definition: “A tendency to act on a whim, displaying behavior characterized by little or no forethought, reflection, or consideration of the consequences.”

Let’s unpack this definition to better understand this. Acting on a whim and not considering the outcomes of actions appears some of its sign. Impulsive people act in a way that jeopardizes their long-term goals in life.

Short-term gain preference

Another common characteristic of individuals afflicted with impulse control disorder focuses on the preference for short-term gains over long-term gains. By preferring immediate gratification, individuals who fail to control their impulses can prevent any future successes from coming to fruition.

Examples of this short-term gain preference include:

  • Preferring to do fun activities and indulge in entertainment as opposed to maintaining responsibilities and working. This might manifest in kids as preferring to play a video game instead of doing homework on a consistent basis.
  • Eating foods that lack vital nutrients in favor of healthy foods such as fruits, vegetables, and protein sources.
  • Not exercising in favor of unhealthy or sedentary activities on an ongoing basis.
  • Failing to keep up with the workload and other critical tasks necessary for growth and development.

The Life Changes

Recognizing these signs of a lack of impulse controls children. Then, you take the appropriate actions to ensure that these behaviors don’t continue. Over time, short-term gratification preference lead to several life challenges.

This includes the inability to focus on important tasks such as work and study. The problem further jeopardizes lifetime income.  Ultimately, these prevent an individual from becoming a productive member of society.

How Impulse Control Issues Affect Children

Kids at daycare center with a teacher controlling the Impulse Control Issues in Kids

Image: CC by A 2.0, Grant Barrett, via Wikipedia Commons

For children, impulse control problems manifest as inappropriate behaviors. This happens whether inappropriate anger, verbal statements, or actions. These types of problems often stem from the underlying condition of ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder).

You first notice impulse behavior problems due to inappropriate actions. Instead, this arrives as the inability of the child to control him or herself. For example, your child does inappropriate actions to get the attention of bystanders This goes the same for anyone entrusted to your care as a teacher or instructor. Later, you encounter an impulse control problem.

Impulse Control Issues in Kids

Luckily, we offer several more signs of impulse problems in children:

  • The child holds difficulty in following rules including institutional rules such as in schools.
  • Aggressive behaviors arise particularly toward other children. These aggressive behaviors include hitting, kicking, or bitting in young children.
  • The child leaves in trouble waiting for their turn in line or for games and conversation.
  • He or she overreacts to disappointments. These temper tantrums arise at even the slightest inconvenience.
  • The child feels that he or she holds the last word in a conversation. This happens regardless of the context and without respect for the other party.
  • Lastly, a child comprehends not the consequences of his or her actions. This happens once they yell at their friends and then shunned by them. Probably, they won’t realize that their actions directly led to this consequence.

This list seems not exhaustive and does not include every possible behavior that a child may indicate. Read on to learn more about how these impulse control problems arise in children. This includes the types of pathologies that result in them.

The Causes of Impulse Control Issues & Behaviors in Children

Little Boy Having Problems in Playing Lego Blocks as a Sign of Impulse Control Issues & Behaviors in Children

Image: CC 0 by Public Domain, StockSnap, via Pixabay

One of the most common causes of impulsive behaviors in children is attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). Approximately 10 percent of children between the ages of 3 and 17 suffer from the effects of ADHD, with boys being up to 3 times more likely to receive this diagnosis than girls.

Other factors that can lead to impulsive decision-making in children include personality disorders. These disorders include:

Bipolar Disorder

Characterized by manic periods and depressive periods, this disorder can wreak havoc on a child or an adult. Elevated moods known as mania or hypomania follow periods of depression and negativity. Without proper medication and psychotherapy, bipolar disorder lead to intense Impulse Control Issues/behaviors and even the risk of suicide.

Antisocial Personality Disorder

Child Sitting Alone in a Wooden Bench that shows Antisocial Personality Disorder that leads to Impulse Control Issues

Image: CC by 2.0, Tommy Wong, via Flickr

Also known as ASPD or APD, antisocial personality disorder defines a spectrum of behaviors that focus on the disregard for the rights and feelings of other individuals beyond the afflicted person.

