How to Handle Impulsive Children: 8 Steps - MakeSureHow
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Try to ignore bad behavior designed to get your attention.

While you were in the shower, your preschooler brought a snake in the house and let it loose in the couch. Yesterday, the same child crawled through your neighbor's doggie door -- while your neighbor was at work! Your impulsive child probably has many positive traits, such as creativity, a wild imagination and an outgoing personality, but keeping him safe is wearing you out and you're at your wits end. You may also wonder if you've somehow caused your child's impulsivity. Most impulsive kids are simply wired differently than other kids, and you probably noticed some differences even when your child was extremely young. Some kids grow out of their impulsivity, while others may always be active. However, there are several simple strategies you can try to help calm an out-of-control child.


  1. 1
    Organize your home and schedule with safety in mind. A young, impulsive toddler might open the front door and leave, dart out in traffic or run away from you in a public place. Plan ahead to keep your child safe while he learns self-discipline. Install childproof locks on doors and secure cleaning supplies, matches and medicines in locked cupboards. When you're out in public, park the car next to a curb or sidewalk so you don't have to walk through a parking lot. Carry a backpack instead of a purse so your hands are free, and consider using a harness. Other parents may give you funny looks, but hey, your little one's safety matters more than their opinions.
  2. 2
    Maintain a consistent and predictable schedule. Impulsive kids can't regulate themselves, and when their environment is chaotic, they tend to have more meltdowns and tantrums. Use a timer or a verbal cue when it's time for a transition, such as leaving for school or putting away toys.
  3. 3
    Spend plenty of time outdoors. All children benefit from physical activity and fresh air, but impulsive children especially need opportunities to blow off steam. Getting enough exercise can help calm your child so he's less impulsive. During bad weather, head to an indoor play land or recreation center.
  4. 4
    Teach safety rules over and over again until your child understands. Try using books, such as "I Can Be Safe," by Pat Thomas or "The Berenstain Bears Learn About Strangers," by Stan and Jan Berenstain. Some parents use photos or visuals to remind impulsive children of safety rules. When your child disobeys a safety rule, use consistent, immediate consequences. For example, a child who runs away at the grocery store has to sit in the grocery cart buckled in. Perhaps next time, he doesn't get to go on errands but stays home with a babysitter instead.
  5. 5
    Supervise your impulsive child carefully when he's playing with other kids. It doesn't take much to set an impulsive child off, and then watch the fists fly. Limit play time to one or two other children and offer structured activities so kids don't get bored. Go for a walk, play a game or work on a craft. Teach your child how to handle problems with friends. For example, you can teach him to say, "Can I have a turn when you're done?" instead of grabbing toys from other children. Don't be surprised if you have to repeat these lessons more than once, but praise your little one when he gets it right.
  6. 6
    Sign up for structured sports classes. Most impulsive kids have a hard time with the give and take of team sports, but gymnastics, swimming and karate are all potential options. You get a little break, your child burns off steam and he learns self discipline by following a coach -- a win-win for you both!
  7. 7
    Provide plenty of stimulating activities for your little one. Boredom is a surefire recipe for disaster. Most impulsive kids crave tactile activities, so offer play dough, paint or sand. Work on games and puzzles or build with blocks.
  8. 8
    Take some time for yourself. Parenting an impulsive child is frankly, exhausting, and you may find yourself at your limit. Get a babysitter a couple times per week. Go for a walk, read a book or just take a nap. You have to recharge your batteries to keep up with your little one.


  • In general, impulsive kids take longer to learn lessons than other children and they often have to experience consequences firsthand. Spanking, yelling or other punitive discipline methods usually don't work. Instead, stay calm and use natural consequences. Cline and Fay's book, "Meeting the Challenge: Using Love and Logic to Help Children Develop Attention and Behavior Skills" explains this approach.One of the hardest parts of parenting an impulsive child is dealing with the judgments of family members, friends and even strangers, who may imply that you're somehow to blame or even suggest you just "give that child a good spanking." You're doing the best you can. Trust your intuition, do your research and keep trying.Impulsivity may be a sign of a behavior disorder, sensory processing disorder or even autism. Talk with your pediatrician if you're worried about your child's safety or if your child has other symptoms, such as delayed speech, severe tantrums or self-destructive behavior.

Things You'll Need

  • Childproofing gear
  • Backpack
  • Child harness
  • Books on safety

Article Info

Categories: Education and Communications

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