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Dealing with Hyperactive/Impulsive Behavior

Take immediate action and enforce negative consequences (i.e., time-out, loss of privileges, other response costs) that your child knows are to occur for inappropriate behaviors.

Provide a ime and place to calm down, get under control, and avoid escalation of conflict. (For you as well as your child.)

Prioritize your focus on behaviors. Ignore minor misbehaviors or those that are just annoying and irritating. Clearly deal with the important behaviors (i.e., those that are a matter of safety, those that infringe upon the rights of others, and so forth).

Provide as many opportunities as possible for your child to socialize and play with other children in situations that don't tax his ability to maintain self-control. For example, invite a friend over to the house or allow your child to visit a friend at his or her house for a few hours, not for a full day. Communicate with the parents of your child's friend. Let them know that they may call you if any problems arise.

Encourage friendships and association with children who are good role models.

Teach your child positive strategies for resolving conflicts, coping and dealing with frustrations, and stopping and thinking before acting.

Anticipate the probability of breaking things and having accidents. Arrange the environment accordingly to minimize this occurring. For example, buy plastic, not glass. Move expensive, valuable items out of reach. If an accident occurs, downplay it. Explain that accidents happen, and avoid reacting strongly.

Model patience, talking/not screaming, problem solving, and calmness whenever possible.

Supervise closely.

Encourage your child (and model within the family) how to express feelings, share emotions, and talk about issues and problems. It is hard to do so in the midst of a situation when emotions run high. However, at a later time -- a more teachable moment — it is easier and more productive.

Set up situations in which your child has a better chance of success. For example, don't make him or her sit at the table a long time after eating. Teach a proper way to ask to be excused. Play games that engage participation without having to wait excessively for a turn.

Play board games and other games together — talking about and teaching how to lose a game — and the importance of doing so when with peers.

Provide your child with plenty of exercise and opportunities to release her energy. Children with ADHD are often more successful in sports such as soccer (where everyone is running around as a pack) as opposed to being an outfielder on a baseball team (having to stay and wait for a ball to come to you). Swimming, track and field, martial arts, dance, and gymnastics are often excellent physical activities for children with ADHD because they teach self-discipline and control, concentration and focus, and are less competitive than many other sports.

Find every opportunity for your child to build areas of strength and interest. Try to provide activities that are enjoyable and motivating to your son or daughter. Not only will this build self-esteem and confidence, but it will also reduce behavioral issues (as one is less likely to engage in misbehavior when doing activities that are fun).

Employ proper treatments for ADHD that can greatly improve your hyperactive/impulsive child's chances for success. Monitor the treatment plan and make adjustments as necessary.

Adjust your expectations to be reasonable. Know that your child's behaviors are often that of a much younger child. Change your mindset and don't expect your child to be able to "act his age." A child is only able to function as he is developmentally able to do so. Note: It is very common for children with ADHD to get along better with and prefer playing with younger children.

Excerpted from The ADD/ADHD Checklist by Sandra Rief, M.A.

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