The affected individual typically lacks a moral compass and may engage in impulsive, aggressive, and criminal behaviors. Children at age 15 can be diagnosed with antisocial personality disorder.

Borderline Personality Disorder

The borderline personality disorder seems less understood compared to the other Impulse Control Issues indicated here. It’s probably difficult to diagnose this condition in children. This involves identifying unstable relationships, unstable sense of self, and unstable emotional states that fluctuate rapidly. However, BPD has serious outcomes as approximately 10% of those affected by the disorder commit suicide at some point.

Even if a doctor has not diagnosed the child with one of these disorders, impulsivity still negatively affect the child’s life. To that end, it’s important to understand the key tactics and strategies for resolving impulsive behaviors. Hence, treating them permanently improve quality of life.

Future Problems of Impulse Control Issues in Children

Two kids playing video games on an arcade with guns to show lack of self-control and Impulse Control Issues in Kids

Image: CC by 2.0, woodleywonderworks, via Flickr

Children who do not receive the proper treatment for impulsive behaviors suffer long-term consequences in their adult lives. These problems include the inability to focus on critical tasks. Later, this leads to academic and career success, criminality, and even more dangerous outcomes due to lack of self-control.

Remember: Impulse Control Issues implies not a result of bad parenting. It tends to result from biological brain-related issues that often co-occur with ADHD. Keep reading to learn how you can act. Subsequently, you help your child to receive the best possible care and treatment.

Changing Impulse Behavior Patterns in Children

Mom and Twins in the Grass to show the role of parents in the Impulse Control Issues in Kids

Image: CC by 2.0, Donnie Ray Jones, via Flickr

If your child owns trouble dealing with impulsive behaviors, there remain resources you take advantage of to resolve the problem. Besides, we bring a few of the first steps required for impulsive decision making. We understand that it arrives as a difficult problem for your child.

The Role of Teacher and/or Instructors

Discuss the problem with your child’s teacher or instructors. Teachers and other front-line instructors see and hear many things that happen during your child’s day. So, they act as an invaluable source of information about your child’s well-being and decision-making capabilities. They also help you create strategies to treat the underlying problem.

The Role of a Physician

Speak with your family doctor or a general practitioner. Contact your child’s doctor. A doctor conducts a more in-depth exam. This helps to rule out medical conditions that cause impulsive decision making. Also, they provide a specialist referral for psychiatric services or for a developmental behavior pediatrician.

The Role of a Psychiatrist

Consult with a specialist trained to handle children’s disorders. Specialists help to identify the various underlying conditions and pathologies that lead to your child’s impulsivity issues. These specialists include neurologists, speech pathologists, and psychiatrists who specialize in children’s disorders.

The Role of the School

Child Focused on Playing Building Blocks Game to show the role of school in the Impulse Control Issues in Kids

Image: CC 0 by Public Domain, Design_Miss_C, via Pixabay

Conduct an evaluation with your child’s school. Your school conducts an evaluation of your child. This includes the types of additional services he or she needs to function well in an academic setting.

Attacking the Problem in the Short-Term

The steps indicated previously are some of the quick steps you can take to ensure that your child’s treatment plan starts off on the right foot. However, you’re probably wondering about more specific steps that you can take right now to make a difference in your child’s life.

Confronting the Dilemma of Impulse Control Issues

Here are a few ways to confront the problem in the immediate future:

  • Observe your child’s behavior: By paying attention to the signs and symptoms of your child’s disorder and taking notes when necessary, you can better help mental health care providers to take decisive action and prescribe the appropriate treatments.
  • Reward your child’s good behaviors: By offering your child praise for a job well done, you can not only reinforce non-impulsive decisions but also build a closer connection with your child.
  • Talk to other parents for advice: By discussing your child’s impulsivity with other parents who may be struggling with a similar condition, you can gain great advice.


Featured Image: CC by 2.0, Donnie Ray Jones, via Flickr

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