Simple Help for Impulsive Behavior

A new study reported by the American Academy of Pediatrics suggests that following activity recommendations helps kids control impulsive behavior. 

The activity recommendations are a set of suggestions called the Canadian 24-Hour Movement Guidelines for Children and Youth. They are very similar to the guidelines of the AAP:

  • Children should get 9 to 11 hours of sleep each night.
  • They should have fewer than 2 hours of screen time a day.
  • Kids should engage in active play for 60 minutes a day.

Kids whose daily routines included these three elements were better able to control their impulsive actions, using a variety of different measurements of behavior.

What is impulsive behavior?

Acting before thinking is one way you might describe impulsive behavior. Kids who are impulsive may have trouble taking turns, they might blurt out unkind thoughts they regret saying, or they might take risks they shouldn’t. Lack of self-control can even lead to aggressive behavior like hitting other children, or to risky sexual behavior or substance abuse as kids get older.

Occasional impulsive behavior isn’t necessarily a problem, but frequent impulsive behavior can interfere with developing good relationships and cause trouble at school.

Helping kids become aware of their impulsive behavior and develop alternative behaviors can make a positive difference for impulsive children. Kids with ADHD may have more trouble controlling their impulses, but your pediatrician will be able to help you determine whether your child should receive a diagnosis of ADHD, and what treatment would be most appropriate.

Lifestyle changes

The good news from the AAP is that following simple recommendations about activity can help kids reduce impulsive behavior. These guidelines are good for all kids. They don’t require you to single out your child or to follow special routines. But it might require some effort to develop these good habits.

Following basic guidelines for sleep, physical activity, and screen time can help kids reduce impulsive behavior. Click To Tweet

How can you meet all three of those guidelines?

  • 9 to 11 hours of sleep each night starts with doing some math. You know what time your child needs to wake up in the morning to get ready for child care or school, so count back to find the right bedtime to give your kids the amount of sleep they need.
  • Avoid caffeinated drinks and try to stop eating a couple of hours before bedtime.
  • Spend some family time in active play, sports, or activities like swimming and dancing instead of relying on screens for entertainment.
  • Set rules for younger kids to keep screen time under 2 hours per day. Some devices can be programmed to limit screen time automatically.
  • Schedule “go outside and play” time for kids.

Watch the video abstract to learn more about the study: