Help for Children with Impulsive Behavior Problems

Use these 8 tips at home and school to improve behavior control

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Students with learning disabilities sometimes have difficulty attending in class. This is particularly true of students who also have Attention Deficit Disorders with and without hyperactivity. Lack of focus can quickly lead to confusion, and of course confusion leads to frustration, boredom, and challenging behaviors.

Parents and teachers can work together to develop and implement a behavior plan that supports and encourages appropriate behaviors, both at home and at school.

In some situations, it may also be possible to get the help of a trained behavioral therapist who can help to set up a behavior modification plan and behavior contract.

Good behavioral plans generally build from these basic elements:

  1. Use positive reinforcement for appropriate behavior. This is an important habit for parents to develop because it is so easy to ignore kids when they're behaving appropriately. It is the disruptive and irritating behavior we tend to notice and respond to. Train yourself to show your child you appreciate her efforts and that you recognize the things she does well.
  2. Try to reward appropriate behavior as soon as it happens and as consistently as possible. It takes a lot of mental and physical energy to keep up with impulsive children, but if you fall behind, your interventions will be less successful and may not help at all.
  3. Allow natural consequences to become negative reinforcers for poor behavior. For example, a child who doesn't listen in class may need to stay late to get his homework assignment. Yes, that may be frustrating, but it's the natural consequence of his behavior. When you meet after school, you might then troubleshoot methods for ensuring that the child gets the homework information he needs -- and ALSO gets home in time to enjoy the afternoon.
  1. Avoid lectures and criticism of the child. Focus instead on factual statements of the problem behavior and the consequence. Instead of saying something like "you're just not getting the message, are you?" you might say "I see you didn't turn in your homework again. I'm afraid that means you'll have twice as much homework to do tonight."
  1. At school, seat the student near peers who model appropriate behavior.
  2. Ignore minor inappropriate behaviors and focus on the most important problem behaviors. If the child has an IEP, check to see if specific behavior goals are part of the plan.
  3. Communicate between home and school to be sure that the same rules apply in both locations, and to share updates about challenges, improvements, or strategies that work.
  4. Praise other children in the home or the classroom when they demonstrate appropriate behaviors.

By implementing all of these strategies, you're providing your child with specific, consistent rules, positive role models, and the important experience of living with the natural consequences of poor behavior. Over time, and with your help, your child will develop strategies that work -- both for him and for the people around him.

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