While our brains have well developed systems to tell us what to do (“GO!”), the brain systems that tell us “STOP!” do not function as well.

Much of our behavior is determined by pleasure. Pleasure is the “GO!” signal. The “GO!” signal comes from the mesolimbic dopamine reward system in the brain.

Because our “GO!” signals are so strong, learning how to activate the “STOP!” button is very important! This learning should begin as soon as the drives begin (around age 2).The "STOP!" button is a person's impulse control center. The impulse control center is located in the frontal lobes of the brain and in a brain structure called the amygdala. These specialized parts of the brain develop during childhood and adolescence. These parts of the brain may also be strengthened with practice during adulthood. The frontal lobes and amygdala are weakened by many things including, head injury, psychiatric illness and substance abuse (particularly alcohol).

How Does Impulse Control Develop?
Children are born with a certain amount of impulse control ability. This has to do with genetic influence over the structure and chemistry of the amygdala and frontal lobes. Impulse control is therefore a temperamental trait or perhaps even a talent! Experience works on the amygdala and frontal lobes to change structure and chemistry. That is why even children born with poor impulse control can improve in ability with the right kind of parenting.

Punishment of problem behavior does not do much to help "at risk" children build impulse control. The impulsive behavior of "at risk" children brings out punishing parenting behavior (or practices). This punishing parenting style actually worsens behavior! For parenting advice and to understand how to avoid this trap see
Just Like His Father?

Strong-Willed Children tend to have poor impulse control and a strong drive for social dominance. They may also have anger issues.

Visit the Parent's Store for more help building your child's impulse control.

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Ability to Love, Impulse Control, Moral Reasoning
Strong impulse control or will power protects against ADHD, CD, ODD, addiction and antisocial personality disorder. These are all genetic disorders caused in part by poor impulse control.

What Is Impulse Control?
Impulse Control means controlling our reactions to the impulses that come from our basic drives and emotions. Impulse control is about choosing instead of reacting. A person with a lot of impulse control or will power can resist his drives and control his actions. Impulse control leads to popularity, economic success and life success! Impulse control is a talent that often determines a person's social status.


Impulsivity is an important symptom of ADHD, CD, ODD, addiction and antisocial personality disorder. Impulsivity is the opposite of impulse control. Impulsivity is “A pre-disposition toward rapid, unplanned, reactions without regard to the negative consequences of these reactions.” Impulsivity leads to substance abuse, accidents, teen pregnancy, loss of friends, school failure and employment problems.

Impulsive people are quick to do things. They do not take enough time to plan or consider the consequences of their actions. To prevent ADHD, CD, ODD, addiction and antisocial behavior, young people need to develop impulse control.

What Are Impulses?
An impulse is a thought to do something. Impulses come from our basic drives and emotions. Our basic drives are for the things that give us pleasure:
1. Food
2. Comfort
3. Possessions
4. Entertainment
5. Affection
6. Sex
7. Social dominance
All of of the above things stimulate a part of the brain called the mesolimbic dopamine reward system. This dopamine system is also responsible for addictions. That is why people can become "addicted" to all of the above things. Drives, and emotions like anger, lead to impulses or thoughts to do things.

More on Drives…
What exactly is a drive? A drive is a very powerful force within us that makes us want to do something. When we do what our drives tell us to do we are rewarded with pleasure.
It makes us feel good to do what our drives tell us to do. The problem is that we have a hard time doing enough to satisfy all of our drives. Take for example, the drive to eat. Most people who allow their appetite to tell them what food to eat and how much to eat, become overweight. This is why so many people are overweight these days. Using impulse control is difficult especially when we are under stress. Generally when rewards are freely available, we tend to over indulge.

Some adults and children are very into rewards (sources of pleasure). These people also tend to be strong-willed or dominant since dominance means controlling rewards. When children are strong willed or dominant, they have difficulty with impulse control because they are so drawn to sources of reward.

Impulse control is determined by an interaction between genetics, PEER experiences, AND parenting. Accidents, Toxin exposure and infectious diseases can also weaken a child's impulse control. To prevent head injury and even more problems, at risk children should always wear helmits when doing risky sports.

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Special Offers
Summer 2009


empower ADHD kids book
Just Like His Father? Just Like His Father? Parenting book by Liane J. Leedom, M.D.
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Hot Stuff to Help Kids Chill Out:The Anger Management Book for Kids and Teens
Anger Management Book for Kids
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Self Management for kids
Self management for kids
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The Child Well-Being eWorkbook
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Just Like His Father? and The Child Well-Being Workbook are a complete comprehensive program for building impulse control in your child.

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Excessive worry and anxiety can also be a symptom of poor impulse control. To help your (grade 4-12) child manage anxiety and worry we offer the emotions management package:

1. Just Like His Father?
2. The Child Well-Being eWorkbook
3. More Hot Stuff to Help Kids Chill out (an anger and stress management guide)

4. Hot Stuff to Worry Less

These books are great for adults too!

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The Stop button of Impulse Control