How Can Teachers and Parents Address Impulsive Behavior in Children?


Whether your child is at home, in the classroom, or out in your community, you want them to be on their “best” behavior. That often means being considerate to the people and environment around them. While children may not understand the mechanics of socially acceptable behavior, impulsive behavior is often a point of concern for both parents and teachers.

A simple definition of impulsive behavior is acting without thinking. When a child repeatedly exhibits impulsive behavior, it likely affects their academic performance as well as their actions at home and in public. 

In a classroom, impulsive behavior can include being loud during a lesson or straying from the assigned activity. At home, it can involve running across the street without looking or having difficulty following house rules. 

Not only is impulsive behavior disruptive in any environment, but it may also put the child’s own safety at risk.

In this blog post, we’ll discuss ways that teachers and parents can address and reduce impulsive behavior, as well as potential reasons for a child’s impulsive behavior.

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How teachers can address impulsive behavior in their students

When teachers have students who carry out impulsive behaviors, it can interrupt the productivity of the entire classroom. It can be a challenge, but there are ways you can help.

The first step to addressing the issue is by bringing it up with the student’s parent or guardian. It’s important to discuss your concerns with them to pinpoint a possible cause of the behavior. It’s also possible that the child doesn’t exhibit the same behavior at home. 

You can work with the parents to develop a behavior intervention plan. Be sure not to overstep or imply any blame on their parenting.

  • Rearrange the room if possible — If your student exhibits the same types of impulsive behaviors on a regular basis, such as bothering specific peers or playing with nearby objects, then try to physically separate them from those outlets. This could mean moving their desk to a different area or changing the seating chart accordingly.
  • Give positive reinforcement — It can be easy to get angry with the student. You may want to reprimand them or lay out consequences. However, positive acknowledgment can often make a difference with long-term results. While children shouldn’t be rewarded for poor behavior, recognizing when they do something good can motivate them to continue improving. This could include statements like, “I’m proud of you for staying focused.”
  • Use nonverbal cues and signals — Calling a student out in front of their classmates can often make them feel embarrassed. It can lead to more harm than good in their behavioral patterns and can also interrupt the flow of the class. Try to set up a system with the student that lets them know when they need to reevaluate their behavior. This could mean anything from touching your nose to tapping on their desk. It should be a predetermined signal that tells them they have to slow down and rethink.


How parents can address impulsive behavior in their kids

If your child is struggling with impulse control, there are a few ways to address the behavior at home. These strategies can benefit them outside of the house, including school, family functions, and public areas.

Developing impulse control isn’t an overnight process, but by continuously incorporating strategies into your communication with your child, you can help reduce their impulsive behavior.

  • Help them identify their feelings — Children don’t always understand what they’re feeling. They also may not know how to communicate those feelings effectively. Instead of sharing their feelings, they may showcase them through impulsive behavior instead. For example, instead of telling you they’re angry, they might just throw something instead. By talking to them about what’s going on in their mind, you can better understand their potential triggers.
  • Provide structure — Structure can play a significant role in encouraging impulse control. With routines and consistent rules, children can feel safe while developing self-awareness for impulsive behavior that strays from what they’ve been practicing.
  • Have them repeat your instructions — Children may exhibit impulsive behavior if they’re not aware of what they’re supposed to be doing instead. After you give them instructions or rules, have them repeat them back to you. This ensures that they’re actively listening and that they’re aware of the right behavior. Keeping instructions simple and direct can reduce the risk of them trying to stray off course with impulsive behavior.


Beyond BookSmart can help improve impulse control

Whether you’re a parent or a teacher, children who have impulsive behavior can wear down your patience. By addressing the issue with the right strategies and communication skills, you can improve their impulse control. It’s also important to note that strategies for parents and teachers can overlap. For instance, parents can also use nonverbal signals to acknowledge the behavior in public or social settings.

A child’s impulsive behavior can be improved by developing the right Executive Function skills, such as focus and emotional regulation. Executive Function skills are life management skills that we all need to be effective in planning, initiating, and achieving goals at home, in school, and in the workplace. 

At Beyond BookSmart, we have Executive Function coaching services for students in kindergarten through college. Executive Function skills are coachable, trainable, and can be applied for success. 

For teachers, our BrainTracks division holds workshops to help educators use Executive Function skills training in their classrooms, so they can improve the overall success of their students, including reducing their impulsive behavior.

Contact our team today for more information or to schedule an inquiry call.

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